*edited from post published 30 April on my old website
Have you noticed anything different on my website?
According to my plans, I'd already be announcing my first collection at this point.
In my pretty little purple-haired head, I thought I was doing everything right by keeping my collection small and handling over my digitally printed t-shirt production to the manufacturer, since I'm not used to sewing jersey and don't have the special machinery to make the proper finishings I want.
I didn't only send him very detailed Tech Packs: I went there in person, met his team, checked the quality of his samples, showed him what I'd developed so far, explained what I wanted to achieve, explained that I was just starting out in business, asked about minimum orders, prices, lead times…
That was back in February.
Almost 2 months later, I only had prototypes in the plainest, most boring white jersey.
Then a couple of weeks ago he disappeared. Total radio silence. Vanished.
So long business plan, so long Marketing plan. And hellooo, panic!
If you're working as a Fashion designer or starting your own clothing line, these issues are likely to happen regardless of your knowledge, experience and hard work.
And when they do, it's these basic people skills that will save you.
Fashion is the business of making something new (or new-ish, at least) every season. So it's silly to think you need to get a whole new set of skills every time you attempt a new design.
More important than knowing everything yourself is finding the right partners for each project, and maintain good communication throughout the whole process.
Right from the first email or phone call, do your homework and be clear when establishing what you expect.
Send links or pictures, tell if you're supplying anything or if you need the manufacturer to take care of developing your design and sourcing materials, ask if they work with small brands.
If they don't reply right away, try again in 2 business days. And if they ask you for a Tech Pack you don't have yet, reply with a realistic time frame: don't say you'll send your tech packs in a few days if you're still thinking of hiring a designer to do them.
Be nice, be polite and show you're interested, just like you would in any other job or relationship. Show you're engaged in this process - even if you're not the one cutting all the fabric and sitting on the sewing machine.
If you're anything like me, you want to do everything 100% right, and even the thought of doing anything kinda lousy that snowballs into a hot mess makes your stomach hurt and makes you grind your teeth at night.
But, as my story shows, even good Tech Packs and good follow-up are not guarantees…so how can you make sure the people you choose to work with will do their part?
Google, Quora, Sqetch and Utelier can only go so far to help you find factories, but when you're a newbie it's up to you to build your own network of suppliers, manufacturers, and fellow designers or entrepreneurs you can rely on.
Think of it as making a whole new circle of friends when you just move to a new city, in a new country where you don't speak the native language.
Keep your work simple so you can keep doing your research and trying different approaches.
You shouldn't expect to meet your best friend, your future spouse and the perfect business partner on the first meetup you go to, and you shouldn't expect to find the best manufacturer for all your needs now and forever in one Google search - specially if their website says so: if they're aiming to serve everybody, they're stretching themselves too thin and screwing up some orders here and there. Could be yours.
3. Creative growth
Tech Packs are a necessary part of the game, but they're the language of the manufacturer.
You, as a designer, should not invest too much of your time and energy trying to achieve Tech Pack PhD, because technical design is a dead end job: it's sitting in front of a screen filling up codes for every thread, fabric, colour, and zipper, measurements on clothes you have no part in creating, and dealing with manufacturers you did not choose - so who cares if they're assholes that will blame your good work when they screw up.
And as a new entrepreneur starting a clothing line, you should not choose a designer that is so precious about the technical gospel you won't understand what the hell is happening on your own design development.
Technical know-how is a tool. It will help you make stronger designs and better products, but it won't do all the creative work for you (like I expected when I got my first Fashion education).
You don't know what you don't know…
So how can you start with the right foot?
I have beginner-friendly Mentorship services, specially meant for new entrepreneurs going through the same journey as me.