The apparel and fashion industry is constantly changing. The entire industry is based on change. Change in trends, seasons, colors, fabrics, styling, etc. As a new designer or brand, it can be difficult to establish a realistic timeline to stay on top of the change, especially when it comes to planning for your first season. Here are a few tips that can help you establish a realistic timeline to use season after season.
1. Consider your selling strategy.
If you are selling wholesale to boutiques vs. direct to customer through your own ecommerce site, this can drastically affect your development timeline. If you are selling wholesale, plan for time to create salesmen samples, a photo shoot, create line sheets and lookbooks, book sales appointments or a booth at a trade show, all before you even show a single piece to a potential buyer!
2. Establish the season you anticipate selling.
This can be a tricky thing to do, especially if you are unfamiliar with all of the steps necessary to take a concept through product development. A good gauge is to start working 1 year out from when you anticipate your delivery or launch date. Every designer and brand, small or large, is working far in advance of the season they are designing for. This can be challenging to do at first but giving yourself enough time to take the proper steps in development is critical to success.
3. Reach out to your vendors and partners to discuss their timelines.
There are so many other parties involved in your line such as your fabric vendor, trim vendor, label maker, pattern maker, sample maker and production facility just to name a few. Getting everyone to work on your schedule can be tricky! Coordinate delivery dates, turnaround times and shipping times with all your vendors and then take those estimates and add a 1-2 week cushion to each estimate just in case.
4. Create a production timeline.
Now that your season is established and you have rough (padded) estimates from your vendors, work backwards. Outline all of the steps to take your line through a completed production run and estimate the amount of time per step. You may be surprised after this at how long everything may take. Your first season will more than likely take a lot longer to develop than you anticipated. This is normal. Remember that this is the first time anyone is going to see your brand so it is more important to make a good first impression with a quality product than to rush through steps, cut corners, and deliver a sub par product just to meet a certain seasonal deadline.
5. Stay calm and positive!
A lot of things on your estimated timeline may not go as planned. Stay true to your brand but also make decisions quickly when things arise so you can stay on track as much as possible. Get creative with your problem solving, or what we like to call solution finding. If you keep an open mind you may end up with ideas that were better than the original. There are no production problems, only production solutions!
Are there any other tips that you would give a new designer or brand for establishing the launch timeline for their first season?