Seasonality determines a great deal in fashion. We all know about the four seasons. But typically, fashion companies operate in only two: Winter/Autumn collections and Summer/Spring collections.
Since fashion cycles rarely line up with the four seasons in a calendar year, how a fashion company chooses to manage the sampling, production, and marketing activities for each cycle depends on the type of fashion industry in which they work and the specific sales cycle that part of the industry follows. For example, companies like H&M have a season every 4-6 weeks! Gucci has two per year.
Since different fashion companies manage their different seasons simultaneously, it’s crucial to have an efficient product life cycle management schedule and process in place to keep everything on track. This is particularly important in so far as it impacts your manufacturer, who may or may not be sampling and producing product for other fashion brands while also working with you.
How Fashion Designers Get from Concept to Customer
What does the life cycle of a product look like for a clothing company? How do dresses, Italian-made shoes, and luxury handbags get from a design concept to the customer?
There’s nine basic steps or milestones fashion designers follow to get their products ready for their sales season and into the hands of customers:
1. 1 Year Out: Create your fashion design concept.
Creating a concept for the collection is the first step in creating a new garment. A collection is generally outlined more than a year before ending up in the hands of consumers.
2. 9 Months Out: Define the collection within a specific seasonality.
Doing this will allow you to start mapping a precise delivery window within the season, as well as the price ranges connected to the collection. Companies that operate throughout vast geographic areas will require additional delivery window analysis because, if in one area it is summer while in another it is winter, one no longer thinks of selling the same garments at the same time, to all final consumers.
3. 6 Months out: Begin the product design process.
Once the concept is established, the product design process can begin. The design team will create more fashion products than necessary, and then the sales and merchandising teams will take care of the approval process. After this, many items will require a re-design or may be eliminated from the collection altogether. Only a part of what a designer plans becomes a product that customers can buy in stores.
4. 1 Month out: Sample the fashion products.
The final products chosen for the collection are first made in small sample quantities. The brand will use these samples to test the design and the fabrics first on mannequins, and then, if approved, to showcase for pre-sales or to send out as sneak previews to sales agents.
5. Sales kick off with pre-sales.
Sales begin in the pre-sale period when the fashion brand presents its collection to wholesalers and retailers. In this phase, the company collects the first market feedback and may eventually adapt the collection to the sellers’ requests. During the garment pre-sale period, the sales are exclusively B2B. This all happens long before the actual end customers have a chance to buy.
6. Right after you finalized pre-sale: Order fabrics, trims, etc.
Once pre-sales give the fashion house an idea of customer demand for the products, they create a sales forecast for the retail and e-commerce channels. The brands then use this forecast to order the correct quantities of materials in the correct colors.
7. After placing materials order: Production begins.
The most important aspect of bringing a garment or an entire fashion collection to the market relates to production. Many fashion companies outsource this part of the business process. The company will either source the materials and fabrics itself, or they may opt to source materials through a contractor.
8. Usually after 4 weeks: Product ships.
Once production wraps up, and the products are approved and ready to be put up for sale, fashion brands must organize their shipping logistics. Some companies deal directly with shipments at their sales points. Some prefer to ship to an office or distribution warehouse.
9. Fashion sales take off!
Finally the journey of the product ends and the predefined "season" begins! The customer will now finally have the chance to purchase the product.
Managing a fashion brand takes time and dedication. It’s important to have a system in place to manage each of the above nine steps or milestones. Missing even one of them could negatively impact your end sales and the success of your fashion brand. If you have questions about any of these steps, and the best way to streamline the process, create a free MakersValley account and message your dedicated account manager.
Co-Founder and CEO @MakersValley! I am Italian and most importantly a Global Citizen. I was raised by boutique owners, fed by a seamstress and taught by a shoe distributor. I am passionate about experiential open manufacturing, supply chain and democratizing the manufacturing industry by connecting great doers with excellent makers.