“Dear I A Samples.
We are starting a new lingerie label and we want it to be developed in the UK.
We don’t know where to start. Can you help?”
So you want to start a new lingerie or swimwear label?
Designs are filling your sketchpad, taking up many megabytes on your computer and scribbled on the back of restaurant napkins. You are kept awake at night with visions of models walking down the catwalk wearing your beautiful bras and knickers or sexy bikini’s. Beyonce has already performed at the Super Bowl in your stunning designs, well…in your mind at least!
You can see it all clearly and you know you can make it happen, yet you are not quite sure how.
I have spent many hours, one to one with my clients, breaking down the process of developing a collection. I offer advice on who to contact and where to go in order to pull together all the requirements involved in turning your design ideas into physical, sellable products.
Time is a precious commodity, and lets face it, we are not getting any of it back! We can’t get a refund, ahh if only!
Therefore I have decided to put the steps into writing, so you can settle down with a nice cuppa and read through it in your own time.
This is a two-part blog. Join us by subscribing, to be one of the first to know when Part 2 is live.
Part 1 will cover:
- Business Plan
- Design and fabric sourcing
- Your target customer
- Choosing your house model
- Product development
This first part is essential but is worryingly neglected by most aspiring fashion entrepreneurs.
Business is tough and can be costly at first. It is important to forecast the next few years’ cash flow to ensure you will be developing a long-term sustainable business. There are many business expenses that new designers overlook and can often get their knickers in a twist (pun intended) over cash flow before their first collection has been launched. You don’t want your business growth to be stunted in the first season, simply because you didn’t forecast for the next.
Now, I have checked, and Mystic Meg is busy, however there are several business advisors specialising in the fashion sector that will be able to help you with your business plan and financial forecasting.
Here are a few who you can reach out to:
Intimate Apparel Consultancy:
As the name suggests, I A Consultancy offers consulting for Intimate Apparel businesses. Hurrah! Claire and her team have a vast amount of knowledge in the industry and have helped many of our past clients run a successful business.
They are based in the UK, however they may be able to assist overseas clients. Just ask.
They have a team of fashion experts who will work along side you, offering guidance and support to drive your business forward.
Nigel Rust is my personal ‘go to’ man. He is an independent business mentor, again specialising in fashion. He advises both fashion services (such as I A Samples) and also fashion designers, giving him an insight and wealth of knowledge from all angles. You can contact him here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Say “Hi” from me.
This is a no brainer and lends itself to the subject above, however it still seems to be neglected by some. Establish your budget before developing your collection. A surprising number of new designers plough ahead, investing thousands of pounds (or dollars) into the development of their lingerie or swimwear samples before they have costed out all expenses. It isn’t possible to know exact costs, however it is possible to pull together some ballpark figures, which need to sit comfortably within your budget.
The last thing you want is a collection of gorgeous bras, knickers and swimsuits, a full tech pack and graded patterns, yet you have run out of budget and cannot afford to put them through production.
It is such a shame and can be avoided if you create a business plan and establish a budget.
Design and fabric source
Now the fun part: designing. Create as many designs as you like, and then narrow the size of your collection to fit within your budget. Of course you will need to do some research to ensure they will appeal to your target audience and also flow well as a collection.
Your designs can be in sketch format accompanied by reference images of similar garments. Remember to design the backs too!
Include annotation and be as detailed as necessary, adding key measurements if you feel your sketches and reference images don’t truly reflect what you have in mind. Your lingerie designer or garment technician will turn these sketches into a Technical Design Spec detailing all seams, stitch lines and any necessary close-ups. This will act as a blueprint used by all parties involved in developing your collection.
Please don’t be tempted to skip this step as any miscommunication can have cost implications further down the line.
Fabric and component sourcing can be carried out alongside the designing process. I have written a blog on fabric sourcing and working with wholesalers here.
Your target customer
Knowledge is power!
Your garment technician, or pattern cutter will ask you about your customer profile and what their measurements are. There is no ‘standard’ in the fashion industry, so avoid using that word and instead research your customer and their shape. If you feel you would like to use commercial sizing, be specific and let them know the measurements or give them a shop bought sample, which you like the fit of, and they can assess the fit themselves.
Established intimate apparel brands have block shapes, which they develop their patterns from. This helps ensure the fit across all styles stay true to their customer profile. As a start-up brand you are unlikely to have this, so your pattern cutter will develop these for you based on the information you give them.
Your house model
You need to choose a Fitting Model who is reflective of your brand. This is incredibly important and shouldn’t be rushed. We are all different shapes and sizes even if our measurements are incredibly close. Bras and basques are especially complex and require a lot of consideration in regards to the shape of the wire, cup volume and coverage. No two wearers are the same even if they fit the same size.
A whole host of skills are required in order to produce your patterns, samples, grades and technical spec sheets.
Ensure you work with a garment technician or sample unit who specialise in your chosen apparel. In this case, you would chose to work with lingerie/swimwear pattern cutters, seamstresses, graders and designers. Under-wired pieces are especially complex and need to be undertaken by garment technicians who are experts in this field, with the specialist machinery required for sewing lingerie and swimwear samples.
Here at I A Samples, we expertise in both lingerie and swimwear development, offering the full technical package under one roof with the necessary skills and equipment to do so. You can check out our services here.
Now you are in the position to hand over your designs, fabrics and information to your chosen unit. Your garment technician will be confident in working with you and communication between you both will be efficient.
In part 2 of this blog I will cover the steps involved once your designs have been realised and you have full tech packs and samples ready of your lingerie or swimwear collection.