From Line Reviews

#1 mistake of new designers

I was hanging out of Crafters.org yesterday and came across a posting from the newest of DEs; she was asking why her clothing wasn’t selling. In analyzing her line, I realized her missteps were pretty typical. Normally I wouldn’t post on it but I was reviewing another line this morning from Allison Kelly (contestant on Project Runway) and saw some of the same problems. Specifically, the number one problem made by new designers is continuity.

Many young lines are not congruent, the pieces don’t belong together, mixing and matching. Ideally pieces should cross merchandise. Miracle and I have written three entries on who do you hang with (pt2, pt3). If your line won’t hang next to somebody else’s on a rack, looking like it belongs there, it can’t stand alone either. It’s typical for new designers to have some orphans but some product lines are all or nearly all, orphans. In the beginning, develop your signature pieces according to what resonates with you. Over time, your signatures will become what sells best for you. If you’re all over the map style-wise with a bunch of orphans, a pattern won’t emerge between related pieces and you’ll never know which are the winners. Your fabrics, styles, silhouettes and pieces should be congruent. If your pieces when hung together, merchandise like rack of goods at a thrift store, your line is all orphans.

Regarding Allison Kelly’s line specifically, she’s got five pieces on this page. Based on this presentation, I’d say the last three are orphans because they don’t belong to any other piece. The first two go with each other if only based on color. Notice Kelly has not repeated fabrications between these two (or any other) style. She’s got to do a lot of sourcing to cover that; how can she meet minimums without investing in unnecessary inventory? I suppose she can if she’s buying fabric at retail but one’s prices will be higher (in her case, thinner margins) and one isn’t guaranteed fabrics on reorder. Orphan number three (the polka dot) should be yanked, asap. It might be interesting in another colorway though.

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Analyzing business plans pt.2

Based on the comments from visitors to part one of this series, I realize I should have I recommended that you read Factoring invoices: financing a fashion line and Financing fashion: 10 mistakes designers make as well as part one of this series. You may also wish to read about a bare bones but modest and simple business plan in How to start a clothing line. Picking up where we left off in the sample business plan (the complete list of entries in the series is at close), the bulleted list of long term goals are:

Long-term goals:

  • Develop a leading market position
  • Begin foreign sales in markets such as England, and France
  • Sustain the commitment to the quality of the end product through quality fabric, workmanship, and design.
  • Increase sales beyond the $1 million mark by 2011

I don’t think it’s very productive to scrutinize these goals because it’s the long term goals that change the most and we all know it. How many of us even had a plan when we started? It seems that anybody I know who’s succeeded -success is a process, not a goal- has fallen into it. It’s rarely planned. Still, assuming we’d had business plans, would the long term goals we would have written yesteryear resemble anything like how things turned out? It’s doubtful. Accordingly, I’m analyzing the long term goals in matters of form and cognition, rather than questioning the viability of the ideas.

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Analyzing business plans pt.1

I get a lot of business plans that people send me for review. On one hand, it’s gratifying that they trust me enough to expose themselves. On the other hand, unless they’ve hired me to analyze their plan for deficiencies, I am reluctant to say anything because I usually don’t have many good things to say (and it takes a long time and I’m not getting paid to do it). In today’s post, I’ll analyze some facets of a recent plan I got. The things I’m covering are the kinds of things I see popping up in plans these days or are things I usually see in plans that need to be corrected. Also, if you’d like me to kick the tires on some elements of your plan, feel free to submit them. Of course, you won’t be identified anymore than anyone could identify the authors of today’s plan. All of your proprietary details will be kept strictly confidential.

Business Goals and Objectives Short-term goals:

  • Deliver 4 unique collections per year
  • Generate sales of $125K
  • Increase exposure and market share to fashion-conscious customers in metropolitan areas.
  • Establish 30 and 45 day credit terms with suppliers

While the plan’s author doesn’t define the span of what constitutes “short term”, these goals aren’t too bad -with the exception of the credit terms. If you’ve got all your ducks in a row, these goals are fine, excepting the credit terms. Now, I doubt the plan’s author will see that last goal as a stumbling block -and it shouldn’t be- but it’s typical that you’ll need to be a supplier’s customer for at least a year before they’ll extend 30 day terms. 45 day terms are so rare as to be unheard of. Now, if you’re going great guns and buying lots of fabrics from the same people repeatedly and you’re not a pain in the butt customer, it’s possible that they’ll extend 30 day terms within 6 months. There’s always exceptions but these are the general rules.

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How to issue style numbers pt.128

Be sure to read the post preceding this one first. Okay, Danielle has reassigned style numbers according to product categories as follows:

1100 = tops
2100 = skirts
3100 = dresses
4100 = jackets/outerwear
5100 = pants
6100 = accessories

This is great. Just great. If those were the only changes she ever made (at this point) that’d be great. However, let’s think ahead a little. I know you’re just launching, you’re new and for now you’re only doing women’s wear but maybe you should consider designing your style number system so it’ll leave your options open for growth. What if you were to someday design children’s wear or men’s wear? You shouldn’t eliminate that possibility at the outset. If you’d like to have that option for growth, it’s best to design your style number system accordingly. First of all, consider using 5 digits (you were originally using six and then cut those down to 4). I know I said 4 or 5 digits in my book but I’ve reconsidered that; I think 5 digits is better.

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