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Garment Development Process – things to consider before starting pattern making.

Yesterday, we had a chat on Clubhouse about garment sampling and what you need to create prototypes for your fashion collection. And what an engaging chat it was! It gave me lots of food for thought. What struck me the most was that people with many years of fashion industry experience still have many misconceptions about starting a garment development process, pattern making and sample sewing.

So, now I'm rushing to write this post to help you to avoid the blunders that may turn into a costly and stressful learning curve.

As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, the most expensive losses come from starting too early.

Let's get started by fixing that. You should be super cautious about your budget as a start-up fashion brand. Surely you wouldn’t want to blow it all at the beginning. Coming from my experience, there will be many other positive ways to spend your fashion business’s money!

Let's have a look at a typical example.

You identified a niche in the clothing market. Your market research confirmed that you have a viable idea. Immediately, your creative imagination starts spinning fast, producing one fashion design after another. You rush into looking for a sewing factory,  pattern makers, and start sourcing fabrics and trims. What an exciting opportunity – you don't want to waste any time!

Think About Branding 

And that's where you should slow down. Do you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race! I'm not suggesting putting your fashion collection on a shelf and taking years to launch. But before you start investing your time and money in garment patterns and sample sewing, I would like to suggest thinking more about your branding, target audience, and route to market in relation to your garment production. Yes, you’ve heard it right: your branding and marketing in relation to your production.

Ready To Get Started?

I would like to share my experience as a high-end garment manufacturer. We have 5-10 newly created fashion brands knocking on the door of our sampling and production studio every day. Most of them are fashion entrepreneurs who have designed a fashion collection and are ready to start pattern making and sample sewing. They can't wait to start working on garment prototypes and are keen to bring their ideas to life. Unfortunately, most of them do not have a clear idea of their brand positioning and sales strategy. 

You may well ask: ‘Why is that so important in this instance?’

You see, in an oversaturated market, you have to take every opportunity to stand out from the crowd and create a loyal customer base that keeps coming back to you over and over again. Garment development, including fabric and trim sourcing, pattern making and sample sewing, garment production and pattern grading, are under-utilised tools in the fashion designer’s arsenal.

Let's look at your target audience first. Who are they? Are you going to serve young, athletic women or ladies over 40 years old?

It may not be particularly obvious to many people, but the fabric choices will be different for these two scenarios. Women in their 40s are very likely to be pre-menopausal or menopausal. Your fabric choices will be affected by the fact that they have to be breathable and light to alleviate hot flushes and other discomforts women may feel when going through these periods of their lives.

Athletic and active women may prefer garments with more ease of movement to cater to their dynamic lifestyles.

One of the successful examples of zoning in on one product and considering all the aspects, including garment production, is Lululemon. Chip Wilson carefully thought about the message he wanted to deliver to his audience via his product. Ahead of his fashion brand's launch, he spent more than six months developing his trademarked material, Luon, a blend of nylon and lycra with a soft cotton feel, which allowed the brand to stand out in the crowded activewear marketplace. His focus was on technical performance and quality, with most of the money invested in garment production. According to his memoir, ‘Little Black Stretchy Pants’, he bought two flatlock sewing machines from Japan upfront. He spent a whopping $80,000 on that purchase. Such a worthy investment enabled the company to sew the leggings’ flats seams, an innovation at the time. The brand's loyal customers continue to pay above-market prices for the product, which is rarely discounted. Today, the brand ranked among The Financial Times' top 100 companies that are prospering in the pandemic, with the giants like Amazon, Microsoft and Apple in the lead.

Can you imagine how attractive your fashion brand will look to your target audience if you let them know that these important details have been considered?

That was just one example that has the potential to elevate your brand to a new level if carefully thought through. What positive things could happen if you have your brand positioning clearly defined before you look for a garment manufacturer? We’ll look at that in the next blog post.

If you require any support with creating your brand’s grading and size charts our team will be happy to assist you. We also cover size charts and grading rules in the Fashion Designer Toolkit. Click on the button below to discover how our toolkit can take your business to the next level.

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