Start your clothing line like a pro - no flats needed

Most people starting their clothing line find technical stuff daunting or boring, which opens way for wasting time Googling a bunch of tutorials, followed by information overload, and finally procrastination, pure and simple.

But before you throw in the towel because of some technical drawings you saw on Pinterest, and now you think you need to be a computer wiz, let me tell you:

Get off the computer and go look at actual clothes!  

Or do you really think the socialite types I used to work with in the past were trying to learn Illustrator before launching their first collection?

And I have even better news for you: real-deal designers working at really cool brands are also not creating "best of the season" looks by sitting all day at their desks making cute drawings - they're draping fabrics on a mannequin, visiting vintage stores, cutting and altering pieces from thrift stores...

There are many ways for you to get your idea off the ground, and that don't involve sitting hours in front of a software you don't know how to use. 

Get ready to ditch that lame excuse and let's get to them:

1. Stop trying to be creative

Don't send a manufacturer this


Tutors at Fashion school (or clients, if you're a freelance Fashion designer) may love the arty-farty touch, but apparel manufacturers will get confused:

Did you add wrinkles because you want a special type of fabric? Does the shading represent stone washing? Why are the edges wobbly?

Don't focus on drawing if that's not your best skill and...

2. Use your phone instead

Ok, so flat sketches don't need to be pretty, but what about all this:

Tech Pack for mass production

Don't look at this and let your mind go wild, creating reasons why you can't start your clothing line.

This beast of a Tech Pack has a total of 28 pages, no coloured sketches, the larger sketches are only on the final 3 pages... because this is not the work of a Fashion Designer! This is Merchandising.

(And if the factory you contacted is being too precious and saying they can only work with this format, they're not the factory for you, dear emerging designer/ new entrepreneur.)

A much simpler way to start discussing a new development with a manufacturer is this:

Notes for apparel manufacturing - t-shirt

Take a picture of an actual garment and write over it.

Notes for apparel manufacturer - bodysuit

Option 2, from a famous Fashion studio in Paris. This one's not my work, so I've blurred the main comments and style details.

Boom! Done!

It's best if you print out the pictures and write over them by hand: this will prevent you from spending too much time trying to write pretty notes on your phone (or iPad, because you think that'll look more pro), and you can add it to a "Such-and-such season Collection Development" folder.

Or as my tutor would yell: "Whatever research you gather with your phone, STAYS ON YOUR PHONE!
I wanna see your pictures all over the studio, because if I can't see them, you can't see them!"

3. Write shorter emails, more often

The manufacturer doesn't care about your dreams, they just want to know if you're bringing in good business.

If you send a really long email telling about your concept, how your brand is going to grow 1000000% in the next 2 years, how experienced you are in all other areas of your life and now you're excited to start this new chapter…but you only send one lousy picture you mooched from Gucci or Nike, that's a ginourmous red flag.

Nothing wrong with being new on the scene, but this combo of rambly email + picture from Gucci screams: "I don't know what I'm doing and have unrealistic high standards I don't know how to explain, so I'll blame y'all if anything doesn't go my way."

Be nice and introduce yourself, of course, but be brief and give them information they can actually work with, meaning:

    • What pieces you want to make, as in "a printed t-shirt with a higher neck - see picture with notes attached", instead of "I wanna make a t-shirt line that's so lit with cool details inspired by X, Y and Z brands - see 5 random pictures attached";

    • What's your final order quantity for mass production;

    • Do you have a sample already? Or at least similar piece that they can copy?

    • Bonus tip if you're working with Asian factories: always end in “Looking forward to working with you” then "Thank you". May sound corny, but that's how you do it.

Stick to show and tell, and if you're confused about what they need from you, just ask.

Ask for recommendations - about fabric, about designers to help you out, websites to research the technical information they need - then actually do the work as they instructed you, and send another email asking "Is this right?".

What if you still need flats and Tech packs?

Going into a new business is a lot of work, but you also get to decide where your time is spent more effectively.

Don't spread yourself too thin trying to master every skill (including ones you may find later that were not that essential): work with me and avoid getting stuck at every new step :)