Imagine this: You have a fantastic idea for a clothing line. You've been thinking, dreaming, and working on it for months. You know what separates your concept from the competition, you might know your brand's purpose, and maybe you even have a few sketches. Most importantly, you are confident that this is a game-changing idea.
So you're ready to bring your idea to life…. But, you're not a fashion designer, and you don't know the first thing about getting something sampled, made up as a tech pack, or finding the right factory. In fact, maybe now you're even asking yourself, "Well, what is a sample or tech pack??" It's clear to you that you'll need some support with the design and manufacturing process. Working with someone who has some industry knowledge, experience, and connections, the whole process would be WAY easier.
So, what do you do?
After a few frantic google searches for a freelance fashion designer, the answer still isn't apparent; who is actually a good fit? And how can you tell without a background in fashion design?
It can definitely be challenging to find someone who meets all of your criteria. The goal of this article is to help you think through the process of choosing a freelance designer.
Here are a few tips and things to consider when searching for a designer:
What do you value most?
It can be helpful while you're getting started to set up your ideal criteria for a partner like this. It's essential to consider the qualities, characteristics, and skillset you'd like your freelance designer to demonstrate. This list might be created based on how you work best, what you're hoping to achieve, and the timing you're hoping to execute.
What's most important to YOU?
Maybe you're looking for a highly experienced designer because your product is very technical. It's also possible that you might want them to have experience in a specific niche or category. Maybe you're looking to sell direct-to-consumer instead of wholesale to department stores. You might be looking for someone that has worked for a few different brands within your chosen category, or maybe you want someone with a variety of experiences to help bring together the best ideas from all different perspectives.
Most people will want someone that is both a good designer but also someone who can execute. There is a lot to be said for finding a resourceful partner and can find the answers even if they aren't apparent at first. A proven track record of follow-through and seeing garments all the way to production is usually a must-have for new brands on the rise.
One of the biggest priorities you'll have will be finding the right designer who 'gets it.' Ensuring you and your design team are on the same page is essential to creating a product that matches your essence and expectations. Consider how you'd like to work with them, how you work best, and how involved you want to be in the entire process. Usually, designers can tailor their methodology to match their clients' needs, but if they can't, consider finding a designer who can match what you need.
Maybe you're price conscientious, and you're really keen on finding an affordable designer. That's okay too, but often you will have to sacrifice experience for affordability. More senior designers will be more costly, but sometimes there is less trade-off on timing. What takes a junior designer 10 hours might take a seasoned pro only 1 or 2 hours, depending on the task. A seasoned designer also has a broader network of connections and partnerships they've built, so that's an important part to consider.
Start off by identifying what you want out of a professional relationship and figure out what you're not willing to compromise on. After all, with this relationship, it definitely comes down to fit. You need to make sure the relationship is a good fit for your needs, and your business needs to be a success!
Are they capable of producing the style you want?
Another question to consider is whether the fashion designer is actually capable of producing your vision. Regardless of who you work with, it's essential to work with someone who can deliver what you're asking for.
How can you tell if they can deliver?
Reviewing the designers' past experiences is a great way to vet potential candidates. If a candidate has worked on similar designs or styles that you're looking for, then they can likely replicate the process with you.
If you find an apparel designer who hasn't participated in the complete process of things you need, they might not be a strong fit. For example, if they've only ever done technical design and you're looking for someone to take your idea from an idea to a full product, they might not have the complete skill set you need. You'll also want to ask them if they have factory experience and connections to help you get samples made. Some designers don't work with factories directly, so they might only get your sketches and tech packs started.
Designers that have worked with startups in the past are usually great to check out for new businesses. The nature of startups requires all team members to grow quickly, adapt, and learn to match their environment.
Always check out potential designer's past experiences and ask them how involved they've been in the process before locking one down.
Do they have a style or aesthetic you're into?
Most designers can flex their skills to match whatever brand they decide to work with, but it's always good to try and find designers who align with your brand's aesthetic.
A good designer should be adaptive and change when necessary to suit the project at hand, so their own aesthetic might differ from the work they've done in the past. Design as a whole is very subjective, but it's essential to understand how skilled a designer is at taking the brand's essence and values into consideration. Does their work match the brand's intent? Do they seem to be good at interpreting different styles? Do you feel confident they can meet your needs when it comes to creating something that syncs up with your plan for the brand?
To move forward with someone, you'll want to review their portfolio to make sure there is a good match. If you feel keen on a designer whose aesthetic is different from your own and aren't 100% sure, you might want to start with a smaller paid project before moving forward onto bigger things.
Also, consider asking the designer how they view their own aesthetic. For instance, many of my styles are more feminine in nature, but I love clean lines, simplicity, and thoughtful engineering. Looking at just my portfolio, you might believe I only enjoy the ultra-feminine looks, but that's just not the case. By getting to know me, taking a second look at some of my other projects, and speaking to me about execution, you might end up believing I'm just the right person for your edgy and sustainably focused women's wear brand.
Are they within your budget?
Although there is potential for significant monetary gain, the truth is that bringing a line to fruition is an undoubtedly expensive process. With this in mind, you need to be prepared to have honest conversations about your budget. This not only helps you understand how much money you need to either raise or set aside but also allows you to create an open dialogue with your design partner. Understanding your financial limitations and goals is important for making sure the fit is right for everyone.
Before speaking to a freelance fashion designer, ask yourself questions like:
What is my total design and manufacturing budget? What about marketing?
How much am I willing or able to spend on a freelance fashion designer? Maximum range? Minimum?
What aspects do I need help with? The whole design process? Just the creation of a tech pack? Are there some areas where you can be coached and others where you need help executing?
Will we create an ongoing relationship so we can keep going if things take off, and we need to keep developing new products?
All of these questions will give you a framework to work from when you're vetting potential fashion designers so you can be as transparent and realistic as possible.
Do your personalities mesh?
Finding a design partner that has the right personality is also critical! It's SO important that the two of you can work together really well and get sh*t done! You're executing a vision together, and it's much easier to do with a shared vision and matched passion.
If their website offers additional information about them, read up as much as you can, follow their social media presence, and read testimonials or LinkedIn reviews. Give yourself peace of mind that you've done your due diligence. It's best to be confident in choosing a long term partner to help you develop a product. The process is long and arduous, so it's essential to make sure that you're working with the right people.
Consider having a couple of conversations with a designer before committing to working together. Try to chat with them beyond just 'shop talk' too, because this person is someone that is part of your team! You'll want to hire someone whose company you enjoy, too! Hopefully, laying this kind of groundwork will also make you feel more confident and comfortable with your decision.
Wondering if KRSTN NDRSN is a good fit?
Get in touch with us! We'd love to learn more about what you're working on and see if we might be a good fit :) Either way, hopefully, we can point you in the right direction, so it's always worth a chat.