Today I'm going to write about why I would always suggest that my clients hire a professional designer, this is the first of weekly posts every Friday that provide an insight into the fashion industry and help you to start or develop your fashion business.
First and foremost - what do I mean by a 'professional designer'. Surely anyone with the ability to draw and an eye for style could be considered a professional designer? What I mean by a professional designer, is someone who not only has qualifications and has actively worked in the industry, but someone who is well rounded and has worked in lots of different positions. You'll often find designers, most often those who have worked for a large company, tend to get stuck in one position. This means they never really get the opportunity to see the designs through and learn about the success or failures of each element of the design. Ideally, you're looking for someone who not only has creative flair, but also someone who has been a garment technician and pattern cutter, so they know is is actually possible to make the design they are proposing. Ideally, you also want someone who has negotiated with factories so they understand the cost implications of their actions and a merchandising background helps too, as this ensures the designs have commercial appeal.
This may seem like a long list, so I thought I'd give some examples of what can happen if your designer doesn't have these skills;
1. The garment can't actually be made by the manufacturer you have.
For all of these examples I've designed my own 'bad example', as I don't want to name and shame, but my bad examples are based from actual work and scenarios I've seen during my 12 years in industry. In this example, the client was a high street retailer, who wanted a budget friendly children's outfit, inspired by space. This design is great as a high end piece or one off theatre costume, but not to be mass produced. The shoulder detailing here is very unusual and would need to be specially manufactured - as this isn't something available as standard, this would need to be outsourced to a specialist, both adding time and money to the project. An experienced designer would know that a similar look and feel can be achieved, in a way that can be easily manufactured.
2. The cost price goes through the roof
In this example, we have two seemingly similar leather skirts. You might even assume that the skirt with the panels is more expensive, thinking the cost to sew it together is more. However, what the designer didn't account for is the fact that leather is a natural material and the size is difficult to predict. Therefore, smaller panels mean more of the leather can be used, thus creating less waste and the supplier doesn't have to buy as much leather. Even on a relatively small order, the savings here can add up to thousands.
3. The design is really unwearable
While I admit the quality of the final fit of the garment is down to well managed fit sessions and good communication with the factory, there are things that can be done right from the start. For example, at a first glance this looks like a pretty standard shirt. However on further inspection, it's actually unwearable. The buttonholes are facing the wrong way (you can click on the picture to zoom), meaning that as soon as the wearer sits down or stretches, the fastening will pop right open. The other thing to note, is this is a standard work shirt, made from standard shirting fabric. You'll notice the shirt shape is quite fitted, however, it's impossible to achieve that look in a non-stretch fabric, without having darts. These simple changes make such a huge difference to the fit and functionality of the garment.
4. The design is unsuitable for the customer
It's all very well creating the most unique, innovative design, but is that really what your customer wants? The temptation for a lot of inexperienced designers is to design the latest runway inspired looks, which can be great, but with the average UK size now being a size 16 (translates to a US size 12), are the majority of the population going to wear a skimpy plunging neckline? Of course some may, but many have practical considerations when buying clothing and body perception also has to be taken into consideration, as well as practicality and occasion. Knowing the customer is the key to success and I'll be going into this further in future blog posts.
5. The marketing and merchandising is a mess
Amazing - the designs have been brought to life and delivered to you, the next step is to arrange them in store and/or create a marketing campaign. It's no coincidence that successful brands have really cohesive ranges - these have been skilfully curated to ensure that the pieces on offer connect with each other and fit together beautifully as a range. Also in practical terms, the range offers the right mix of variety, including the number of tops vs bottoms. An inexperienced designer may still be able to come up with great looking garments, but they can't stand alone, they must fit into a range and environment that your customers will aspire to shop in.
While I'll admit, there may be a few hundred pounds/dollars difference in price between a range by a professional designer and an inexperienced designer, however, I do believe this investment is made back. Even just the saving in the leather skirt example would repay the investment 10 times over.
I hope this has given you some insight and things to consider when hiring a designer, whoever you choose to work with (of course, I'd love it if you chose me!). Next Friday, I'll be continuing this topic and writing about the best way to brief a designer, to get the most from them. Sign up to the mailing list below to receive all of the latest fashion news and tips straight to your inbox.
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