Product development is no easy feat in any space, particularly if you are creating something from scratch. In this post, we will break down the steps you need to go through to bring your product from idea to creation. Luckily garments can be much less complex than any gadget related product, or something which is very difficult to place within a traditional category e.g. those scooter type devices you can kneel on when your leg is in a cast. Once dubbed the “kneel chair” by a close friend of mine. But anyway I digress.
Here are the steps I suggest in creating your product range as part of your men’s fashion range:
- Source a reputable Fashion Designer
- Create a Tech Pack
- Source a Supplier
1. Source a reputable Fashion Designer
In order to convey your range to any potential suppliers, investors or new employees, or among your team, you are going to need a way to communicate your product range visually. To do this you will need to enlist a fashion designer who not only knows how to sketch your product but also knows what is and is not feasible when it comes to garment design. Despite what you might think they are actually not that expensive. In total at the time, we paid in and around €40 for our initial designs. Again, Fiverr and Upworkare good places to source a fashion designer, but you could also use an agency like Image Coming Soon or Morris Fashion Consultancy.
As with the branding covered in our previous blog post, the end result is always much better when requirements are clearly specified upfront before handing them to your designer.
2. Create a Tech Pack
The tech pack is pretty much the industry standard in specifying every measurement in your garment and the detail of every last button and thread. These are usually a little more costly than the design. The timing of this one is also tricky because it can be a bit of a chicken and egg situation as to whether you will do a sample before your tech pack, or do a tech pack first and then sample. The main thing is that your designer is flexible enough to work revisions into your pricing so that either way you can come back and get the tech pack right regardless of whether you sample first or afterward.
3. Source a Supplier
This is certainly not easy and has been an outright nightmare for us considering that our garment has 27 panels, and we are very much ahead of the curve when it comes to applying activewear clothing to traditional buttoned garments. Usually, factories do one or the other. I do have no doubt that the industry will catch up with consumer preferences for fitted and comfortable clothing and in a decade it will be easier to source this kind of garment.
Another issue is quantity and cost. We were once in discussions with the owner of an ISO approved 600 staff factory in India who could manufacture our shirts for between $2 and $5 per garment, and even pay their staff to continue education. A dream come true, right? The only problem is that they wanted a Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) of 30,000 garments.
I would suggest working with a sourcing agent or one of the aforementioned fashion agencies who also work this into their service offering. It is not an easy task and if you are not well versed in the industry, you may waste an enormous amount of time on this stumbling block.
If you are determined though on building up your own contact base and finding them yourself, then I would recommend getting yourself to Munich every February for ISPO. This is a trade show where you have 16 massive exhibition halls filled with suppliers in the sports industry, including factories who work with stretch fabrics. If it is outside of the scope of activewear, then you need to get to PremiereVision in Paris.
As I mentioned we had 27 panels to our document which is a lot! That is 27 unique pieces to the garment and patterns to draft. When you make a sample with your supplier, they will need to make these patterns which are essentially outlined on paper. Make sure that you own the Intellectual Property and can take these samples with you if you switch suppliers. Ideally, these would be a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) drawing which can be sent digitally to any other supplier.
Now by this point, you will be absolutely bursting to get to market, but before moving into production you will need to sample your garments. Trust me the chances that your supplier will get your product perfect first time around are slim to none, so make sure you are open to the possibility that you will have to iterate on your garment.
This is a challenging area to try and navigate yourself, with packaging in small quantities being very costly. Fancy boxes you see on Instagram? Forget about it, at least in the beginning. Ideally, your factory can handle your packaging, but again this could be a job for your agency. Work with your graphic designer to mock up a wishlist of packaging options like these, but resign yourself to the fact that you will more than likely be sending your initial orders in plain polybags.
This is the moment you have been working towards the entire time but your work is not finished yet. You will need to negotiate the terms of production with your supplier. Do you pay for the delivery or do they? Are your branded packaging and labels included? There are all kinds of industry lingo and acronyms at this point in the form of International Commercial Terms or Incoterms for short. These are universally recognized trade terms which actually become really useful in protecting both parties, once of course, you know what they mean! It is also important to know what these mean because you don’t want to come off as a newbie in the industry, whilst also trying to establish a position of power, from which you can negotiate.
You can download the full list of incoterms from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), but that would cost you the price of an overpriced subscription to the IIC website. Instead here is a run-down of the ones we have seen thus far:
- EXW – Avoid this one if you can. It places all the responsibility of the buyer to organize for delivery, which can present significant challenges if you are procuring your stock from the other side of the world. All the seller has to do is make the stock available for collection in the necessary packaging. After that, it is entirely up to you.
- FAS –Free Alongside Shipping. The seller only has to deliver the stock to the port next to the vessel, after which the responsibility shifts to the buyer.
- FOB– Free on Board Shipping. Here, the seller is responsible for all costs involved in the process up until the goods are on a vessel at the designated port. Anything after that is up to you. This is a good way of maintaining full control of your shipping costs.
- CIF – Cost, Insurance and Freight which is an expense incurred by a seller to cover the cost of insuring until the goods are on a freight ship from an export port. Much like FIB except for the insurance.
The full list of these can be found at a website called IncotermsExplained.