When starting an apparel brand one of the most important questions you will face is timing. How long do samples take to make? How long will production take? When is the best time of year to launch? Answers to all of these questions are an important factor in both the peace of mind for the designer and the success of the brand. Many different factors can influence the answer of timing questions but this information will help you make the best judgements for your brand.
What Is the Budget for Supporting Your Apparel Launch?
The budget you have to support your launch can affect the time it takes to prepare in many ways. If a small team is putting together all of the details, the process will obviously take longer than if a large team was employed to do the same work. Also, if you are extremely conscious of how much money you are spending, you are likely to take more time to find the right match for employees, distributors, and store locations. The size of your budget has no say in the success of your brand but knowing how long process to produce, deliver, and prepare retail resources to sell your clothes will take longer can help better your business plan.
What Is Your Avenue of Sale?
Preparing to launch a new clothing collection in a brick-and-mortar store location vs. an e-commerce avenue of sale is completely different. Brick-and-mortar stores are likely to take longer as finding a space and maximizing the design for sales can be a lengthy and important process. On the other hand, an online sales platform requires extensive planning for social media and other online assets to generate attention for the launch.
What Is Your Type of Apparel Product/Number of Garments?
The type of apparel product you plan to sell is a very important factor to consider for the launch timing. If swimsuits are your signature product, Winter would not be an ideal season to launch. Consider the specific products you will offer and when your target audience would be most likely to look for and purchase those pieces. The variety of products you plan to sell also matters. Ordering several different styles will likely take longer to produce, so plan accordingly.
What Is Your Garment Sample and Production Time?
After deciding on the means of production, whether wholesale or private label, contact the manufacturer to find out the exact amount of time each sample and its following production will take. Allowing around 6 months for sample production is a good estimate. This enables your manufacturer to produce your original samples and adjust for any with edits and improvements that you may have. Design and production is not perfect so allow yourself time to make the product right.
Once sampling finishes, allow 2-4 months to complete production. While a private label manufacturer takes around 6 weeks to produce the product, it will take time to order and ship all of your pieces and have them ready to sell from your store.
What Is the Economic/Cultural Situation Where You Plan to Produce and Sell?
What is going on around the world can affect the success of your launch even if all other aspects are perfect. For example, due to the lockdowns across the world in response to COVID-19, many businesses are suffering. Families everywhere have suffered a restricted ability to make non-essential, and even essential, purchases as their financial future has become uncertain. A new fashion brand is likely to struggle the most during this time as they depend on those B2C sales.
Add this to the fact that, all stores, with the exception of essentials, are closed, now would be a better time to launch an online boutique versus a brick-and-mortar boutique or physical pop-up. Another smart pivot during the pandemic would be for brands to source carefully, preferencing small minimum order quantities over large-scale mass production, something that can prove difficult when sourcing wholesale.
The COVID-19 pandemic is clearly a severe set circumstances, but they shed light to how important national and international business and economic trends are in determining the best time to launch a business.