The one piece of advice (and possibly the best) that we always give new designers is to start small. Specifically, that means launching with only a few styles and then producing a small number of those designs. We suggest this for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s budget friendly. Each style comes with development costs for patterns, samples, fabrics and trims. Plus, you’re still in the testing stage of your brand. Your first production run really acts as market research because you’ll get feedback on fit, concept and design details. You can take this feedback to tweak your designs for the next run. As you adjust and tweak your designs, the less inventory you have on hand, the better. As you perfect your fit and start making some profit, you can put your money towards expanding your line and adding new styles organically.
Most designers think that they need to launch with 250 or 500 of each style, but that isn’t necessarily true. We wouldn’t suggest starting small if it wasn’t an option! There are certainly a lot of factories with high minimum requirements, but there are also a lot that specialize in small batch manufacturing where you can cut and sew 25-50 pieces per style. We have worked with a lot of these factories, especially right here in Chicago. There are a lot of benefits to working with small batch factories. Here are just a few:
You will build a solid relationship.
The fashion business is all about relationships! You need to rely on so many different vendors, it really pays to build lasting relationships with each of them. When you work with a small batch manufacturer, they want you to succeed and to be a returning customer year after year. Because of this they will take the time to work with you and share their knowledge. You will spend a lot of time at the factory and get to know them really well. They want to trust you and they want you to trust them.
You will learn a ton!
There is so much to learn as a new designer, about fabrics, trims, finishings and equipment. Each product requires different machines and finishings depending on the design. Usually a factory will work with you to establish what machines work best for your product by testing different options and sharing them with you for review. This means that you will learn a lot about their machines and their capabilities. They might also share other resources with you to so that you can get the best quality product possible.
You will have more control.
Overseeing the quality control of 50 pieces is a lot easier than overseeing hundreds of pieces per style. Since this will be the first time the public meets your brand, you want to make a good first impression! You’ll really be able to take the time to review each piece and ensure that the quality matches your expectations. Also keep in mind that fewer pieces to cut and sew means that production moves along much faster, therefore your overall production time will be much shorter.
Those are some of the advantages that we have seen working with our small batch factories.
What do you see as an advantage to working with them?
Start Up With Small Batch Manufacturing:
- 10 American Small Batch Manufacturers
- How to Negotiate Minimums
- The Made in America List – #IAmAmericanMade
- 5 Advantages to Keeping Production Local