Wednesday August 23, 2017

Designs are only designs if they can be produced. Knowing exactly which part of the lifecycle of products needs the most attention is what can make or break a fashion brand.

From production optimization to finding the right partner, here are some top tips from successful designers and entrepreneurs on how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls fashion businesses face. Plus the final takeaway critical to any brand.

1. When growth doesn’t correspond to your time and financial investment

SOLUTION: Take smaller steps and know your growth needs.

This might seem obvious, but many fashion founders automatically inject resources before carefully considering where they should go, or even if they need to reinvest at all.

Do you need to hire an entire technical team? A bigger office? more machinery? Remember, this is not just about spending cash at that moment, but it adds up to greater yearly operating costs.

Consider a smaller investment, such as acquiring software to help streamline communications among teams and manufacturers like Techpacker, or outsourcing a freelance service to use as needed, instead of committing to a full-time hire.

2. You're struggling to meet your production demands.

SOLUTION: Prioritize looking for potential manufacturers.

Your reputation lies in the quality of your product and your ability to fulfill the demands on time. As a small business, you may choose to manufacture your own products, but don’t out rule outsourcing either.

This was a lesson for the duo behind British label Fydoor Golan, who remember securing buyers and not investing enough time looking for manufacturers in their first season. They said this led to a struggle when fulfilling their first order from Harvey Nichols, as it was reported by The Business of Fashion earlier this year.

For this reason, it’s equally important to find the right manufacturer and also to invest in building relationships with them.

3. You are not good with handling the 'numbers' side of the business or you’re overwhelmed by having to do everything yourself.

SOLUTION: Consider a Business Partner

This is no easy feat or right for everyone. And while there are no set rules on how to do it, make sure you know the person well, if he or she compliments your skills and shares your brand vision.

"If 50% of marriages end up in divorce, that number can be greater when it comes to business partnerships."

Remember, you’re not hiring an employee, but a partner, look for things beyond their qualifications like attitude and values, even if they seem to have an impressive CV. According to Entrepreneur, if 50% of marriages end up in divorce, that number can be greater when it comes to business partnerships.

4. When a business partner is not an option and you’re still doing everything yourself.

SOLUTION: Invest in your team.

This is especially true if you don’t have enough revenue to support a partner, are needing a certain set of skills or something that requires handling for shorter periods of time.

Things like regulating cash-flow, writing contracts or proposals might need a freelance consultant, a writer or a lawyer. But expanding lines or meeting production demands might benefit from additional longer-term hires.

Designers like Phoebe English expanded her team to be able to meet the production demand of her menswear line, while others like Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding of label Palmer Harding improved their e-commerce strategy by adding a new member to their team.

5.Communication issues with your team and manufacturers

SOLUTION: Optimize your tech packs.

Today consumers have significant control over the buying experience. With technology making the shopping process a breeze, it would be absurd, not to take advantage of the technology available that helps fashion teams build internal, shareable libraries and standardize their design and production processes. Whether you use Techpacker or not, make sure you've secured the right tools to make the best of your time and resources.

"Creating tech packs which are adjusted to factories’ specific standards can make everything easy to read and translate which solves many of these problems."

Communicating with people who speak different languages is challenging. Brandy-Courtney Williams, who handles menswear operations at Ralph Lauren, said that creating tech packs which are adjusted to factories’ specific standards can make everything easy to read and translate which solves many of these problems. (Williams spoke to BoF in 2014 when she worked as production manager at Nonoo.)

The author is the CMO & Co-Founder at Techpacker. He currently resides in New York and is in love with that city. Music and video making is very dear to him and he thinks he can count beat drops. He graduated with Merchandising degree from Fashion Institute of Technology and has previously worked with Tory Burch and Perry Ellis.