5 reasons you should not start your clothing line (yet)
My first “X reasons why” blog post, how exciting! I feel like a legit blogger now!
But who am I to crush your dreams? Who am I to write why you shouldn't open your business, instead of writing a “How to open a clothing line” article?
As I get ready to start my own label, if anything this is a list to remind me to beware of the pitfalls that I've experienced first hand working in Fashion startups, or that I've seen other startups run into during this time working as a freelance Fashion designer.
Don't take it personally. These are lessons that I learned the hard way, suffering as an employee and thinking I had to make every whim of my difficult boss happen, while working with difficult manufacturers that were also dealing with the whims of their other difficult clients. And then still suffering a little bit as I became a full-time freelancer.
So breathe in, and here we go!
5. You're not trying to innovate
Innovation does not have to be a fancy new technological fabric, or a design that is more elaborate than an origami: finding a market gap and then creating clothes for your own niche is already innovating.
This is rarely an issue with startups, but I still get enquires from people that want to copy a design from Forever 21, for an order quantity of 30 pieces. You need some extra zeroes after that to be able to sell $5 leggings at a profit.
One brilliant idea won't sustain a business forever, though: other brands will start to create similar products (aka copy), offer lower prices, better designs, invest in more aggressive marketing and soon enough you're old news.
Even Coca-Cola is always being reinvented (or repackaged, at least), and in order to stay on the top of your game you will need to be constantly researching, trying and testing new ideas, asking for client feedback etc.
Which brings us to the next topic…
4. You're not committed to learning
Manufacturers like to advertise the whole Product Development and Production process as the simplest thing: get in touch, send your enquire, receive a quote, place an order.
Sure, a lot of them will take care of pattern cutting, sampling, sourcing materials, customization and production, then deliver everything neatly packed to your doorstep, but before that you need at least a Tech Pack.
There's a lot of technical knowledge behind a simple Tech pack, since the Technical/ Apparel designer or Product Developer is thinking of all the steps necessary to turn your idea into an actual product.
You won't learn everything right from the first time, and you can't predict every issue you might encounter at every new production, no matter how many blogs and textbooks you read - so a long-term commitment to learning is vital.
3. It's all about you and your dream
You've been polishing this idea for a long time in your head, it's all very clear, now you just need someone to execute it.
Or to put it in a nicer, more accurate way: now it's time to start developing lasting business relationships with suppliers, manufacturers, sales reps and designers.
Add to that list pattern cutters, sample makers, seamstresses, tailors, fitting models etc. according to your business model. And I haven't even included the people that will help you promote and sell your product.
Really, just stop using the Unicorn card if all you've got is a mental image and a lot of talk.
2. You have extremely tight deadlines, or none whatsoever
Collection drop before the Christmas holiday season? Do not start looking for a designer in November.
Sampling can take between 1 - 3 weeks, production another 3 - 4 weeks. So unless you can cut and sew everything at home, or find a sewing shop that will do it for you in record time, it's better to try again next year.
Having no deadlines, on the other hand, is a recipe for inaction ( a.k.a. 6 months gone by without any samples and an Instagram feed last updated 4 months ago).
1. You don't want to spend any money
You don't know anything about this new industry you're trying to get into, and you want to squeeze off all the work, resources and information you can from designers and manufacturers for as little as you can…Not cute.
Aren't we all talking about Sustainability in Fashion? Paying fair wages and striving for win-win deals is part of it, too.