Launching a fashion brand may seem daunting: from suppliers choice to fashion marketing. In our blog we are talking about where to start, how to find a factory, fabrics suppliers, create samples and much more!
We will also touch on advertising, marketing partnerships, influencers, fulfilment, and sustainability in future chapters.
Fundamentals of Fashion - Part 1
In this series of blog post we want to share what we have learned so far during our journey of starting a fashion brand with you, so if you should be inspired to start your own adventure, you might find some help here.
What’s the most important part of starting a fashion business? Based on the title of this blog post, you might think it is finding the right suppliers. You would be partially correct although there is something more important, but we will save that for later.
Finding the right supplier for your business is an incredibly important step, and it is a cornerstone of launching a fashion brand. Keep in mind that it is rarely a one-off, instead it is a process that you will constantly be on.
Before you start the hunt for suppliers, you will need to decide what it is you will be making. This is the design process, and it helps if you have the required technical experience to make design clothes and create patterns, but it is not strictly necessary. The design process can be as complicated as spending months preparing designs for your collection yourself, or it can be as simple as saying “I want to make a white t-shirt with a blue square on the front”. What you design and how you design it is up to you and depending on your skills and experience, but the result of this process needs to be a clearly articulated statement on what you want to make, preferably supported by a tech pack or at least pictures.
Probably somewhere during the design process you will start to have an idea of what fabrics you want to use for your items. What we suggest to do is to find a fabric wholesaler in your area, and book a visit to their showroom. They might not in the end have exactly what you are looking for, but seeing the thousands of different fabrics they have on offer will at least put you in the right direction. The staff at fabric wholesalers are also professionals in their area, and can always help you if you just know to ask the right questions. “I want to make a raincoat that is foldable into pocket size, and the material has to be sustainable” is a good way to start narrowing down the available options.
When you have decided on a fabric that works for your needs, that fits your style, and most importantly your budget, it’s time to put down an order. Keep in mind most producers are selling their fabrics in minimum quantities, so make sure you can afford both the fabric but also the production of that many units.
By now you should have a fairly good idea of how the final product should look like, now it is time to put ideas into action, and take one step closer to having a final product in your hands. To make a prototype you will most probably start working together with either an agent or directly with a factory. You can use google in order to find someone to work with, but there are also specialized search websites like Sqetch, where you can fairly easily create an account, and by using their search parameters, you will get matched with a number of potential partners, that you can further narrow down by location and a few other parameters.
With your list of potential suppliers in hand, you can start contacting as many of these as possible. Not all will be good fits, and the only way to find out is to start having conversations with them. The more prepared you are when discussing with them, the better your chances of finding a good supplier will be. Some things you will need to know before hand is what type of product you are making, in what materials, how many different styles and sizes there will be, and what the total quantity of products you will be making is, and what your required timeline is. Most suppliers work with Minimum Order Quantities of 100-300 units, some will accept less than that,and in most cases you can at least have a conversation and try to negotiate good terms for yourself.
Based on these discussions you will start to get a picture of which suppliers want to work with you, where they are located, what the general terms they are offering are, what the shipping times and costs are, and what the price per unit is. Most importantly you will get a feel for how easy different partners are to work with, how responsive they are, if they are proactive and ask you questions as well. You should compile these results in an excel table to compare the different options you have, and finally pick one or more to move on to the next step.
When you have selected one or more suppliers you should start working with them on creating a prototype for each different product you are planning to make. It can be beneficial to select two or more potential suppliers, since then you will be able to compare the quality of the prototype they are making for you, before you decide on one to do the whole production with.
This part of the process is key, since you will communicate your exact ideas and expectations to the producer, who will make a prototype based on that. If you aren’t clear enough, and you are not happy with the prototype, you will have to start over (and pay for another prototype). So take extra care to be as clear as possible here.
With your ready prototype in hand you will be ready to make the final adjustments to your plan, and make the big decision to give the green light to the production of your first collection.
And by the way, having the first prototype in hand of your first design is a great feeling - this is where things are getting real!
An important part of producing your first collection is getting the quality control done right. You will probably do part of this yourself, ideally in the production site itself, so any issues can be adjusted there before shipping the finalised goods to your warehouse. When doing quality control take extra care to all the details, even the less visible ones, and point out any problems directly so they can be corrected. After you have taken delivery of your goods, they are on your responsibility!
By following these steps you will at least have got partially on the way to producing your first product. Let us know if this blog was interesting or helpful in any way. We'll share more of our journey along the way.