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6 Critical Tips As You Work Through Product Development

Don’t expect to buy an apparel sample and just say to the garment factory “Hey – I want to manufacture 1000 units of these!” It doesn’t work like that (#sorrynotsorry). There is an entire process of working through sampling, product development, and so much more before you should even begin to approach garment factories. It is a lot of work, but let’s put it this way: if you don’t know every single detail and component of how the product is created, you won’t get what you expect, and that would be an expensive mistake. Most designers take anywhere from 3 months to year to develop a design, so if you’re serious about bringing your garments into reality, sit down honey, ‘cause there’s a long (but rewarding) road ahead of you!

Everybody says to make an “action plan” (buzzword of the year, am I right?), but knowing what to put into your action plan can halt you from even taking those first steps. We’ve decided to extend a helping hand to get you started, with our top 6 things to consider with every detail and decision you make:

1. Research – What’s missing in the market? Are you filling a niche and solving a problem? What makes your product better than what’s out there? Have you held a focus group? Is every element in your design addressing your customers needs? There are countless creative and useful ways to conduct research to make sure your apparel design has everything it needs about it to fit your clientele’s requirements.

2.  Product Cost – Materials, the number of pattern pieces, and the complexity of sewing the garment all affect and determine costs. As you’re working with pattern and sample makers, ask if there are ways to improve the design so you can save on costs, making use of questions like these: “Can the number of pattern pieces be reduced?” “Is there an alternative way to reduce the number of machines required to stitch the garment?” and, “Can the factory source a more cost-effective trim?” Always think about minimizing costs as you work through your apparel design, and keep track of every change and how costs are affected.

3. Team – You want to build a team you can trust. Think: teamwork makes the dream work. Select people that get your product category, are excited about your vision and have the same values. Additionally, don’t be afraid to relinquish control – as a creative, you may always think you have the best ideas, but you make be pleasantly surprised with what your team comes up with!

4. Garment Fit – A fashion business cannot survive if the product does not fit. Simply put, it just won’t sell. And it’s really hard to come back from being the brand with the reputation of “makes clothes that don’t fit properly”. Every market is different, and you need to understand their shape and fit expectations. Your pattern maker has the ability to not only save you the most money, but also help ensure a proper fit, and a better image for your brand. Plan fit meetings with your team and utilize a fit model that emulates your ideal customer. Pro tip: remember that fabric also affects fit!

5. Sustainable Apparel Design – Do what you can to reduce your impact on the earth. Remember that this earth provides you with everything needed to bring your apparel designs to reality, so let’s make sure there will still be materials for you to use years to come by using them responsibly! Beyond using sustainable fabrics, what can you incorporate into the design to help soften the blow on Mother Nature? Can you source coconut buttons instead of using plastic? Can you create a very high-quality product that has a respectable lifespan, rather go directly to a landfill after a few uses?

There are hundreds of details to pay close attention to when working through the design process, from costs to ensure that the product meets your customer’s needs, to keeping a close eye on its carbon footprint. There’s a lot to consider so be sure to take your time. As the saying goes – “anything worth having is worth waiting for”!

P.S. If you’re stuck on where to start in the product development process or sure how to prepare for production – check out our coaching package here. Fashion entrepreneurs – did we miss anything? Are there any other things to consider when developing your product and design?

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