Updated: Mar 26, 2020
Product Development Process for Your Clothing Line:
If you are completely new to the fashion industry it can be hard knowing what goes on behind the scenes and managing your brand. The most important thing that you can do is make sure the manufacturer and factory you plan to work with are professionals and experienced with what they are doing. Most of the time they will help you understand and help the process of pattern makers, tech pack creators and design, materials and production partners.If you have no prior experience in the fashion industry, hiring an expert in that field is highly recommended; they give you an insight and help you create your vision. Below I will discuss what pattern makers and tech pack creators are and how they help you before you go into the manufacturing stages.Researching a manufacturer before you start will help you a lot in the long run. If you choose the correct manufacturer some will offer their expertise in professional product development services; this is especially good if you’re new to the fashion making industry. Always research into manufactures prior to starting off the design process as they can give you estimated rates, if they provide product development services and more.Furthermore, if you are a new start off fashion company and are based in the UK you may be tempted to hire manufacturers abroad like China who offer cheaper prices; this can often be a hit or miss and can come down to how big your order size is.
The general process of clothing product development looks like:
Designs: The initial design concept, whether this includes a rough sketch or a CAD illustration, you have to have a rough design/ sketch of what you want the product to look like. For example, a long sleeve T-Shirt or a short sleeve T-Shirt. What will the pattern be? Floral or a solid colour inside. Do you want to include a logo, is the shirt reversible, does it include labels. These all need to be seen in the initial design/ sketch. Sketching out ideas is important as usually you may need further assistance whether this be with a fashion illustrator or designer. Make sure you write notes and ideas down by the end of the process the designs and sketches will be more refined and realistic. Be careful of who you share your designs with as many ideas nowadays are stolen.
Tech Pack: In the tech pack you will include more specificities, including all details and technical specifications like how big the sleeves in metric sizes, the design, measurements, materials and any accessories (zipper, buttons etc...)
A complete tech pack will include:
-Design -Fabrics -Materials -Trim -Stitching -Artwork -Labels and Tag Information Packaging Instructions
Pattern making and grading: Pattern making is the process of turning your design into patterns which can then go into the production stages. The grading process entails grading the pattern up or down for all the future apparel and sizes in that line. A qualified pattern maker is needed in this step, they will help you design the pattern and print it to you full size to show you if the print will stretch and more. This is really crucial so make sure you enlist a professional who knows what they are doing.
Sourcing: Sourcing is finding the correct manufacture which is more suited for your clothing line. In the table above you can narrow down which manufacture is better suited for your need (country wise). Other than that, it can be a long process trying to find a good and reliable manufacturer and will include a lot of communication and vetting.
Samples: Once you have narrowed down which manufacturers you believe are suited for your clothing line; you will need them to send over samples of their fabrics and you can check and identify if the manufacturer is suited towards you and if the quality is overall good.
Production: Lastly, production is the mass production of your clothing, depending on your manufacturer and your products it can usually run a few hundreds and thousands of units.
Clothing manufacturers:A clothing manufacturer can be very costly and can take up a lot of time and space when starting up. When starting off with a clothes manufacturer it can take up a lot of time and can take away a lot of your money and valuable assets especially if you don't have a lot of cash. If you are just launching a business this can be a huge risk and it’s recommended you start off by yourself. Obviously, this may not be the case for some people as some people may not be well acquainted with the fashion industry and have the background knowledge.I would personally recommend starting off with a clothing manufacturer especially if you are completely new to the business, choosing a good manufacturer will give you a lot of knowledge and will help your brand a lot. Obviously, do not get a clothing manufacturer if you won’t be able to afford it especially if it means you will lose money when finally selling your clothes.Choosing the correct clothing manufacturer is vital and below you can see the table I created to showcase the pros and cons of choosing a manufacturer locally or abroad.
After you’ve narrowed down your manufacturers and where you’re manufacturer is based you will have to communicate what you want, this can be especially difficult to do over an email and a lot of things can get lost in translation (another advantage of choosing a manufacturer based in the UK, so you are able to visit them often at a low cost and keep on top of what’s going on). If you are still unsure on choosing a manufacturer, there are plenty of ways to find and scout for some. The includes industry meetups, which included trade shows and events. Directories and search engines are one of the most common ways. If this still hasn’t helped you narrow down your search try searching social media.Once you’ve narrowed down a list of manufacturers, you will want to take into account; cost, shipping times, quality and how long they have had experience for. Usually this will give you an indication on who is the right fit for your company. In conclusion, the pros of working with a clothing manufacturer include:
● Creative freedom to produce the type of clothing that you and your customer want
● Create an amazing brand image - which is vital
● More control over marketing and in general control over the whole business.
However the cons of working with a clothing manufacturer range from:
● Bulk buying items, which can be a huge cost risk ● Some manufacturers require an upfront investment, which can affect your company
Finding factories: Of course, the final stage of behind the scenes is finding a factory that is suitable for your clothes. The table above is relevant to factories as well so make sure you keep that in consideration. When choosing a factory make sure you are looking at their ethics and working conditions, this is extremely important as a lot of clothing companies are now being exposed in the media from the working conditions in the factories where their clothes are manufactured and created. Make sure you investigate and look deep into the factory to make sure this is legal and safe for your company to order from that factory.Another thing you should be looking for is the quality of their clothes; as mentioned above they will always send samples if you ask and this is extremely important as quality can differ from factory to factory. Also, look out for how they communicate with their customers with this be through email or phone calls. This is especially important if you are using manufacturers abroad like China meaning there will be more frequent checks for quality assurance.The last thing that should be asked of the factory is their availability and prices. This means asking rough estimates of how much a unit would cost, which is vital in order to get your products out as soon as possible.
Also, asking around other factories will give you a rough estimate on how much other factories will be charging you, this is important because if they are all giving different prices it could be because you are foreign - especially in places like China and abroad.Once you have finished choosing the factories, going to see them in person is VITAL. If you do not go look at them you won’t be able to see the working conditions, you can see how they are like in person and you can identify their strengths and weaknesses which can finally let you narrow down to your perfect factory. This is another great reason to stay in the UK because travel will be a lot better and you can do more frequent trips to see what is going on. It will also give you an insight on what their shipping process is like.
Sampling: After you have chosen your factory, send over some samples to them to see what the potential clothing item will look like. You will obviously need to let them know the materials and that will all be included in the tech pack sent over to themselves. ALWAYS get a sample it gives you an idea on how the product will look and what adjustments need to be made whether this be the actual design/ print or accessories.
Production: The final stage of behind the scenes is the full-scale production. This means you will be completely working with the manufacturers and factories to make sure everything is dead on time as it is CRUCIAL that everything is done at the set timeline especially on your first launch date. Make sure you are in complete control as well as communicating with everyone. The first full scale production will give you an idea on timings and quality of products. Once production for the first season of garments ends you will then start planning for the next season to begin.Now that you have the right manufacturer for your business let their skills and services help build your brand up.