Designing Apparel on a Budget

Growing up as a professional dancer I always had a lifelong love for movement and fashion. As an adult, I decided that there was no time like the present to go for my dreams… However, there was one large problem. I had no idea where to start or even how much money all of this would cost! Almost every person I came into contact with in the fashion merchandising business told me I was crazy and there would be little to no chance of me creating a line much less manufacturing my product in Los Angeles (where I currently reside) using my own money – which I had very little of! However, they were wrong and all that all changed when I connected a factory I found through Maker’s Row.

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They walked me through the steps on how to create my line, from beginning to end, and without breaking my bank at the same time! Through working with them, I learned many valuable lessons and insights on creating my own line as a beginner and what it means to be your own investor. My connections made through Maker’s Row have encouraged me and helped me immensely along the way.

Here are the 5 most valuable tools that I learned:

1) Don’t freak out! (no seriously don’t – YOU can find a manufacturer, I promise).

When I first started I had ZERO experience and no design background. I just knew I had a good idea and I believed in it. Connecting up with my manufacturer on Maker’s Row was my first and most valuable step in starting a high quality line that could make my line into what I envisioned.

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2) Find a manufacturer that matches your vision and believes in YOU.

Before spending any money, envision what your line should like. If you’re like me and are starting with little to no experience, sketch out all of your ideas even the most simple designs you imagine (trust me – I started with stick figures). Visit stores and cut as many swatches of fabrics that you like or might want to use for your collection. These two things are absolutely free to do and will allow you to see what your collection should like and to verbalize it to any potential manufacturer you might want to work with.

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3) Pick your best piece to manufacture first.

After finding my manufacture my next big hurdle was the money to actually create a line. My solution to this was to pick my favorite sketch that I felt most represented my line. I only had enough to make one pattern so I choose my harem pants to start with. I could only afford to make 50 pieces to start with. I then hand-dyed them myself to save even more money – and now the “custom hand-dyed” harem has become my most popular piece. From this starting point, I have grown my brand one piece at a time.

4) Think Globally, start Locally (and have patience).

When you’re starting your line on a budget, it’s really important to use your money wisely. A step that helped me was to research all of the local boutiques that might fit my brand and/or accept pieces from new designers. Because I started out with just one product, the harems, I took one great stock photo of my product (I had friend who was a photographer take the picture and another friend was my “model”) and sent it out to all my selected local boutiques with my mission statement. This is how I got my first few accounts.

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5) Social Media – PR that’s priceless.

As I grew my brand and started a simple website (which I absolutely suggest you start on your own to save TONS of money), I became more active promoting my brand on social media. My advice is to get as many of your friends to wear your products and then post them on their sites. It’s a really great way to get your products out there to a broader reach of audience as you grow – and it’s FREE so you really have no excuse not to take advantage of it.  It’s also great to do product research to identify who your customer is. I am happy to say after a year and 8 products later, I am up and running and I did it all on my own dime.

I hope that these steps help you grow and create your line as well. A special thank  you to Maker’s Row for such valuable on-going guidance throughout the process of creating MOVIMENTO.

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