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Fashion Product Development: Key Elements Every Fashion Entrepreneur Should Know

Published on
April 28, 2023
Illustration of a team of Fashion Designers in a design studio working on fashion development. Fashion Product Development by GAT Fashion Lab.

Co-founder and CMO of GAT Fashion Lab. With over 15 years of experience in the fashion industry Mauricio leads the Creative and Sales Teams.

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Have you ever thought about starting a clothing brand? Many of us have been there, and the most common question at an early stage is where do I start?

And although there are many variables to consider, in this article we will focus on one: product development.

What is fashion product development?

Product development in fashion is the process of designing, planning, and prototyping (sampling) marketable products for the target consumer. The goal of product development is to turn ideas, sketches, or reference images into precise samples, plans, and guides that allow manufacturers to produce desired garments with the best possible standards.

In our experience manufacturing clothing under the full package model (click here to learn more), we have managed to consolidate a design and development team that produces over 120 new physical samples every month, and that is now increasing its creative capacity thanks to the use of Artificial Intelligence and 3D.

At GAT Fashion Lab, we divide our entire process into two major stages:

Design and Development:

The stage where we move from ideas to samples with precise costs that will then be passed on to production, which we will discuss in this article. Most entrepreneurs, especially fashion designers, are quite involved in this stage. However, many of them only focus on research and ideation, as it is the most exciting part of the process.

Production and Logistics:

This is the phase where products are manufactured in volume, quality is ensured, and products are dispatched to each customer according to their needs.

What are the phases of fashion design and development?

Two fashion designers working around mood boards and techpacks. GAT Fashion Lab Fashion Product Development Service
Our design team working on Fashion Product Development.

As we mentioned, we are speaking from our experience working for some of the largest retailers in Latin America, and although there may be many ways to work, this is ours:

1. Trend Research:

This involves looking at runways, following coolhunters, celebrities, luxury brands, etc. Although this is an everyday activity, it is important to translate these discoveries into work tools, such as mood boards.

There is no better way to let creativity flow than to thoroughly research. Our recommendation is to organize Pinterest boards or save posts on Instagram. This way, you can train social media algorithms and put them to work for you.

2. Ideation:

This is the stage where creativity flows. By this point, you should already have mood boards that clearly show colors, materials, silhouettes, etc. In this stage, you should start structuring your collection. How many pieces will you make? What silhouettes will you use? What materials, supplies, or colors will you use? You can start with the images you previously collected and play around with Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or even do it by hand, but definitely, the most mind-blowing way is to try Artificial Intelligence.

Screenshot of Fashion Garments created with DALL-E Generative AI Model
Blouses created with DALL-E, a Generative AI Model.

3. Initial Costing:

With clear ideas, it is time to estimate the production costs. To make it easier, we created a free tool in Google Sheets that you can download and run in Excel or make a copy and edit it online. You can access it by clicking here. In this stage, you should estimate how much each garment may cost you and start getting an idea of how much you should sell it for, taking care of your profit margins.
This is a key point and where most entrepreneurs tend to fail, as it is very easy to fall into the temptation of low prices, but this can kill your business.

As you progress, you will have more data on raw materials, consumption, and manufacturing times, and you can start costing more accurately. But if you have no idea how to do it, try our tool or write to us to help you. All our quotations are free.

Screenshot of GAT Fashion Lab Quotation Tool
Screenshot of our Free Quotation Tool.

4. Prototyping: Samples

Once you know that what you want to do is within your budget, it's time to make the samples. At GAT Fashion Lab, we are fans of digital 3D samples as they offer multiple advantages that you can learn about in detail here.

Examples of Digital 3D Garmets
Examples of Digital 3D Samples

In our workflow, we first create the designs in 3D, and at the same time, all the 2D patterns are created. These digital designs are validated in the digital environment and adjusted, and when they are approved, physical samples are made. In this digital design stage, we have a more accurate initial estimate of the fabric consumption of each garment and the estimated sewing time.

This is the process of making a physical sample, and although several activities are done in parallel by different people, this is the suggested order:

1. Sourcing of raw materials:

Not only fabrics, but you will also need samples of supplies such as buttons, labels, zippers, fasteners, decorations, etc. Since what you are looking for with this physical sample is a 100% identical approximation to production.

2. Development and printing of patterns:

We already talked about this earlier, at GAT Fashion Lab, patterns are made digitally and then printed to be cut into the pieces that will be sewn.

3. Development of sewing operation guides:

Although experienced operators can make a garment just by seeing a reference, it is important to have clear guides that include very detailed technical specifications to ensure the quality of production. That is why operation guides and manuals should be written and validated with samples to ensure their usability and clarity for subsequent phases.

There is a key activity that is not listed here when making physical samples, and that is the engineering of garments. Although the operation guides are part of it, an important activity is the measurement of sewing times and the breakdown of production movements (machine operations). This activity can only be done by a highly experienced person and serves to make production more efficient.

4. Approval:

Although it is an activity that is executed several times throughout the process, from digital design to measurements with models, it is important to list it since all samples must be verified and approved before moving on to subsequent stages.

Photography of a Fashion Designer in a Fit and Design Test

Some of the validation activities are: Fit of garments, mold, silhouette, overall design, assembled pieces, quality, and appearance of materials.

What should a fashion entrepreneur consider when developing a product?

1. Seek advice from experienced professionals:

We all love fashion, but not everyone is a professional. Developing and manufacturing fashion is an exciting task with many key activities, so it is highly recommended that you always consult with experienced people who really know what they are doing. Keep in mind that there are many activities related to the manufacture of clothing, so seek advice from multidisciplinary teams, especially for economic issues that are the weakest point of creatives.

2. Check if your supplier works with digital samples (3D):

The use of 3D reduces sample development times from weeks to days, or even hours (learn more here). Although initially, you may see it as an unnecessary expense, a digital design will save you a lot of time and money on physical samples that you will not need. With a digital design, adjustments can be made in real-time and even tested on digital models, so that when samples are manufactured, the number of samples needed to approve the design is reduced.

3. Avoid manual pattern making:

When starting out, it is common to work with seamstresses or empirical people, and although it may work for starting out when thinking about production on a larger scale, we may encounter many problems with sizes, so it is always important to look for digital patterns. Handmade patterns are primarily used by luxury designers in complex garments, in these cases they are usually exceptions, however, once the molds are created, the recommendation is to digitize and validate them in order to guarantee their functionality in a production phase.

4. Make as many samples as you consider necessary:

We strongly recommend the use of digital samples to validate the design and adjust it to the maximum before making a physical sample, but samples are precisely intended to validate everything before moving on to production. There are many problems that can occur in production due to lack of clarity in the samples. At GAT Fashion Lab, we develop samples to validate the design and also samples to manage production, thus reducing the risks of problems in production.

5. Think about a pre-sale or made-to-order model from the beginning:

Thanks to digital or even physical samples, you can make pre-sales and avoid the risks of excess inventory. This is a strategy commonly used by fashion designers who attend fairs, bring some physical samples and only produce what wholesale customers ask for to sell in specialty stores.

6. Sell expensive if you want to develop a product from scratch:

Cheap fashion is synonymous with low quality and high volume. Low costs are only obtained through production efficiencies and discounts on raw material purchases. If you are just starting out, try to sell at the highest possible price and optimize your operation. Our recommendation is that you sell at least 2 to 3 times the cost of a garment. You can use our free costing tool by clicking here.

7. Buy wholesale if the strategy is to sell cheap:

Most fashion entrepreneurs aim to sell cheaply, and the best strategy to achieve this is to look for wholesalers in commercial centers and buy ready-made products. For example, buying basic garments and customizing them is more cost-effective than making them from scratch. In this customization, details such as labels and tags can be included to maintain the magic of having your own brand.

If you would like to learn more about our Fashion Design and Product Development Services, and Clothing Manufacturing contact us here. You can learn how to request a quote with us by clicking here. Our minimum order quantity (MOQ) is very flexible, we can produce from 50 units or even less, contact us to help you.

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