29andSeptember Studio

Mistakes to avoid when starting a fashion brand; why you shouldn't cut corners in business

Industry how to, Industry news, StudioVicki WallisComment
Mistakes to avoid when starting a fashion brand; why you shouldn't cut corners in business

It's not often that I get frustrated, I'm generally very calm + collected, probably because I have a contingency plan for absolutely everything (for those who've seen Prison Break, think Michael Schofield). So, it's quite surprising that today's blog topic comes out of frustration! You may know that I do a lot of 1-on-1 coaching sessions, often with new entrepreneurs. One of the main things we talk about is planning, not rushing things + generally not going full steam ahead with a new business plan before you've really thought things through. It's hard, I know. You're excited, you want to get those ideas + designs up for sale now. But this isn't a 'get rich quick' scheme + it's certainly a marathon not a sprint. I've been trying to help a number of clients lately who I'd not worked with before, who were having various issues. I thought I'd share those stories with you today, as they are great examples of why you should take things slow, make a plan + do as much research + preparation as you can. For the privacy of the clients, their names + the product type has been altered, but the situation + outcome is the same.

Mistakes to avoid when starting a fashion brand; why you shouldn't cut corners in business
Mistakes to avoid when starting a fashion brand; why you shouldn't cut corners in business

Mistake #1; no contract

A  new client came to me a few weeks ago, who was extremely worried that she'd been caught out by fraudsters. For the purposes of this article, lets call her Ellen. Ellen had designed a range of clothes + had some professional drawings done, but had opted not to have tech packs or a contract drawn up, as she thought they would be too expensive. Tech packs + contracts go hand-in-hand, as you can set the 'quality' expectations in your contract to be based on what you've approved in your tech pack. If you're not familiar with tech packs, you can learn more about them here + how to use them to hold a manufacturer accountable. Instead, Ellen handed over $3600 (approx £2700) to the factory for 10 samples + patently waited for them to arrive (she'd been quoted a 2 week turnaround). She waited + waited + waited. 12 weeks later, she still hadn't received any samples + the factory had been totally unresponsive to her messages, simply saying that things were delayed and she had to wait. The majority of her items were basic t-shirts, there's no way they had a legitimate reason for the delay. That's when she called me in + I wish I could have helped. Without a contract, or any proof of what's been agreed, or a receipt to show what the money was for, there's not really anything anyone can do.

Lesson learned; always have a contract in place for any services that you pay for + ask for a receipt which details the amount paid + what it was for. Ellen's strategy to 'save' by not having a contract or tech packs (which would have cost approx £350-£500) ended up costing her over £2700 in money lost on samples.

Mistakes to avoid when starting a fashion brand; why you shouldn't cut corners in business
Mistakes to avoid when starting a fashion brand; why you shouldn't cut corners in business

Mistake #2; No tech packs

It honestly astounds me how many people decide to go ahead with production + don't have a tech pack. I'm so passionate about this that I'm currently recording a free video training on the subject! Customer number 2 that contacted me recently, let's say Luisa, opted against having a tech pack done, so that she could save the £35 tech pack fee. She got in touch, as there were a lot of problems with the sample she received from the factory + wanted to know how to approach getting the sample remade free of charge, due to the errors (many factories charge for samples if they've not worked with you before. In this case Luisa was charged $150 for sampling, plus a $22 courier charge). I spoke to Luisa + we talked about what she was unhappy with. For example, the sample wasn't lined, it used a metal clasp instead of a plastic one + the measurements were way off what she was expecting. The problem is, none of these features can be understood from a drawing. How would the factory know it was lined, the picture would look the same lined + unlined? How would they know to use a plastic clasp? + if they've not been provided with measurements, how can what they've provided be wrong? Not sending a tech pack is like giving the factory free reign to do whatever they feel like. If you have a good factory, you may end up with a nice garment, but not what you're looking for. Worst case scenario, the factory do whatever is easier + cheaper for them, not what's best for you + you end up with something that's completely unwearable. That's exactly what happened here + unfortunately, we couldn't ask for the next sample to be free, as a sample can't be incorrect if you didn't give any direction in the first place. So instead, Luisa started again, this time with a tech pack.

Lesson learned; think about it, if you received a drawing of something, what are the chances that you would guess the right measurements, fabric, trims, fastenings? That's why tech packs are so important, because they take the guesswork out of the process. So in this instance, Luisa thought she was saving £35 by not having a tech pack, but in fact she ended up spending an extra $172 (approx £130) on starting over with the samples.

Mistakes to avoid when starting a fashion brand; why you shouldn't cut corners in business
Mistakes to avoid when starting a fashion brand; why you shouldn't cut corners in business

Mistake #3; No planning

I'm going to choose the name Karen for my next example. Karen had a beautiful range designed that she wanted to release in October, with plans to sell it for the Christmas party season. She got in touch with me as production had been delayed + she wanted to ask me what she could do to get things back on track. In reality, it transpired, things were already on track, it was actually that Karen hadn't allowed enough time for production. I'd say on average the start up collections I work on take around 6-8months from start to finish, with some taking even longer. Karen had only allowed 3 months to make her collection, which meant that she was massively short of time. Unfortunately, there's only so much you can do to speed things up, so Karen is now left with the choice of either cancelling the range and loosing all of the money she has spent on samples (hard to say how much exactly, but I would imagine over £1500), or continue with the collection + release it after Christmas, which will mean it is much harder to sell given the styles she has + the marketing strategy she had in place. 

Lesson learned; good planning is the key to a successful production run. Make sure you look at all of the steps you need to allocate time for in advance + allow an extra buffer for any delays. In this instance, it's likely that failing to invest some time + as little as £25 in the 'quick start guide to planning + producing a fashion range' has cost Karen over a thousand pounds.

 

Don't make the same mistakes these people did, make sure you don't cut corners, plan effectively + add a little extra time + money in the budget in case of any unforeseen circumstances. There's lots of free articles on the blog to help you + you can always ask about 1-on-1 help via the contact page, here.