How to Produce and Ship your First Fashion Collection
Posted on 18 August 2016
Today's post is different from what we usually put out on this blog. Today, we're talking about the business side of things. I thought I'd share the process of creating a fashion collection with you all. Books & Ballads' Wine Nights Collection of quirky cocktail dresses launched last week and that made me realize what a long journey it's been. So, I want to share the process of creating a fashion collection. Many of us aspire to be designers but don't know where to start when it comes to creating our first collection. Here are a few things that I learnt during the process. I hope it helps.
1. The design: Be yourself but be coherent. The pieces in a fashion collection need to have something in common. Whether it's a material, color, design element or print, all the pieces in your collection should come together and look like they're part of the same family. If you're confused, start small. I started with only 3 pieces for the Wine Nights Collection and focused on making them the best I could.
2. Choosing a manufacturer: This can be tricky. In fact, this is what trips most people up. Though we all love to wear beautiful clothes, we have no idea how and where it's made. The most important skill you need to learn for this step is research. And, perseverance. First of all, decide what the price range of your collection would be. If you're targetting mass market and a lower price range, overseas is the way to go. If you're in the luxury or ethical segment where consumers are more discriminating and prices are higher, you can choose to produce your collection either in your home country (Europe, America) or overseas. There are many advantages to producing in the USA including lower shipping costs, no customs duties and perceived value. On the other hand, producing overseas can give you access to a wider range of designs (talent pool), lower prices and quicker turnarounds. One thing to keep in mind when producing overseas are customs and shipping. These can hike your production cost considerably so keep track of that. Shipping (freight) also takes 20-35 days to get to the US so you need to factor that into your production cycle.
A great website to look for US manufacturers in Maker's Row.
Alibaba is the quitessential directory to Chinese suppliers. You can get everything here from clothing tags, stickers, custom packaging boxes, clothing of all kinds, leather, handbags, printed fabrics etc. Even if you produce in the US, you may be able to cut costs by sourcing fabrics or packaging materials from overseas.
Another good way to find reliable suppliers is to ask your friends and acquantances. If you're in the fashion industry or know people that are, this may be a great idea.
3. Packaging and branding: The devil is in the details. Packaging will play a huge role in how your brand is perceived. You can choose from a variety of suppliers in the US and overseas to manufacture custom packaging boxes. Make sure these meet the expectations of your target audience. Even something as simple as having your logo on the packaging can make a difference. To add a personal touch, you can incorporate stickers, flyers, thank you notes etc. into the package. Customers look for an experience, not just a product.
Another thing to make sure of is your own brand clothing tags. Factories usually add theirs unless you make a specific request to customize the clothing tag with your logo. Many factories do not offer this service so you might need to source tags from elsewhere and have it sent to the factory.
4. Shipping: You're finally getting the hang of it but you're not done yet. There's the labyrinth of shipping to figure out. Shipwire, Floship, FBA etc. are shipping services that can ship large quantities to customers for you. They have special crowdfunding rates and rates according to the size of your business. You just need to label your inventory accurately and send it over to them along with any packaging materials and they'll take care of the shipping for you. It's best to start reseaching shipping companies early so that you're prepared for the costs of shipping and can add this to your price. Another thing to remember is that shipping companies do not help you clear customs so you may have to hire a customs agent to help you do the paperwork at the port of entry. However, once the items get to the warehouses, they ship out very early. Most of these services have APIs that can be integrated with major e-commerce platforms like Shopify and Woocommerce.
So that's producing and shipping a collection for you in a nutshell.
An important thing that doing all this has taught me is patience. Be patient. Expect the unexpected. It is very common to have unexpected circumstances and delays. The best way to avoid them is to have ample time. Plan in advance.
A SINCERE REQUEST:
The Wine Nights Collection of quirky cocktail dresses that I designed is now up for pre-order on IndieGoGo. Please support us by backing this project here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/wine-nights-collection-quirky-cocktail-dresses-fashion/x/13648569#/
(P.S.: We've slashed 40% off all pre-order prices so this is a great time to pre-order)