There is nothing cheap about putting out your first collection. There are multiple steps just to get to your first approved sample of a single style, and that’s only part of the process. The good news is there are ways to make it cost a lot less. But you must ask yourself: Are you willing to do the work needed to ensure you aren’t wasting your hard-earned money? Yes, you say? Good. Start reading.
1. Know what you want to make. Sounds simple, but numerous clients come to us and can say “streetwear” or “athleisure” but they don’t know the actual pieces they want to sell. You can pay us to determine that for you, and we are happy to do that, but if you want to save money, know emphatically what styles you want to start with.
2. Don’t have 15 pieces in your first collection. For that matter, don’t have 10 pieces in your first collection. Rihanna can afford to build a line with a ton of styles. You probably cannot. She also knows her name alone can sell out her first production run. You don’t know if anyone past your besties thinks your lines is halfway decent. Start small and build. One great item. Maybe two to three. Definitely not more than five. Did I mention this is an expensive endeavor? It’s also a risk. Go conservative on your risk. Once you prove your products, start adding on styles.
3. Identify your target market. Sounds simple, I know, but you wouldn’t believe how many new clients come in for their initial consultation and say their target market is everyone. Or all women/men. It’s not. I promise. The better you know your market, the better you know what prices they are willing to pay for your products. And which stores are the right ones to sell your goods, if you are going the wholesale route. You’ll also better know how to reach them via marketing/advertising.
4. Know how much you can charge for your pieces. During our consultations, we always ask clients what they are planning to sell each style for. The majority say they don’t know yet. They are waiting to find out how much it’s going to cost. That is not how you approach a line. Know your audience. Know what they will pay. That’s where you will need to be. NOW work backwards. Are you selling direct or wholesale? That will affect your profit margin. So will the fabrics you choose. So will the construction of the garment. If you factory knows what you want to make, how much you want to sell it for and what your sales model is, they can help you figure out how to construct (or if it can happen at all) it to make all the numbers work.
5. Understand the costs of pre-production and production and don’t try to cheat the system. Do NOT make a substantial change to your sample and then try to go directly to production without making another sample because you want to save a couple hundred dollars. What you pay up front in pre-production will ensure all that fabric you buy is not going to go to waste because the job got cut and the sewing has begun and something is now not working out. At that point, you are screwed.
6. Work within your factory’s parameters to save the most money possible. When you place a production order, how you calculate your quantities will have an impact on your price per piece. If you are making a t-shirt, and you order 10 small, 10 medium and 10 large, awesome. It’s a simple cut and you are off to sewing. Don’t order 12 small, 17 medium and 25 large. It means making multiple markers, laying up fabric multiple times and multiple cuts. Instead of it taking a half a day to cut your job, it’s now taking three days. (I’m making exact numbers up here to illustrate the point.) Same goes if you are using different fabrics for the same item that can’t be cut together, such as because they have different stretch, are different widths, etc. It means more time cutting and more added to your pricing. Keep it SIMPLE the first time out. Ask your factory to give you guidance with your cutting.
7. Don’t change your mind after your sample is approved and your pattern grading is completed. You are going to have to pay for another sample and you will have to pay to have the pattern graded again. Spend time with your sample. Wear it, wash it, roll around on the carpet in it, if you have to. Get lots of feedback. Don’t approve it unless you are absolutely sure.
8. Consider your quantities. Most factories have a minimum that you must adhere to in order to get the base quoted price. Anything under that minimum is going to cost you more, which means less profit margin for you. Also, they will have volume discounts at certain levels, which will save you money if you are in a position to order a larger quantity. Consider these parameters when deciding how many pieces you will order. You’ll have the same pricing ranges when it comes to order fabric. Most mills will have a base price and you’ll pay more if you go below and less if you go above. You may be better off, say, making 200 quantities of your t-shirt, hoodie and leggings, rather than 30 quantities of your t-shirt, hoodie, leggings, joggers and bomber jacket, all made from different fabrics. You aren’t making your minimums anywhere here, and it will diminish your bottom line.
9. Don’t hire a photographer, book a pop-up space – or anything else that will cause you to lose a deposit – until your sample or collection is in your hands. There have been instances where we are working through sample making and clients are angry because they have a photographer booked to shoot the pieces and they are going to lose their deposit if they have to reschedule. And yet, here we are coming upon issues and reworking patterns, trying to ensure the samples are right. This is what happens in pre-production. Things don’t work out. We brainstorm, try something else. Especially is we are trying to construct something to be less costly for production and we are trying to figure out where to reduce steps. Same thing goes for production. It’s like saying the pitcher is going to have a no-hitter and then the next guy lobs a sloppy single and gets on base. You book a pop-up without a collection, I swear it, something is going to happen that keeps you from getting your full order in time. We’ve seen power outages, minor flooding, flu plagues, once TWO cover stitch machines went down within a day of each other. This next chapter is going to start and it’s going to be wonderful. Just chill for a minute, get all your ducks in a row, and then start booking things. It will be worth it.
10. Be prepared to sell. And sell. And sell. And sell. You are the only one who is going to ensure the success of your collection launch. If you aren’t willing to work on it every day, in a variety of ways: social media posts, SEO research, online advertising, forming relationships with boutiques, getting pieces in the right hands, booking pop-ups, getting great photos, you name it, don’t start in the first place. Your line is not going to sell itself. You’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into creating a line. The selling of the goods is more important than anything else. Building a collection is only the beginning. What you do with it is what really matters.