There weren’t many responses to the first entry so I don’t know if people are mulling it over or what but Simone came back with answers to the questions I posed that may be similarly helpful for us to discuss.
In reference to my point that she needed to have fabric samples before hiring, Simone said:
I have not sourced my fabrics yet, although it is not for lack of trying being far from the fashion districts. I’m planning to use very basic fabrics (lightweight wovens) in dye-able white. I will be dyeing my garments post production in shades that complement one another.
We call it garment dyeing and it is common. You need to shop for PFD (prepared for dyeing) fabrics. There are quite a few dye houses that provide this service. As far as sourcing that I mentioned in the first entry, one reason it is critical to be aware of industry schedules is because fabric shows are also organized by season. Meaning, you may plan to attend a fabric show in August (for example) with the intention of buying summer fabrics but there won’t be much there because they’re mostly selling Fall. Simone continues:
As to the grading, you are the first pattern maker to fill me in on this! I certainly can’t afford 21 patterns at the prices I’ve been quoted! That is a game changer for sure. I guess I’ll need to consider which designs would be better suited for an infant and only offer certain styles in certain sizes.
There is a wide variety of services out there, some are not so good or legitimate even though they have good websites or whatever. Some just do whatever the customer says. With respect to that I’ve said
The kind of person or service you want to hire is often the person who won’t blithely do as you ask because if you fail, they look bad for letting you do it. The one thing you can be very sure of is that a person who will do whatever you want, is never going to be a good adviser to you. They’ll settle for which ever way the wind blows and bail at the first sign of trouble.
It is not a good sign you were not told this. Since you have signed up for the forum, that will be a help. There is a lot on this site about children’s sizing (for starters, grading pt.1, grading pt.2). I didn’t link to all of those entries because the post would have been too link intense. Those two links will lead you to more.
For the prototype/sample, I actually did have a local seamstress lined up- simply so I could oversee changes and fittings. But I never factored in changes to the actual pattern (and I know or a fact that the aforementioned seamstress cannot alter patterns).
Your seamstress may work out, I don’t know. I had a recent experience of taking a (home) sewing class from someone who was very accomplished but paradoxically, it is her expertise that would make it challenging to work with her. It would help if your stitcher has industry experience and can put things together without instructions. The links I left in the first entry will be helpful. In reference to having lined up production, Simone writes:
For production, I have narrowed the field to a few US companies with low minimums. Some of them offer patten creation as part of their service, but again- they never mentioned that I would need 21 patterns- a red flag for me! I’m open to overseas production later, but I’d prefer US production for the first run.
There are two kinds of companies that offer more comprehensive services. The first are called full package (pt.2) and the other is private label. What is most important for you to know is that depending on the service, you may not get patterns although you may be charged for them. You must always get your patterns if you paid for them. A private label company won’t give you patterns because that is the nature of their business. They produce a limited and narrowly defined range of styles in fabrications and patterns they already have and sew your label into them.
Full package, soup to nuts contractors are another story. The best gauge of a full package contractor are references from customers who have used them more than once or twice. It is the nature of their business that their customers have a higher rate of business failure so checking references can be more difficult to do than it seems. Their customer’s failure rate is mostly due to the type of customer they have; this customer tends to be less involved in the nitty gritty and prefers to pay someone to manage it all for them but the customer has failed to budget for the higher cost of services. Likewise, these customers tend to order quantities of goods for which they have no sales so they go under. Some of these customers are difficult to work with (4 hour work week types) so many package contractors save their breath and do what the customer says. At the outset, a package contractor has no idea into which camp you fall so it is possible they have not mentioned the patterns for size breaks because they want to represent good value.
But I digress. With respect to intended sales medium, Simone says:
I was actually interested in selling to boutiques in addition to my own site. Several sources indicated that shops place orders in December for a summer line. I fully realized it would be cutting it close to have salesman samples and a lookbook ready by December, but I thought it was do-able. Obviously, it’s NOT do-able to have everything created in two weeks!!
Again, regarding the links I left in the first entry about industry time schedules, it is critical to be aware of them. In the time frame you mention -November through mid February, everyone is extremely busy getting samples together for the Fall markets so it may be hard to get a slot. It is the busiest time of the year. By way of example, failing to be aware of industry time frames is the biggest misstep of new non-apparel people. Since their products can be sold year round, they often discover too late that they can’t buy fabrics when they want nor get it sewn in the time frame they imagined. I’ve had so many sewn products people think my book won’t help them because they’re not making clothes (the book is titled guide to sewn product manufacturing for a reason) when they need to be just as aware if not more so. They have advantages but they can’t ply those unless they learn apparel time frames to know what those are. It’s not fair but it is what it is. Simone continues:
Your answer has given me pause… Perhaps I should be designing a collection or summer 2013…
Summer is a fairly small season sales wise as compared to Fall particularly for kid’s clothes. This is in the book but why wait for summer? Fall is the biggest selling season of the year. You can’t not do a Fall line for several reasons. One of which is that you hopefully will get to the point that buyers allocate a portion of their buy budget for your line which means seasonal purchasing. It is too easy to fall off their radar if you’re only doing summer. Here is something I wrote about that:
…the retailer is your customer. Since you hope this will become a long term relationship, you need to be predictable and fit in with the vibe of their existing merchandise. You want the buyer to become so comfortable with you that they plan a given portion of their OTB [open to buy] to go toward buying your products before they’ve even seen your latest collection. Think about that. Compare that to a consumer. A consumer doesn’t plan their clothing purchases by thinking “I need to set aside X dollars of my budget to buy Suzy Q styles for my summer wardrobe”.
Closing note: there is no need to tell Simone to join the forum, she already has.