As a designer, it’s easy to get hyper-focused on the creative side of your brand. Where is this pocket going to go? What weight of denim should I use? What colors should I be offering? The list goes on and on.
But there are other aspects of your brand that need to be figured out before contacting a factory. Having these details thought out ahead of time, before you meet with a manufacturer, will also speed along your initial conversations with your potential pattern makers, fabric mills, or factories. Here are seven questions that I find very helpful to have answered from the beginning:
1. What is your time frame?
Set some initial “soft” deadlines for when you would like to have patterns complete, sourcing worked out, samples delivered, and ultimately when you will need your production run in-hand. I say “soft” because your deadline is also going to be adjusted based on capacity/availability of the factory, pattern maker, or fabric mill.
2. How many styles are you looking to do?
Are you just making one style, or do you already have an entire collection in mind?
3. How many pieces per style are you going to produce?
This may be a guess, but you are going to need to have some idea of what quantity per style you are targeting to produce. This will not only get you closer to an accurate cost per piece, but it will also determine if you are a good fit for the factory that you are reaching out to.
4. What is your target retail price point?
Knowing this will not only determine how your product fits into the market, but also lets the factory know if you are going to be a good fit for domestic production. If you are only going to produce 10 pieces of a fully lined outerwear piece, then you can’t expect your retail price to be $50.
5. Are you going to wholesale, or sell direct to retail.
This question goes hand in hand with your target retail price. As a general rule of thumb, choosing to wholesale means that you are going to take your cost per piece (including your margin) and multiply it by 4 to get retail. Does this number still make sense? Or are you going to end up with a $500 retail shirt? If you are selling direct to retail, then take your cost and multiply it by 2 to get a retail price that allows you to at least double your money. The beauty of selling direct means that you can set whatever retail price that you would like (times 2, times 2.5, etc) and still be competitive in the market. The downside is that finding your target audience is going to rest completely on your shoulders. I see more and more clients taking this route as customers are wanting more than just a “product”. Customers are also hungry for a “story”, and who better to tell that story at retail than the brand.”
6. Do you have sourcing already figured out?
Where is your sample fabric coming from? Are you going to be able to get the same fabric a few months later for production, or are you going to have to buy it now and just take a guess at quantity. Are your labels already ordered? Labels and trim can take up to 4 weeks or more to be delivered, so think ahead. Don’t let that hold up the sample or production process.
7. Do you have detailed sketches, or samples (from other brands) that you can use that will allow a pattern maker or factory to begin to establish the fit of your brand?
If you don’t already have samples, I find it’s best to send physical samples from other brands that you either like for fit, or for finish. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a physical sample with a detailed sketch and tech pack is worth two thousand words, and less money spent on sample revisions.
Having these details figured out before contacting a factory will not only speed up the process, but it will also let the factory know that you are serious about what you are doing.
About Sean Bilovecky:
Sean Bilovecky of The Patternmakers is a former VP of Marketing from Cleveland, Ohio who quit his job to become a full-time Pattern-Maker on Maker’s Row. Sean’s design career began a decade ago with his own high-end private label, Wrath Arcane, for which he designed, made patterns, produced, marketed, and sold around the world.
Sean officially launched his own pattern-making business because he saw an opportunity to provide top-notch services and advice to apparel brands. He has been with Maker’s Row for a few months and recently became a Preferred Factory. His growth and success on Maker’s Row has been so great that it has created the need for him to hire new employees in 2015 to keep up with the increased amount of business he is now receiving.