Glad you stopped by, because today I am sharing some free knowledge on the apparel design process from concept to shipped product.
I normally reserve this on-boarding guide for new clients who don’t know anything about the industry, but I’ve had a lot of requests for more content like this, SO I bless you with a quick 15-page guide that I hope will give you a peek inside the fashion world and what to expect when diving into a new project.
I’d love to hear from you with questions, so DM us @casualbrandcreative or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Until then, happy reading ❤
Forecasting trends today is completely different than it was 10-20+ years ago. It used to be that there were top players in the forecasting game who worked for companies like WGSN, Doneger, Trendswest, etc. They’d travel the world, going to fashion shows, immersing themselves in the street culture and snapping pics of the most forward-thinking dressers in whatever beautiful city they found themselves covering. They’d sit through the glamorous fashion shows and take note of necklines, skirt lengths, sleeves, color. They’d then take the rolls and rolls of film they used, get the pictures made, and start creating mood boards and stories around the information they’d collected.
Today, the same is true of trend-spotting, but the difference is that the forecasters behind the lense of the (iPhone camera) are you and I. Social media and the internet has completely changed the way trend information is shared and created. There is no longer a formula; no more rules. This makes a designers job both easier and harder.
One the one hand, it is easier because there is so much free information available at our fingertips. All we need to do is swipe through Instagram and follow top bloggers. There are also loads of publications and magazines you can subscribe to on a monthly basis that is still cheaper than paying $10-20k a year for trend forecasting services. As a designer, you can build a pretty solid collection using this free information.
On the other hand, because there is so much information and things are constantly changing and moving, it is hard to keep up. A skirt length that seems to be trending today and for the next month may be old news in the 9-12 months before you are able to develop and launch the idea.
How can I effectively design a collection without spending a years’ salary on a forecasting service?
If you are on a calendar where you need to be designing 2 years out, unless you can see into the future I highly recommend using a forecasting service. A couple I recommend:
Fashion Snoops is a very budget-friendly choice for freelancers and small business alike.
WGSN is the top choice, but is very expensive and not necessary unless you are a bigger company.
If you’re not looking to spend money, here are a few great places to find good information on trends (that is not Instagram):
Any women’s fashion magazine like: Elle, Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Marie-Claire, W Magazine, InStyle
Ever wonder why you wear a size 6 in denim brand and a size 4 in others? A size small in some shirts and a medium in others?
It’s all the donuts you’re eating while maintaining your yo-yo dieting techniques.
OMG KIDDING. Had to though.
It’s quite simple. Different brands use different human bodies to fit their base-size product. So, even if two different brands are using their base size medium model, those 2 bodies could vary. Giving you one brand offering a size M that fits differently than another brand’s M.
So, what about when the same brand is offering 2 of the same styles, and those same styles in size M seem to fit you differently? Well, there are a few factors that could contribute to that:
If they are a larger company, it’s possible that they use different fit models across their different category of product. For instance, they may have one model for their knit category, and another for their wovens.
It could simply be a manufacturing mistake. Manufacturers are people too- they’re not robots. When they are building garments, they have a certain tolerance range they are allowed to hit from their target measurements. So, if they are delivering the final product 1″ smaller in circumference in the waist of a pant, while it might be allowed by the buyer and approved to ship, it will be apparent to a return customer if the fit is different than their previously purchased pair.
Another reason could just be the inconsistency of the brand in their fitting habits. If they are using a new fit model every time they fit, their fitting is going to be inconsistent. In that same lane, brands should be fitting on models whose body types represent their target customer. For example, if you are gearing your brand to a middle-aged woman, you shouldn’t be fitting on an 18-year-old.
Inconsistent fit can really hurt your brand. If it’s all over the place, or never seems to stay the same, you will lose the trust of your customer. You should be able to re-purchase your favorite tee from your favorite brand and not worry that it won’t fit. No one likes to make online returns.
The subject of the design calendar has come up a lot with clients and potential clients this month. Something must be in the air, because I’ve had to have a few chats about why the calendar is so important when planning your new line.
In the past, I’ve worked on plenty of projects that were not planned properly.
And do you know what the outcome was?
Because there was no proper timeline or calendar (just a vision to get to a photoshoot and trade show and relish in all the glory), there’s a decent list of things that went wrong (and you can expect to go wrong,) if you don’t have a clear plan set out:
The line was sloppy, thrown together, and was not cohesive. There was no story to tell – there were hand-beaded gowns mixed with body-con knits and distressed-jersey tees. That’s the sort of threesome that’s literally never going to work out. You cannot start a brand new label and offer everything under the sun. No one will take you seriously and they’ll just be confused about who you are as a brand. A good designer or design team will take at least 3 months to really research and develop a cohesive story and line plan.
The fit of the garments were not great. When you’re offering a hand-beaded gown for $600+ your fit cannot be bad. It better hug that model in all the right places and not have a weird armhole. Fitting the line properly once you are in the development stage is crucial. Some designs are more difficult than others, and if you rush through and don’t take time to properly fit the garments, expect that your return rate will be high. You can expect the development process to take 2-3 months. Always plan for 3.
So then there’s production to work into the calendar. If you’re already pinched for time, running the proper QC needed and keeping attention to detail for the production is going to be non-existent. I don’t think I need to say why that would be bad. Plan for 3 months production lead time (+1 month vessel to port, total 4 months) if working offshore. Plan for about 2 months if working in the USA.
You’re basically giving birth to your new line – 9 months is the bare minimum it should take to set your new label up for success.
Don’t cut corners.
Don’t believe someone can get you up and running in 2,3,4, 6 months. They can’t.
Don’t trust that your USA production house says they will have your product out in 6 weeks. They won’t.
Do trust people (me) who have seen it all. Believe that if I had superpowers and could get your line up and running in a month, I totally would. But, I don’t. So, do it right!
Brand identity is key to success in the fashion business. This much has always been true, and will continue to be. The way the message is relayed, however, has been #updated.
You guys – whether you like it or not, (whether you’re in your 60’s, 40’s, or 20’s and just old-school), social media is THE key to success right now. Your brand “icon”, “logo”, or “wordmark” is paramount to the degree of the success you will or will not have.
The way you brand or identify yourself is basically your business card. Let’s unpack this really quick.
Back in the day, business cards were the golden ticket. You could sidle up to someone you’ve been dying to meet, savvy up some random conversation and slip them your card. If it was a good one (an interesting one), you may or may not have received a call or email.
Today, your business card is your social platform. The content you create is your newsletter, and your brand icon or logo is your “about” page.
So I’d like to talk about The Casual Brand Creative, and the reasoning behind our icon, in hopes that it may inspire you to take a second glance at your own.
Color is the first element that draws an audience. Color speaks many languages, and above all, the language of emotion.
Casual Brand Creative landed on a neutral tone for color as an icon backing. This is because we design neutrally. We pride ourselves on absorbing all of our clients’ needs and desires to create products that speak for the brand, not to our personal preferences.
We constantly hear advice that you should only offer service to brands that fit your subjective design perspective, and we aren’t down with that.
At CBC, we pride ourselves on looking beyond our subjective thoughts and opinions on design in order to create a product that is on brand with whomever we work with.
This is not to say that we work with every random Joe in the business. But if Joe has something interesting to say, we’re going to do our damndest to say it the best way for Joe.
Mood Boards are exactly what they sound like. They are made to represent the overall mood and vibe of the collection you are creating. They are essentially a brain dump for all of the ideas that pop into your head surrounding color, silhouette, fabric, design details, etc.
Yes, it’s basically your ultimate Pinterest board.
They are extremely useful for a designer when she/he is beginning to build a design concept, and ultimately the range plan. Before I even begin to consider design work for a client, I ask to see their mood board. Without it, I cannot possibly understand their design goals! It would be a waste of my time and their money if they booked me for design, let me run rogue and design whatever I want, and then turn in work that they don’t like because it was completely different than their vision.
Not only are mood boards critical to a designer’s role, they are also a really strong tool for the client. By laying out all of their ideas in one place, it is easier for them to organize and set themselves up for what exactly they will need to ask from a designer in terms of concepting and building out a range (or line) plan.
Mood boards are a lot of fun to make.
There are no rules when putting together a mood board. They totally bring back high-school vibes from when you were younger – cutting magazines to shreds and pasting all the images that spark joy to a large science-fair-esque whiteboard and displaying them proudly for all to see.
I mean, you’re probably not going to do it that way now (unless you want to, remember there are no rules here) when we are living in a digital age. I want to recommend a couple places that I’ve found work best for putting all of your ideas in one place:
Pinterest This is the obvious one as it is literally a mood board for all things. It’s a great tool for organizing specific categories – you can break everything down: Color, Silhouette, Overall attitude, fabrics, design details, trims, etc.
Canva This is also a really great tool that let’s you basically make your school vision board, except digitally instead of pasting onto a huge foam board. You can drag images and manipulate them on the board as you see fit.
Illustrator Since I do own this software, I use Illustrator to build out my ideas. The downside is that all of my images that I want to use will be living somewhere else (like Pinterest) anyway.
What Should I include on a Mood Board?
For a third time, there are no rules when it comes to making a mood board! So have fun with it. BUT if you are creating in in order to pass along to a designer so that she/he can create a really dope concept for you, please include the following:
Color Is extremely important. Unless you are going to be using a lot of pop colors and loud prints, don’t include rainbow everything on your board. The colors should represent the type of palette you want to use for your actual collection. Want to build a line plan with only core colors like black, white, navy, and grey? Those are the colors that your board should consist heavily of.
Silohuette Are you trying to build out an activewear line? Don’t send your designer a mood board with ethereal, flowy gowns.
Fabrics See above. You don’t need to have the specifics nailed down (that’s why you are hiring a designer!) but again, if you want to do activewearI wouldn’t present a board showing ball gowns.
Target Customer Designing for grandma and her dopest friends? Don’t represent children on your board.
That’s your mood board, in a nutshell.
Here’s ours, just for fun and for the sake of the post.
Now go have some fun with it! Have more questions? Either comment below or email me at Create@thecasualbrandcreative.com
As promised, we’re coming at you on this fine Friday to have a little chat about fabric.
Fabric selection is a kind of important when you’re in the design phase of your project.
It’s also where I run into some setbacks and ??’s from clients, mostly due to the lack of understanding surrounding the process of sourcing fabric. So, I am hoping to clear up a few hazy spots regarding the subject.
Sourcing the right fabric is not easy or quick. Most companies spend months sourcing. They spend $$ going to trade shows. As a project manager, when I am sourcing fabric there are a lot of factors I have to consider when selecting options:
Fabric content Does the client have certain specifications for what they want their fabric to consist of? Recycled poly? Merino wool? Does it need a special finish?
Fabric weight You have to take into consideration the end product. If the fabric needs to have a slinky drape, it cannot weigh the same as your bottom-weight fabric selections.
Minimums. This is a big one. For the majority of start-up brands, I highly recommend using fabrics that are stocked, or that are readily available at the mill or wholesaler. That’s because it is tough to find a fabric that you can customize (with your own color or print) at a low enough minimum to make sense for your project. So, mills will sometimes “stock” fabric that are purchasable per roll, as opposed to having thousands of yards as minimums if you want to customize. A lot of times, mills will stock best-selling fabrics in colors relevant to the season.
If you choose to do custom colors or prints, you must understand there will be fees involved, especially if you are not hitting the minimum order quantity (MOQ). You will run into weaving charges, general surcharges for falling below MOQ, and dye charges.
Price needs to be considered as well. You can’t be buying a $20/yd fabric if you are trying to retail your product for $69.
The Big Question: Where Can I Source Fabrics?
The Big Answer: Hire a pro.
Unless you have time to go to trade shows, or run all over LA or NYC to meet with fabric vendors that may or may not have what you are actually looking for, hire someone who can understand what your specific needs are and send you some selects.
A good sourcing agent should be able to navigate the parameters previously mentioned and provide fabric solutions.
The Casual Brand Creative is here to help you with any fabric sourcing needs. We have beautiful relationships with mills all over the globe and are confident we can be a great tool for your project. If you have any specific questions, email us at: Create@thecasualbrandcreative.com and we will guide you in the right direction.
Let’s talk about what you should and should not be looking for when vetting a designer for your project. Just like any other working relationship, one should take the time to do some research on who they are thinking about hiring on for a project.
There are literally thousands (if not millions) of people out there calling themselves ‘designers’, and while they may love fashion and may be able to sketch like a goddess (or god), there are other more more important things to consider before partnering up. So, I’m just going to dive right in and give it to you straight.
THIS IS WHAT A DESIGNER SHOULD DO/BE
Obviously, they need to be able to sketch. Whether it’s by hand or CAD they should be able to convey the design living in your head onto paper.
A good designer can sketch. A great designer can offer technical advice on the ideas the client has. If a zipper would work better as a closure than the buttons the client wants, the designer should be able to call it out from the get-go. Which leads me to…
Listening. The designer needs to be a grade-A listener. Remember, the client is usually seeking out a designer because they’ve come up with a brilliant idea but just aren’t sure how to put it down on paper. It is the job of a designer to listen to the client’s needs.
Organized. It’s rude to be 2 minutes late to an appointment either over the phone or in person), and we here at CBC live by the orderliness of a well-organized calendar. We’re sticklers for a calendar. Designers should be organized and prepared. Always.
THIS IS WHAT A DESIGNER SHOULD NOT DO/BE
Ego stars. Bad designers will let their egos run rampant when singing onto a project, forgetting that they were hired on to create, yes, but to create around the parameters set by the client. Unless a client asks a designer to go buck-wild and have a free-for-all, they need to be able to stay in their lane.
Easily discouraged. There is some subjectivity to the work of a designer. Yes, we should be following the direction of the client and their needs, but at the end of the day we are creating work that can be subject to scrutiny or negative feedback. This should not lead a designer down an emotional path. A great designer should be able to accept feedback on the work presented, ask for more guidance on the client’s vision, and move forward with a positive attitude.
Late. Designers can sometimes tend to be a little loose with a calendar. A great designer will give you a deadline, and hit that date (assuming she/he as all she’s requested from the client to deliver the work).
I want you to have your fashion brand dreams realized.
I want you to have all of the creative fun putting together what your first line or product will look like. To feel the fabrics, create patterns and colors that you’ve dreamed about. To see the designs that have been sitting in the back of your mind realized, down on paper, rendered.
I want you to feel the accomplishment that comes with learning about the process and work that goes into building a physical garment.
I want you to build a brand that will one day be profitable, and sustainable.
I want you to have a really great time at your first photo shoot with YOUR product being shot!
I want to sip that champagne with you when you receive your first orders, be it online or through a wholesale account.
I want all of these things for you.
But in order to do any of these things, there are a lot of things to seriously consider before you decide to jump in and commit. And commitment is the baseline.
A few key considerations to reflect on before committing to starting your apparel line
I feel like this should be a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many people I speak with come to me wanting to build a product and brand without any real financial commitment to the project.
This is not to say you need to be a millionaire to start something. Different projects will require different financial commitments. If you are starting off with 1 sock design, you will not need as much money prepared as for, say, someone looking to build a 10-piece collection. Which brings me to…
How many items are you looking to start out with at the outset? You should have a solid idea of what it is exactly that you want to do.
One thing to note, is that you do not need to have a huge collection to start off. In fact, I work with a lot of individuals looking to launch 1-2 products in the beginning. And that is totally fine. I will say, however, that those 1-2 products should be the best in their category if that is the product that you will announce to the world as your brand.
Cliche but true: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your line be.
If you are sampling and producing in the US, you can expect sampling to take around 1 month for 1 sample (and usually you will need at least 2-3 rounds of sampling, depending on the complexity of the garment). Production will usually take around 10-12 weeks.
If you are sampling and producing in the overseas, you can expect sampling to take around 2-3 weeks for 1 sample (and usually you will need at least 2-3 rounds of sampling, depending on the complexity of the garment). Production will usually take around 3 months.
You will be har-pressed to find a quality manufacturer to make 50 units of one style for you.
Prepare for at least a 100-300 style minimum order requirement. And that usually covers 1 color.
So, of your minimum order requirement for 1 style is 100 units, and you want to offer 2 colorways, prepare to order 200 units for that particular style.
As a brand, you need to consider the calendar when beginning design. If you want to be in the wholesale business to sell to retailers, you will be on a less flexible calendar than someone who is doing a direct-to-consumer (D2C) business. Buyers buy at certain times throughout the year to fulfill their seasonal inventory needs, so if you want to sell to them, your collection needs to be ready to show at specific dates.
If you’ve considered all of these points and are confident that it’s time to move to the next step, I encourage you to reach out to us at email@example.com.
And even if you’re not confident…we’re here for that to!