A lot of people ask me about what our process is like. We always work a little differently depending on the client's needs, but in most instances, we follow a workflow cadence that helps us maintain a straightforward path. This is a quick outline of all the parts:
Research: We get a comprehensive view of the competitors and what they’re doing. This will influence our direction as well, so it’s good to know what’s out there.
Collecting Inspiration: We do this to figure out what suits our own collection best. Once we have a lot of inspiration to pull from, we narrow it down by creating a mood or trend board or both. This helps us develop a sense of direction using a mix of mood & trend boards.
Sketch: We usually illustrate a few variations of every design and do a pre-edit, removing variations that don't work as well as others.
Then we present the collection ideas to the client. Together we edit and select our favorites, must-haves, and drops. After editing the collection we start to:
Tech packs: We start creating tech packs, which means, taking the garment through every phase of the design process. Check out some of our other blog posts about tech packs that have a lot more info. See these posts, too: So...What is a Tech Pack, Exactly?, Ok, now...Why do you NEED a Tech Pack?, What goes into a Tech Pack?, How do you Create a Tech Pack?
Source factories: During the tech pack phase, we are also thinking about factories to take on these projects and deciding who we will send them to for costing and potential development. We then make a list of 5 to 8 factories, reach out to each one, explain the project criteria, and request costing.
Costing: Once we receive the estimated costing information from all the factories, we consolidate the costing. We share this document with our client and set up a call to discuss the pros and cons of each manufacturer. We explain costing and what everything means, answer any questions they might have during this chat.
Sampling: After the chat about costing and manufacturers, we decide who we want to sample with! We recommend sampling a handful of garments with 2 to 3 manufacturers at first because every factory is different. It's helpful for our clients to know the quality, timing, and workmanship of a few to give them extra confidence in their final decision.
Sample review: After we get the first samples from everyone, we check the specs and make sure they were followed. We also check to see how well they followed the tech pack directions and make notes on everything. We then send the samples to the client, and we have another call to discuss how we want to proceed further.
We narrow down how we plan to proceed with production and request the rest of the samples at that time.
Fit: From this point, we start fitting the garments and adjusting the tech pack to get the changes made.
Color + Print: We also work on color and print due to the 2 to 4-week turnaround for new fit samples. We try to create a collection that suits the garments, the customers, and the brand itself with color and print.
CADs: We bring the collection to life and share our vision with digital CADs to create a wide assortment.
Edit: Together with our client, we edit print, color, and silhouettes to create an assortment that will work with low minimums and create a balanced, cohesive look.
Place a PO: Once we have perfected the garment fit, decided exactly what we want to buy, then we're ready to place a PO. Sometimes we place the PO before we're 100% there on fit, but it just depends on the calendar and the lead times. Either way, once you place the PO and put down your deposit, production is advanced. The factory can purchase the fabrics and trims they need so things can all arrive on time.
Lab Dip & Strikeoff Review: At this time, the factory also starts submitting lab dip and strike-off submissions to review. We review the lab dip submissions to ensure all the components match and send our approvals. After that, the factories submit bulk swatches to review and show what we can expect from the production.
Once the factory has bulk fabric, trims, and the garment is fit approved, they produce a pre-production sample that they send to our team. We review the construction, material, color, and specs to ensure they match what we ordered to ensure the factory can continue with production. This is the last chance we have to submit a change request. We send the factory an update and let them know if we approve or reject the garment.
Top of Production Sample: Right before production begins the factory will submit a Top of Production sample, and we review similar to the Pre-Production sample.
The TOP sample should indicate what bulk looks like as it was one of the first samples pulled from the 'top of production.'
The manufacturer finishes up the production, packs the goods accordingly, and helps facilitate the next steps, whether your terms are Freight on Board or Delivered Duty Paid.
Check Point: Depending on the next steps, the client might boat or air the goods to wherever their warehouse is. Once the goods are delivered, they should be checked by yourself and a quality assurance team. Even if your order is small, you should spot check a few items from each box and check their measurements as well if you can. It's always good to have a habit of inspection as it helps you maintain good customer relationships and consistency as a brand.
Time to Launch!!! After you've received the goods and checked them, it's time to launch! Hopefully, you’ve prepared marketing plans along the way so you can launch with a boom!
The whole cycle can vary in length anywhere from six months to a year and a half, depending on what you’re making, how complex it is, what it does, etc. A good rule of thumb is to plan for your launch to take somewhere between 9 months to a year, give or take a few months.