I started documenting the process of designing a Spring 2020 collection on my YouTube channel. We’re chugging along with the collection. What was suppoed to be a quick update, quickly turned into a long one.
The current BIG PICTURE challenges are:
Making a MTO collection. I decided to only make garments that people order. In exception to the collection samples that need to be presented to customers or stores. I’m not going to make a garment that doesn’t already have a customer order. Why is that? :
Customers often want to customize some part of the garments, and that’s not possible with already-made inventory. With MTO, I can change the color, the size, add long sleeves, make the length longer. I can semi-customize the garments that customers order.
Fashion is such a wasteful industry. I didn’t want to contribute to that identity of fashion. It’s not environmentally friendly to try and guess what customers want by pre-making inventory. It’s easier to just ask my customers what they want. I’m focusing on fully-customizable and semi-customizable styles. I do think it’s important to design a collection and make samples, because that shows the potential of what I can make for customers. It hopefully gets them excited, which hopefully results in orders. So they can be inspired by a piece in my collection, then they can change details of it to make it exactly what they want. I also do fully customizable. If you know exactly what you want, let’s work together and materialize it.
It’s way too risky to have my cash tied up in inventory. This is how I ran my previous fashion line. I could tell pretty quickly, the business wasn’t going to scale up well. It just didn’t feel right.
Selling a MTO collection is safer. Previously, I’ve only worked with small boutiques that work on consignment, meaning, they put some of your pieces in their shop, and see if they sell. If they sell, you get a percentage and the shop gets a percentage. This requires the designer to take on the full financial risk of putting their money in inventory that sits in the shop, and might or might not sell. The boutique’s risk? I’m not sure. I’ve even had contracts with boutiques that stated that if something was stolen from their shop, either, I would get nothing, and the financial loss would completely be mine, because my money was in that inventory. Or the boutique and the designer would split the financial loss 50/50. Which, ok, that’s slightly better, but in my opinion the whole thing is not ideal. As a designer, working with boutiques by consignment is not sustainable and there’s too much risk for the designer. *In my opinion*
Working with partners.
Wholesale business, and business accounts are made for large quantities. For example, Lycra told me their minimum order quantity that I could purchase from their distributor is 72 tubes of bare Lycra. How many tubes do I need for sampling? I need one tube, or cone right now. And I can’t get it. It’s 72 or nothing. I have to go with nothing because 72 cones costs more than my whole budget for this collection.
Business accounts, like DHL, don’t seem to be made for small business owners either. Getting small cone quantities shipped from Asia, the shipping can easily cost more than the actual yarn. I’m not sure how that happens, but it does.
The current PERSONAL challenges are:
Being a one-man-show small designer. I’m doing everything myself with equipment that I have at home. It’s a lot of work for one person. My previous collection, I worked with a small factory in Shanghai that produced my garments. So all I had to do was design. I didn’t have to make anything myself.
Production limitations. As I design, I need to be aware of what I can easily produce on my own. My designs can’t be too elaborate. My domestice 7 gauge knitting machine is capable of a lot, but the man hours necessary for elaborate designs isn’t realistic if I actually have to reproduce garments for orders. I’ll save the more elaborate garments for one-off fully customizable pieces.
The current TECHNICAL challenges are:
Making a spring collection on a 7GG domestic knitting machine. 7 gauge is usually considered a bit chunky for a spring collection and knitwear in general, is not known to be a spring-season garment.
Not able to source Lycra yarn here in the USA. (not less than 72 cones anyway)
Finding other yarns that are stocked and available in single cone quantities here in the USA.
The reason I’m doing a recap of all challenges is because you can see how big picture challenges quickly trickle down into technical challenges of designing a collection. It’s all connected and it’s good to understand why we have the current collection challenges.
Options to move forward
Keep searching for Lycra and other yarns that are stocked and available in single cone quantities here in the USA. It’s not impossible, and I have one great supplier that keeps many yarns in stock with single cone order quantities. I don’t know what would do without them!
Because the Lycra yarn has been a challenge, I did some stitches in just the bamboo viscose yarn. I’m not worried about shirts and tops because a single end in jersey works just fine, but I was worried about bottom garments like shorts and skirts, where the fabric should be a little heavier for proper coverage and durability.
What we learned. The upside.
Having these restrictions gives us predetermined guidelines to move forward. Having some requirements in design is usually a good thing. If we had an unlimited budget with unlimited resources and no deadlines, it would take all the problem solving out of it.
As Orson Welles once said, “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” So let’s make some art!
Please share this article with your friends that are fashion designers, or those that would like to be fashion designers.
Let me know below in the comments if you've ever had any of these challenges when designing a collection.
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