By: Siobhan Carroll, Head Of Apparel
Every fashion brand has a story. The Coco Chanels, Vera Wangs, and Victoria Beckhams of the world didn’t just wake up and start making clothes. Before they were the designers and luxury brands, they were entrepreneurs with passion and a customer in mind.
Thanks to e-commerce websites and online marketing, launching your own clothing line has become much easier today than it was 10 years ago. However, it still comes with its own challenges.
Once you’ve identified your niche, developed a business plan with an end goal in mind, and identified your target audience, it’s time to move on to the next step.
Design > Sampling > Production
While you’ll see many challenges along the way, here are three mistakes you can avoid when launching your own fashion brand.
1. You’re not planning for drop 2 and beyond ahead of your first launch
Congratulations! You have your first drop designed and ready to push out to the market. But have you thought about what happens after that’s sold out?
When you’re dealing with premium fashion production, you have lead times to deal with, sampling and shipping timelines to juggle, and unforeseen delays to consider. If you don’t start working on your second collection, while working on the first, this means you have potentially missed sales for another three months.
Planning for two drops at the same time may mean more investment into your production cycle, but it’s always best to have stock ready for a drop 2 collection before you launch drop 1. This way you can follow up within a reasonable time period and then take learnings from launch to work on drop 3. It’s a cycle!
Once you cross this stage, you can start planning ahead with data, proven sales figures, and knowing how and within what timeline is your production working.
Your product life cycle will fall into place when you start working on at least two seasons at once whilst also selling the third drop.
2. You’re not being commercial or flexible
When launching a fashion brand, you need to think about what will sell, not just what you like. A lot of brands get tied to seasonality at first, and can’t shake off the monotony of it.
If your launch gets pushed from July to September, and your product is too seasonal, then you need to be prepared for the transitions. How will this impact sales?
Product development should be planned in the calendar with timings and dates for design, sampling, production and the final launch, however, in the beginning, these timelines can be easily moved around as you get to know your suppliers and they get to know you.
You have to prepare for issues along the way, whether they are delays in sampling, faults in fabric, or dyes taking differently from the planned colour. These hiccups are part of the business, but it’s more important how you move on from it and work collaboratively to ensure it doesn't happen again.
In the planning stages, you should always allow more time than you need and still be prepared for everything to be flexible. Remember, your customer doesn't know the planned launch date or exact shade of blue you had planned. So ask, is it a nice blue? Does it sit with the rest of my collection? Is it commercial i.e will it sell?
3. You’re forgetting your customers' budget
Before you start developing a product, you need to think about the retail pricing structure. This will determine so many factors around the cost of the garment, packaging and shipping methods.
Manufacturing in small quantities will always mean an increased cost price, so you need to keep this in mind when selecting fabrics and trims. You will need to meet a minimum order, but how can you be strategic? For example, you really want to have branded zip pulls on a jacket so if you have to commit to at least 1,000 zips on an order of 200 jackets. Now the challenge is, can you use them in later collections or across more styles?
The same should be considered for packaging and labelling too. All these small things help add the finishing touches to a brand, but they come at an additional cost.
You need to plan how you’ll ship the product and how that will impact your costs. If you choose air freight, the cost is higher but the garments arrive quicker. If you choose sea freight, the environmental costs are low and you save money.
Plan ahead and look at the whole picture across all departments.