#1 mistake of new designers

I was hanging out of Crafters.org yesterday and came across a posting from the newest of DEs; she was asking why her clothing wasn’t selling. In analyzing her line, I realized her missteps were pretty typical. Normally I wouldn’t post on it but I was reviewing another line this morning from Allison Kelly (contestant on Project Runway) and saw some of the same problems. Specifically, the number one problem made by new designers is continuity.

Many young lines are not congruent, the pieces don’t belong together, mixing and matching. Ideally pieces should cross merchandise. Miracle and I have written three entries on who do you hang with (pt2, pt3). If your line won’t hang next to somebody else’s on a rack, looking like it belongs there, it can’t stand alone either. It’s typical for new designers to have some orphans but some product lines are all or nearly all, orphans. In the beginning, develop your signature pieces according to what resonates with you. Over time, your signatures will become what sells best for you. If you’re all over the map style-wise with a bunch of orphans, a pattern won’t emerge between related pieces and you’ll never know which are the winners. Your fabrics, styles, silhouettes and pieces should be congruent. If your pieces when hung together, merchandise like rack of goods at a thrift store, your line is all orphans.

Regarding Allison Kelly’s line specifically, she’s got five pieces on this page. Based on this presentation, I’d say the last three are orphans because they don’t belong to any other piece. The first two go with each other if only based on color. Notice Kelly has not repeated fabrications between these two (or any other) style. She’s got to do a lot of sourcing to cover that; how can she meet minimums without investing in unnecessary inventory? I suppose she can if she’s buying fabric at retail but one’s prices will be higher (in her case, thinner margins) and one isn’t guaranteed fabrics on reorder. Orphan number three (the polka dot) should be yanked, asap. It might be interesting in another colorway though.

If you go to Kelly’s main site (the above was a custom orders site), based on presentation, the styles don’t look so disparate. I still vote that number two and seven here (number five on the other site) be dropped because it’s too casual -it’s sportswear really- to mix with the other pieces. Style wise, I’m not hot for number five (number two on the other) but what do I know? I tend to avoid direct style critiques.

Having good continuity isn’t just good design sense, it’s good business sense. As much as is possible, you want to repeat the same fabrications and colorways across styles. While there is less congruity in haute couture lines, they still have a story line and overall influence. Besides, how many of you are haute couture designers? Haute couture is designed for effect, not sales, they lose money on those. They make their money on their bridge and RTW lines which are congruous. This way, your patterns are cut with similar shrinkage allowances, you can use the same sources, contractors and the same methods. Costs will be similar as well. The problem as I see it, is new designers pick the worst elements of haute couture to emulate because that impresses them, getting a lot of press but they ignore the concepts that generate income. Forget glossy! Follow the money.

Returning to the thrift store rack analogy, a store doesn’t want your stuff if they can’t hang it all together. Forget who you hang with, first be sure you can hang with yourself. Until you do, worrying about patterns, sewing, costing and marketing is a waste of time.

Who do you hang with?
Who do you hang with? pt.2
Who do you hang with? pt.3

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