People from lots of different backgrounds can share a dream — starting their own fashion line. You might have been in the industry for years, or you could be a complete outsider. Regardless, there are a huge amount of resources that you can utilize to help you get on the right track. This guide does not intend to be exhaustive, but rather to provide a starting point to build on.
Background / Skills
Without going into too much detail, a big personal decision is the team that you’ll put together, and the skills that you and your team have. It’s not impossible by yourself, but having a trusted partner or partners can make all of the difference. If you have an existing background in the fashion industry, this is naturally much easier since there’s less to learn from scratch. However, you’ll also need someone who is good at marketing and someone who is good at the actual ins-and-outs of running a business.
There are a lot of moving parts in even a small fashion brand, but in general an extreme simplification can be considered as follows. You have to produce the clothes, and you have to sell them. In producing the clothes, you’ll likely be outsourcing almost that entire process, unless you have the technical ability to create patterns, samples, pick fabrics, and so on. The marketing aspect is quite large and important as well. We’ll go over the high-level approach to both manufacturing and marketing here.
How to Develop a Line
So you presumably have a concept. Maybe you want to make dresses, maybe you want to make streetwear, maybe you just want to make pants. You’ll hopefully also have inspiration in the form of similar brands, a mood board, and so on.
If you’re just beginning, you’ll want to create something of a capsule collection. A capsule collection means a collection of a few essential items that don’t go out of style. From a business perspective, this can be much more viable than immediately creating your dream item and having it end up too esoteric to sell at a viable volume.
If you have some sort of sketches, even better. You’ll need to go to a pattern maker, which is someone who takes your sketches and ideas and creates a pattern, which is a blueprint for clothing. You’ll need this pattern to begin creating any samples and bringing things to reality.
At the same time, you’ll need to decide what kind of fabrics you want. You’ll also need to make sure that you can source them as they are needed. If you are only making small runs, you might fall under the yardage minimums for many different fabrics. It could be wise to use the same fabric in multiple items in this case.
The next step is creating a sample. Generally, initial samples are made out of muslin, which is a cheap cotton cloth. You’ll use this for initial fittings and to ensure that everything mostly looks okay. From here, you can adjust the sample as you desire, then you need to have a full sample created. This will be your prototype for manufacturing. Once again, you’ll have a fitting session and ensure that everything is perfect. This will be your last chance before production to do any last-minute changes.
How to Manufacture a Line
Now you have your full line of samples. You want to start selling, so you need to make a full run. You’ll have to figure out a few things here: what sizes are you going to produce, what quantities, what colors, and so on.
You’ll need to grade your samples, which means creating the different sizes. Make sure that the smalls aren’t too small, and the larges aren’t too large!
Do you have any trimmings? You have to account for those too. Make sure that your zippers are the right lengths and right feel.
Hangtags and labels? You’ll need to make those too.
Finally, you can start to manufacture. Depending on the size of your production runs, you’ll determine where exactly to do the manufacturing. A lot of manufacturing is moving back domestically, especially to NYC’s Garment District. Overseas manufacturing can be time consuming, with very difficult quality control, at least until you are having quite large production runs and have staff to oversee the entire process.
How to Market a Line
Now your line is done. You have all of your goods manufactured, and you want to get it out the door and start selling.
Fashion is an extremely visual industry, so you have to ensure that not only do your pieces look (and feel) good, but that you’ve captured your brand visually in a way that speaks for itself. You’ll need to hold a photoshoot, and you have to ensure that your photographer is on point, that your location (and studio) is right as you want them, and that the models represent the look of your brand. You’ll want a large amount of content that you can keep using for at least a couple of months. You’ll also need product shots for your website.
At the very least, you’ll need to make sure that your web presence is superb, and that your social media is on point and being ran correctly. For the former, you need to ensure that you have a clean and usable website that fits your brand — there are plenty of existing e-commerce platforms you can build upon, such as Squarespace or Shopify.
For your social media, you’ll be using the aforementioned visuals extensively. Think of the audience that you want to connect to (remember the similar brands you drew inspiration from earlier). Think of the kind of visuals that fit you brand. You want to tell a story with your marketing, so don’t have too much emphasis on the products.
That was a very high-level approach, as entire books can be (and have been) written about each of these topics and sub-topics.
Starting a fashion line can certainly be overwhelming, but the above should get you started on the right track.
At The Factory 212, we help clients large and small with everything from fashion consulting, pattern creation, sample making and fittings, all the way to full manufacture. We’re happy to help with any step of the process. Feel free to reach out to us to discuss further.