Once you have set the foundation for your clothing brand, it’s time to start the product development and the process of making your garments. The first step here is to define your collection. Focus on your brand identity, your vision, and the products you wish to create. Make sure your collection is clear and has cohesion. Create a product range plan, which is a detailed written overview of your entire collection. It helps you keep track of product parameters such as style numbers and names, number of styles, colors, variations, and features. It also includes financial information and sales forecasting. You can start planning your collection in this document before you even design your styles. It’s a solid way of structuring the collection and keeping track of styles.
Clothing design is the core of your business. If you don’t have the skills, you should bring someone onboard that understands clothing design, apparel construction, and product development. Clothing design is not a one-off gig, but needed although your apparel business. The designer can start sketching when you have structured and defined your collection. Get back to the inspiration and the brand image, and the customer you want to have. The styles should fit in with the vision and identity of your brand. The designer needs to make great tech packs so you can carry on with your product development. Learn more about designing, how to fit and comment garments, as well as tech packs and BOM templates in the Member Zone.
Finding factories, materials, and accessories is called sourcing. Materials is a science by itself. If you know your price points, performance requirement, and quality level, it will help you narrow down your search for the right materials. Accessories can be cords, zippers, pullers etc that you want to include in your garments. Then you need to find a factory that suits your needs, can produce your styles, and believe in your concept. The best way to source is to visit clothing trade shows where you can meet suppliers and see what they have to offer.
The Apparel Entrepreneurship members have access to contact information to over 400 material suppliers and manufacturers. Save yourself some time, search the databases, and start contacting manufacturers for a match.
When starting up you can you take a first look at the costs and the prices for your styles and clothing production. Once your collection is defined and you have sourced materials and found factories you will have a better understanding of the costs. Does it add up? Will it be profitable? Review all the posts in your budget and see how you can recalibrate it. In the end, you want to live and work, doing what you love. You don’t want it to be an expensive hobby that you poor money into. To help you keep track of all costs associated with producing each style you use a costing sheet. Here you note down the costs of all components in the garment and finally, you calculate the retail price of the garment. Adopt the habit of filling out a costing sheet for each item already from the start. It will be a vital tool to run your business financially. Your pricing strategy will determine how you will price your products. You can base it on target cost, your margin or your brand position.
This is a very crucial part. Even though you have great designs on paper, you need to transform them into garments that look and feel the way you want. Based on the tech packs you need to find a good pattern maker, which isn’t easy. The pattern is made in your wanted sample size and will later be graded to fit several sizes. With the pattern, you will start making your prototypes. In between every prototype, you will measure, fit, and adjust the pattern to improve your garment. Typically you will need 2–3 prototypes per style before you have a sample ready to show and sell.
Once you have arrived at your final prototype, you can start planning the bulk production. Discuss this with your factory as early as you can. They need to plan in your production in their schedule, which they often make one year ahead of time. The manufacturers need to know how big your production will be, the number or styles and sizes per style you want to make. We suggest you write an agreement with the manufacturer stating delivery times and quality requirements. You can find templates for terms of agreements in the member zone. Having an agreement in place makes sure you have clearly understood each other. It can be very expensive and devastating for your business if you produce a large clothing bulk that is wrong.
When your bulk production is ready you need to get your garments to your customers. First you need to transport the garment from the manufacturer to e.g. your office or warehouse and then to your customers. Your customers can be retailers, distributors, or end consumers. Take a look at your agreement with the supplier to see what is included in the deal and what you have to sort out yourself. If your price is FOB, then there is no shipping included, but if your price is COGS then the shipping cost is already included. When arranging your transport, talk to different logistics companies and see who suits you the best, and works with your values and business model.