21 mistakes fashion designers can make

Follows is a guest entry from a pattern maker with over 30 years experience. Born and raised in New York, she worked in the fast paced city for 25 years before moving to New Mexico five years ago. As she is not available to assist you with your projects any longer, her contact information has been removed.

21 mistakes fashion designers can make

Product Development
1. Not narrowing your focus. It’s best to specialize. Decide on one type of garment to sell and limit the number of styles, colors and sizes whenever possible. I know that was my biggest mistake. Forego that vision of competing with Jean Paul Gaultier or Zara.

2. Not understanding the time it takes to develop a new product. If you are planning to launch in Feb 2011 give yourself 2 yrs. If it happens before then, great, but when manufacturing is involved, you need to build relationships with your suppliers and contractors. You will need many moons to prove yourself to them and them to you.

3. Trying to take on difficult markets like labor intensive lingerie. Bras and shape wear can be very hard to produce. With very few factories in this country a designer is looking at large quantities and faraway factories.

4. Not looking closely at the current market.

5. Not establishing good fit from the very beginning.

6. When you are ready to sell, don’t make the mistake of failing to diversify your sales. Look for many stores in good standing as opposed to a few hot spots.

7. Not learning about marketing your product. Find a good marketer or sales rep and explain your product and sales vision then listen and decide. Diane Von Furstenberg represented her line successfully in the beginning. Anna Sui did very well for years with a sales rep until she went out on her own. Know your marketing capabilities or find an expert.

8. Not understanding how much money it takes to develop a new product. Normally at the start you won’t be ready to meet fabric and factory minimums which means you will be working with lower minimums to test your market and gain market share. It can take years to pay off your investment. I had a client who purportedly made a lot of money from a automotive software biz and decided to take the plunge and produce swimwear. He opted to produce 10K suits right out of the gate (against my advice) and after one year, he’d only sold 27 suits. No doubt he will have to dump them since they were fashion not commodity apparel.

9. Not delegating. After you have gained as many skills as possible you must know how to delegate. Find the very best people to work with, let go and allow the experts on your team work to their potential.

10. Not writing a business plan. You need to do it and update is as you go.

11. Not being open to making strong partnerships.

Personal Development
12. Not learning the hands on skills of draping or pattern making enough to trust others with those tasks. It’s extremely helpful if you can do the initial draping and/or pattern making yourself so that the design reflects your vision. Learn from Isabel Toledo.

13. Not developing your skills. Learn from the market place and improve it.

14. Not having mentors. Don’t get so attached to the product that you can’t improve it or get advice from professionals.

15. Not being cordial and not being able to compliment a job well done by your suppliers.

16. Not thinking out of the box.

17. Not setting up a space where you can be creative and try to make the 1st samples.

18. Not Networking

19. Not considering ideas from others

20. Not laughing. Losing your sense of humor can be disastrous.

21. Not imagining your success. Stay fresh in your ideas and be determined to be successful. You can do it.

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