The Complete Guide to Launching Your Clothing Line

From Design to Production to Delivery

For a creative entrepreneur with a vision, starting a clothing line may be both an exciting and daunting experience. How and where you start are important questions to first answer. This post will guide you on how to launch your clothing line, whether you want to start with a simple line of printed garments or an extensive cut and sew collection with a catalogue of items.

The Steps...

Step 1: Create a Tech Pack

The fashion designs that you work on should have an accompanying tech pack. A quality clothing manufacturer will never take an order from you without a tech pack. They need to have clarity on what is expected of them, what the style looks like, what the materials are, the trims, the prints, and at the same time, you need to be able to hold them and yourself accountable for the designs that are being executed on. So, step one is to prepare a tech pack. Before you go into production, prepare a comprehensive tech pack. This should convey to your manufacturer everything they need to know to manufacture your specification to production. It should leave little in the way for guess work.

Step 2: Order Sample Fabric

Once you've delivered your finalised tech pack to your clothing manufacturer, you need to figure out where you are sourcing your trims and fabrics from (i.e. if you are doing it yourself). Once you have your fabric supplier, make sure to order what is known as a 'sampling fabric' or 'sample fabric yardage'. Sample fabric yardage should be in the correct composition and the correct color.

Step 3: Develop Your Pattern

Now you would want to develop your pattern. A pattern is essentially sewing schematics. It basically looks like the flat version of a garment, and it can be quite technical to develop a pattern. Not all fashion designers are actually able to develop patterns, and there are dedicated professionals known as pattern makers that are exclusively geared towards creating and developing patterns based off of points of measurements, technical sheets, or other types of specification.

You want to create a pattern or have a pattern created on your behalf before going into your initial prototype. Most clothing manufacturer will always be able to offer you a pattern solution based on an in-depth tech pack. But do bear in mind that if you don't provide the necessary information in your tech pack, a pattern maker will not be able to develop a pattern. Therefore, make sure that your tech pack has a flat (or the very least a point of measurements page) which will run the clothing manufacturer through key points of measurements in a flat one to one format. You don't need to be a pattern maker to be able to accurately represent how you want your fabric to fit. Pattern making is an art, and that is why dedicated pattern makers exist to create quality patterns so that your fabric can fit.

Step 4: Create A Prototype

Once you have your prototype pattern constructed, you can go ahead and have your clothing manufacturer create a prototype. This step is known as a prototype sample stage. The first sample that you'll be creating should be made with the correct details in regards to the fit measurements. Basic trims and detailing should also be included. You might need to go through multiple prototypes before you achieve the perfect one. All of this is meant to give you a physical representation of your design.

Step 5: Create A Fit Sample

Now you have to create a fit sample. Following the prototype sample that you created earlier, you will take the confirmed design details, whether you move a pocket or changed the headline, you want to take those details and use it to create what is known as a fit sample. It is a sample different from your prototype sample in the sense that it should be using the correct yard edge. So your fabric that you ordered earlier on in the process should now be ready and prepared to implement into your fit sample. You'll also want to use a consistent fit model, whether that's yourself, your partner or a specific professional that you hire, make sure to have a consistent crosser brand fit. Use a similar type of fit model for different styles that you have, whether it's female or male. Make sure that you pick the correct person to represent your brand. You will want to make sure that your fit sample has the corrected fit and pattern adjustment, because if something doesn't fit correctly, the pattern needs to be fine tuned to go into batch production. So this is the stage where you can make most of the fine tuning, and you'll have a lot more clarity on how a garment fits, because you should be using the correct fabric at the station.

Step 6: Select the Final Sample

You will want to select the final samples from your sample style collection. What does that mean? Well, based on your prototypes and your fit samples, you should have a clear idea of which styles best fit your production needs, whether from a price point or a time delivery standpoint. If some styles are too difficult to create within a certain time frame due to their complexities or if they are too expensive, make sure you consider the implications of going ahead with the product. You should be well versed with your labor costs, fabric costs, hardware costs and your trips that you'll be attaching to the garment and you have a very, very clear idea of how much each garment is going to cost you. If this aligns with your price point and what you're looking to create then you can proceed on to the next stages of the production process. If the product fails to meet your goals, then you can drop it and shelf it for later use.

Step 7: Take Orders on Production Styles

This stage starts by taking orders or presales on your production style. Now that you have your production styles figured out, start offering these production styles online for presale whether it's direct to the consumer or to showrooms as a wholesaler. At this stage, you have a clear idea of which styles are most in trend, and it'll give you the peace of mind to know that once you have these styles finished, you have customers ready and waiting for them. In the modern business world or the E-commerce world, this is known as pre-sales. You can offer presale incentives to your potential customers by potentially giving them exclusive access to limited funds, select styles and color ways, or just offering them a discount. There's a ton of things that you can do to entice your customers to bite early and at the same time align your interest with theirs in terms of giving them a great product at a great price and earn their loyalty.

Step 8: Grade your Patterns

Now that you have your production style confirmed and you know what you'll be receiving, it is time for batch production. Grading your patterns involves taking your confirmed fit sample and applying simple mathematical measurements to grade the patterns across the different sizes. Let's say your fit samples are based on a size medium and you're ordering sizes from S to XL. Then your pattern maker is going to have to take pure approved measurements for a size medium, grade them down for small (grade them up for the sizes larger than medium). This is something that a dedicated pattern maker would be able to do. Just do bear in mind that it is quite a mathematical process, and it does take a bit of expertise and technical training to implement correctly. So make sure you're working with the right people.

Step 9: Create PP Sample

Now you'll want to create your PP (i.e. pre-production) sample. The reason we call it a pre-production sample is that once you've confirmed your order with the clothing manufacture (i.e. after you have placed the deposit), they can access all the fabrics from the materials they need to create the correct product. You want them to create this style based on the feedback you have left for them for each of the different samples produced (e.g. fit sample, prototype sample). The PP sample must be 100% accurate in representing what's going to production with no mistakes to insure that the clothing manufacturer doesn't make any costly or timely errors. You must be able to trust your chosen manufacture to mass-produce units that are identictical to the agreed PP sample when manufacturing at scale. The PP sample will act as a carbon copy of what is expected in production.

Step 10: Order Bulk Productions

Now that you have a confirmed PP sample, you can ask your clothing manufacturer to commence bulk production. Your clothing manufacturer should be using the correct PP sample details to create this. This is where a good production process is going to come in clutch. For this part you'll want to make sure that your clothing manufacturer has a production manager, whether it's a third party entity or someone within your organization that can communicate effectively with the production lines. An important thing to consider is more often than not the people that you're communicating with are not the people who are cutting and sewing the garments and putting everything together. Having a good line of communication with a production line is key. That's where a good production manager will come in handy.

Step 11: Implement Quality Control

You'll want to implement quality control based on a set of requirements. This can be carried out by a third-party, a design or sourcing agency that you've hired, or someone from your company itself. You'll want to make sure that quality control is conducted at several intervals throughout the process to ensure that your finalized products are exactly as envisioned. These can be when all garments are completely cut, when the fabric is received into the warehouse for the first time, before ironing and packing, and prior to them being shipped out. having these quality control checks at the right stages will ensure that your final product is as close to your initial measure as possible. It is a way of forseeing herdles in the future and mitigating them. You need to ensure the quality standards are maintained throughtout each leg of the journey. This will save you a lot of money down the line and will guarantee that both you and your supplier can do business together for the long run.

Step 12: Packing and Shipping Process

Make sure that your clothing manufacturer is following the packaging standards that you laid out before hand. That could be packaging the garments in individual poly bags that you've supplied, or packaging them in a stock polybag along with other types of final delivery goals. Make sure you codify your delivery standards. The deliverables must be packed in a way that is presentable for the end user. If you're a wholesaler or retailer, make sure that you follow your buyers requirements. Buyers can actually refuse to receive or take receipt of shipments, so making sure that delivering your products in a presentable way that aligns with their requirements is key. This will be something that you have to double check with each buyer that you're working with.

The last thing you want is to be dealing with five different buyers and having different requirements for each. This is going to drive up your costs and it's going to actually raise the possibility of making mistakes. You must ensure that your clothing manufacturer follows your correct packing methods and provide you with a packing list for all shipments. At this stage, once you complete your final payments, you'll be able to ask them to release the goods with other shipping documents or invoices that you'll need in order to clear your shipment once it arrives at your port.

Conclusion

At Olobird, we help fashion brands grow with one-stop, end-to-end manufacturing. We help develop product ideas, produce FREE samples, manufacture from top clothing manufacturers (the same ones who manufacture for Boss, Puma, M&S, GymShark, and many others) and handle shipment. With OloBird there is no minimum order quantity requirement, thus, ensuring both quality and flexibility to our users. Olobird’s clients do not have to worry about the lengthy process of creating their dream fashion line, we take the hassle out of their hands whilst they can focus on brand building. For more information on what we do you can visit www.olobird.com.