In India Making my own Clothing Line, how to go about it and where to start?
I worked in a Fashion Store in central Stockholm, Sweden. It had then been 8 years of job jumping between Levis to H&M, ModelAgency and many Clothing Stores. Rainy days and sunny days all past by and after folding jeans and brushing of suits I had a feeling that it had to be something bigger out there and more of a challenge.
With some old knowledge from Fashion studies in Italy I set off towards the heat leaving Sweden while the snow was still melting.
Samples made in Cambodia at a local tailor, print made in separate printhouse..the qlty howerver is less impressive and a lot of the buttons was both crocked and slightly loose..
So guys, how to go about it and where to start?
I have put togheter some Tips to help you get going..
Number one, you will need a budget, don't be scared of the huge amount of money that some people demand that you should have. A lot is up to you, how much of your own time you would like to spend on searching products and comparing prices.Perhaps you just want to make 5 Samples to begin with and maybe 10 pcs each, note that it can be hard finding a Vendor that is willing to have that minimum(they often say yes to a minimum of 25 pcs per design and atleast 10 styles). You can also experiment like I did, making samples at small local tailors just to see how the designs comes out before jumping in and making a big order.
There is of course a lot of service and people that you could hire that will save time but also cost you some money. I started off by thinking that I wanted to see my drawings become physical samples and made some designs in Vietnam and Cambodia, they don't cost more around South East Asia then buying a top back home on sale.
Me in full speed fixing with parcels and good old lap top that has been my home and away office, make sure you can be reached and can reach Manufacturers and other business partners while out searching for the right contact..it's not all about designing even if that's all I really want to do..
To give you an idea, I payed 5 US Dollar for a top, pretty basic one but also with label attached and a print sewn on. But note that I had to pay for the fabric, buttons, zip wich demands running around to different markets that is timeconsuming to say the least and also needs skills in haggeling on everything. The fabric, depends on the qlty but it cost around 1.50 to 3 US Dollar a meter in Cambodia and all samples where made in the Russian Market, a place where I could speak english with the tailor(big plus). Always count on buying 2 meters fabric per sample. In Vietnam, Saigon (where a sample in collage fabric, some easy details cost 15 to 40 US Dollars), maybe I was totally screwed but really hard to haggle there. On the other hand, in Phan Thiet, another place in Vietnam, a small Fishing Village close to Mui Ne beach I was making samples for 3 US Dollars( though plain shirts but including buttons).
2.Best to compare and experiment, sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry(a lot of samples look way better on paper). But most important, your doing it! It's also great knowledge to learn how to best explain to people how you want the designs, wich mesurements, lengths and sizes. Good to also get some knowledge how different fabrics can act while getting shape and form. I learned that a velour heavier than 250 g makes a wrap tunic look like a down parka. Really heavy if lined and not as expected when in front of the mirror. But all mistakes is hopefully good ones, at least you learn from them.
3.Decide, decide and finally design. I know I have to work on my decitions and stand by them. With so many options of both printing methods, col of threads, labelsizes and logos you can eventually go mad. But important to have a good think, sketch and try working in programs as photoshop to clear your mind. Before even booking that meeting with a potential manufacturer I would highly recomend to sort your ideas out, and have a few samples that you finalised and that are ready to make, some people work in computer programs minimizing possible missunderstanding but I always go for sketching since it's a great way to correct and discuss infront of the Manufacturer. Fabric cutting should be attached to your sketch and perhaps even a picture from a magazine that you find similar and right in style, not copying though since it's not a fun way to make cloths. It's a difference in getting inspiration and just tracing a picture.
Before arriving to the destination where you want to make your clothes, source locally 1 to 2 days before having a meeting, this gives you an idea what the samples might cost, what kind of fabric that is most avaiable locally and also some inspiration.(This is just an idea if you physically is going there otherwise the Manufacturer have people that will source your requested fabric). Also note to have all questions ready such as shipping arrangement, the LC-Letter of Credit, the vendors preffered payement method and also make a demand list,what you want from this cooperation, don't let to much up to the Vendor, remember, your the boss!
4. An Agent or not an Agent, that is the question? If you have seen my videos at Youtube you will know that the biggest mess of arriving in India and getting some samples made was mostly disturbed by a man stating to first be a Factory Owner then discreatly admitting to be an Agent, my agent without letting me choose. Me as usual, being nice is not always the best choice but getting caught in this friendship drama is easy done. He was after all showing me options and getting me around the crowded Delhi. I played along until I felt a bit disturbed by the fact that he wasn't even helping out getting right quotes or even participating while I was stuck trying to convert paperdrawings alone at a Vendor 1 hour outside Delhi. It wasn't until a few days later that it came to my attention that he also wanted payement for his work, while I was thinking that the payment he was getting was simply the 7 percent from the Vendor when the order was made and finalised.
Ok, if someone is efficient, smart and helpful, which some agents are (some of them do provide you with great manufacturer contacts) it could be worth it, but then you have to demand open cards from day one.You need to know his percent from your side on the order, also get him to really work for you not just drink tea while your sweating away at a meeting. He should sit down with you and ask you for your target price, look at your designs, search fabrics for all samples, compare these prices, check quanties and possible discount (production rates) and give you all information that you might need while in the country. It's not easy if you are a first time designer/buyer and don't know what to ask for and having a guy around just waiting to cash in, is not good for anyone, takes the fun out off it all as well. Note that they get payed on the total order, that means that they are discourage to find the best prices and smallest quantities for you, this means they might be eager to make you buy at a higher rate and in bigger quantity.
5. Don't sign any agreement/contracts and don't decide until the samples are made. Important is to ask in the beginning if the sampling is free of charge, many Vendors provide Free sampling but will charge you for shipping Fees if your not in the country. Once again, shop around since different countries has different set ups. Some will charge you if a order is not placed and some will simply provide better samples until your happy. For India the first samples are often charged a double rate even if an order isn't placed and you have to have that in mind. Open cards might seem easy but while stuck in a small office far from your hotel room and left in the mood and mercy of a strange and important Manufacturer it's easy to forget to ask the right questions and trust me, they won't tell if you don't ask.
6.There is always different ways to go about everything. If you have a limited time checking different Vendors out and don't want to spend weeks sourcing fabrics and getting the perfect contact, a good way is using tradesites like www.alibaba.com. They offer contacts within the category you are searching for, in the country your interested in and it's a safe way to see if a company is legit or not, they have different gradings as Trust Pass Member and Gold Member. There you can find websites that will give you an idea what the company can provide for you. If you feel confident about the new contact you have found, start preparing him or her with your ideas, designs and the quanities and price limit. With email a lot can be accheived and the best part, everything is at high speed and the results will come faster, less missunderstandings and your ideas will really clear up knowing what they can and can't do.
7. Keeping it safe. Don't quit everything to chase a desirable goal at once. Be patient and you'll get there. If money is an issue keep working on the side just promise yourself to stick to a plan, sit by the sketching board and try to keep up in what's happening in the fashion world. Also a great tip, talk to people, show your ideas and share your thoughts. It's great to know people in the business, to have friends working in fashion shops and know what's selling and what's not. But also stick to your ideas and the nich that you have created, it's important to be unique and offer something different.
8.Have fun and try it out. Is this the business for you? You might realise that you love the selling more than actually creating clothes. Having a foot in the business is a great way to try different services out, I have been working as a Assistant Buyer, Casting Assistant, Fashion Store Seller and as an Assistant at a Magazine. It's a great way of sorting your mind out and just feeling that being a designer is the best choice. Saying that, there is alot of ways to go in the design business, why not work with kids clothes or focus on a Street Fashion brand, underwear, Sports Wear..once again, so much to choose from..
9.Good Luck following your dream, remember your not alone and if any questions or something you want to share, don't hesitate to write a few lines here in the comment section..