There are many ways to approach production but I have chosen to detail 2 ways that help you run your business in a financially lean way with little waste or excess stock. My blog is geared towards the independent fashion business or start up. I want to teach you the right way to start; the way that does not require a ton of money, because most likely you don't have it and if you are new you don't have an investor willing to take the risk.
The biggest difference between the 2 approaches to production is this:
In one you have good access to your materials and know you can get as much as you need for a good 2-3 months (Your sample making through selling period.) In the other you are buying materials up front. (Let's say a 50 yd fabric roll in the fabric district that you got a great deal on.) In one case you are trying to only buy as much material as you need in the other you are tying to sell as much of the material on hand as you can.
Still with me? Let's start with approach 1.
APPROACH 1: Production based on your actual sales: In this approach you are not buying your materials up front but you have done your due diligence to know that you can buy more throughout the next few months. DON'T just look online in retail shops to see if lots of stores carry it and say OK there is a ton of that fabric out there so I am good. I made that mistake before. Read more HERE. You want to find out who manufactures the fabric, what the wholesale price is and how much they have in stock and if they will still be producing more. OK so you have secured the fabric availability let's move on to the production cycle.
- Plan a collection or piece of clothing: Using sample fabric (oftentimes you may have to buy this at retail price to make your samples if the fabric mfg won't sell you sample yardarge) you can now do the fun part design and make your sample. Savor this process because the rest is all business. That's right! This is a business and 80% of your time will be spent on the business side if you want to grow.
- Release a collection: So the sample is done, it's now time to get professional photos taken. Your photo will sell your product! There is no excuse not to take a professional photo of your product. Many photographers will take photos on trade for the sample you send. Can't find a photog? Even an IPhone can take a decent product picture but I suggest going on Youtube for some lessons, then learn basic editing.
Now get the word out! Add a nice listing to your shop then drive traffic to drive sales. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,
Email Blast, Direct Sales, Walk a Sample into a few local boutiques to get orders.
- Have a selling period: I suggest a 1 week selling period with a shop early promo for the first 2-3 days. Take payment up front and be that you are clear that orders take approximately 2 weeks to process and be sure you deliver on that promise. At the end of the week tally up orders.
- Plan on overages: If you think you can sell some more of your product after the 1 week selling window plan on some overages. I suggest this only for designers with a following and a history of sales if you are using this approach. Base overages on previous sales and analyze what sizes you sell most so you can add those sizes into your overage. Getting stuck with inventory is never fun! It's better to bring back a design in a new print if you have a strong customer request to make more.
- Buy supplies: Based on your orders and your decision on overages place your supply order. (Fabrics and notions)
- Complete the lot: If you are working with a sew house be sure they can meet your tight deadline. If you are sewing yourself be sure to work assembly line style. This is so much quicker that completing each garment 1 by 1.
- Deliver orders: Yay time to ship!
- Sell remaining stock: If you decided on overages time to sell sell sell! Perhaps a sale will be in order but work on selling for 2-3 weeks at full price first.
- Start over: Great job! Let's bring that next design to life!