Aka, “Ah, I’ll Just Wing It”
It’s a heady feeling, for sure…you’ve got a great idea for a fashion collection! Or maybe you’ve already done some designing and creating, and you’re ready to turn your lifelong dream into your new reality. Congratulations, that’s great news!
But before you take the plunge, heed this word of warning: Nothing is more important than a detailed, comprehensive plan of action. We can’t emphasize this enough. There are many moving parts to launching a clothing collection. Each of these moving parts comes with its own unique challenges and needs its own separate plan.
In this post, we will illuminate some of the more common areas where many designers fail to properly plan, and how to avoid these pitfalls. This will put you in a better place to succeed with the launch of your collection. As they say, forewarned is forearmed!
Winging The Whole “Money Thing”
There’s a temptation – especially when first starting out – to either ignore, or to underestimate, the amount of money you’ll need to launch your collection. After all, who likes to think about money when your creative dreams loom so much larger?
At the beginning, it’s practically impossible to get a handle on exactly what things will cost. So don’t try to. But you do need to get some best estimates. Things you’ll want to “ballpark” include:
- Fabric and Trims
- Pattern Making and Sample Sewing
- Labels and Hangtags
- Website Development
- Bulk Production
Once you have these estimates in hand you’ll be well-positioned to create a working budget. If it turns out you are under-funded, you’ll know how much money you need to raise. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through your launch, just to find out you don’t have enough capital to see it come to life.
Assuming Bigger Must Be Better
A common mistake emerging designers often fall into is “over-designing”. There are two subcategories to over-designing:
- Designing more garments that you can reasonably include in your launch. Whether it is due to time or budget constraints, you might be better off starting small, and growing your brand at a more thoughtful and sustainable rate. You’ll learn many things after your first launch. These discoveries will influence the size and content of your collection in the future. Let it happen naturally. Don’t try to force it.Also you need to consider other important personal and professional obligations – family, school, friends, or maybe even another job? Don’t let your brand launch become so unwieldy and overwhelming that you can’t see it through to fruition. In other words, don’t bite off more than you can chew!
- Over-designing the actual garments themselves. This is another misstep common to emerging designers. Yes, of course you want your collection to be interesting to look at and be true to your unique vision. But we encourage you to temper your unbridled creativity just a little bit! Don’t forget that every time you add a zipper, ruffle, flounce or flourish to a garment you are adding production costs (and probably trim or fabric costs as well). Go overboard, and you may actually price your garment right out of your intended target market.Another consideration is that people tend to buy garments that are easy to understand, and to wear. So unless your goal is to be as avant garde as possible, take a good look at your collection with an editor’s eye! For this exercise, you might want to bring in a trusted friend or mentor to offer some input and suggestions.
Winging Your Line (or Range) Plan
One thing that is common to a creative designer is to have more ideas than money or time. A well considered line plan will keep you on track with both. “Line” plan or “Range” plan mean the same thing: An overview of your collection, with all the design and financial parameters set out; from how many styles you’ll have, to what fabrics and colorways will be used.
At the start, your line plan will be an “organic” document. It will most likely change as you move through the development and sampling process. But it’s an excellent starting point and will keep you focused, and hold you accountable, during the whole process.
Once you are through the development process, you can then finalize your line plan. At that point you should have exact pricing figured out (including your manufacturing and fabric costs), and you can add these numbers to your line plan. If your goal is to wholesale your collection, it should include the wholesale pricing and MSRP.
Choosing the “Lone Wolf” Route
They say, “No man is an island,” and nowhere does this hold true more than at the start of a fashion brand. Unless you plan to make your own patterns, source the fabrics and trims, sew all the samples and bulk production, plan and execute your marketing, and design your website all by yourself, you are going to need a team!
At the start of your business, your team will probably NOT be your own employees. In fact, it may be better if they’re not. Hiring employees comes with its own set responsibilities and now is not the time for that. In today’s gig economy, you’ll be able to find all the help you need – from consultants and accountants to tech designers and marketing professionals – with a simple internet search.
Your first step – and the most important one you will take – is to identify your development and manufacturing partner. This company should understand your unique vision, ask intelligent and challenging questions, and most importantly, bring expertise and experience to the table. You should interview more than one industry partner, so you can find the one with which you click!
The sooner you identify your development and manufacturing partner, the better off you will be in the long run. They will give you valuable input on a myriad of subjects, including fabric sourcing and bulk production. You can, and should, rely on them for advice and direction.
Do the same homework when choosing your marketing team. Don’t just take for granted that they are all created equal. There are many people hanging out a “marketing” shingle these days. Take the time to vet your top choices thoroughly. It’s important they’re able to do what you need, on a workable schedule. It’s always a good idea to ask for some references, then check them.
Good marketing takes thoughtful and thorough planning. Whether you are marketing on social media or using paid ads, advertising without a solid plan will waste your time and money!
Waiting Until the Last Minute to Plan Your Launch
Designing and planning a collection is a big undertaking in itself. Watching your beautiful creations come to life is a very exciting time and can take up a lot of head space!
Don’t get caught up in all that excitement and forget to plan your brand launch. The last thing you’ll want to do is leave it until the last minute, and end up with an ill-conceived, poorly timed or delayed launch.
Once you’re in the production phase, and you’re certain your brand will launch, there are things you can be doing to stay on schedule. Even though you can’t actually ship out any merchandise at this point, here are some actionable tasks:
- Prepare all your physical marketing items. This should include your finalized line plan, a lookbook (if you had planned to do one), all your photography, and any other marketing materials previously discussed with your marketing team.
- Open your business bank account. Be sure your accountant or bookkeeper has everything needed to file your business tax forms and/or incorporation documents. Have a discussion (if you haven’t already) about how to best keep your financial records in order.
- Launch your website with a “Coming Soon” date or pre-order option. The advantage of this is two-fold. First, you can accurately gauge consumer interest in your brand from the amount of website traffic, and you can work out any website glitches that are bound to occur with a new website. Plus you can collect email addresses to use when compiling your mailing list.
- Create anticipation via social media. The best clothing launch is the one that everyone is waiting for! You can make this happen by using social media and email marketing that builds anticipation with your audience. If you’ve been working with a marketing partner, they should already have a plan in place for this. This is called a “teaser campaign” and now is the time to implement it!
Launching a new collection or brand is an exciting time in the career of any designer. As we said earlier, armed with a solid plan will help insure your success! If you’d like to know more about how TEG can help you launch your collection, or if you just have a few ideas you want to talk through, reach out to us at https://tegintl.com/get-in-touch/ or call us at 800-916-0910.