(Art credit: Microsoft Images) We've written an overview of apparel manufacturing in response to a retailer who contacted us for advice about designing and manufacturing their own collection, since they struggle to find sources of modest clothing with the level of style they seek. Read the full article in our fashion careers section. Excerpts are provided here.
The first point for small entrepreneurs to remember is that they are usually part of the group they target, allowing them to innately choose correct product and marketing paths. Small businesses must aim for a target market with laser accuracy in order to compete with large brands that offer generic styling.
As obvious as this may seem, mainstream fashion designers don't always get this right. Sometimes the trends emphasize dark, bland or masculine colors for women's clothing. Other times the colors are too bold or clashing or the designs are too eccentric. A modest clothing designer can capitalize on the need for feminine, beautiful clothing and thereby stand out in the market.
While wearers of women's and girls' modest clothing could be classified as a niche market as a whole, enough variation among them exists that it is most economical for small entrepreneurs to target a group within this group. The two areas that will help define that target are the size range and the level of modesty. Concerning size range, the high cost of creating patterns in different size ranges calls for small entrepreneurs to launch with a size range that can be graded (drawn larger and smaller to create a range of sizes) from a single base size rather than two or more base sizes. "Modest clothing" is used to describe several sets of standards among different groups. The small entrepreneur should note that these standards often exclude each other. It will be most effective in building an initial customer base to center designs around a clear, single standard.
With creativity, some type of modest clothing business can be launched on any budget, from custom-made outfits for individual clients to mass production of dozens of items for sale internationally. Determine your budget first, then pick your plan.
If any pitfall awaits the inexperienced clothing manufacturer, it will probably be fabric sourcing. Fabric ordered from an unreliable source may never be delivered or may be delivered with a quality inferior to the sample yardage. Small manufacturers should design initial collections around as few different fabrics as possible to achieve the yardage needed for a wholesale fabric order. In the beginning stages of a business, entrepreneurs should try to work with fabric suppliers that offer stocked fabric programs. This may reduce the required minimum order and will ensure that fabric will be delivered on time with the same quality as sample yardage.
Communication is enhanced when designers and manufacturers are local to one another. This is why apparel design offices are concentrated around manufacturing centers such as New York and Los Angeles. As mass production of apparel has shifted overseas, large companies have developed precise systems of communication to prevent errors, yet none are quite as good as being in person, which is why technical designers still travel regularly to offshore manufacturing locations to inspect quality. A small manufacturer working from a home office, far from a major apparel center, may think that utilizing distant patternmakers and factories is the only option. In reality, much can be done to energize local sources of labor. Doing so will invigorate the local economy, reduce shipping costs and increase vital communication between the designer and manufacturer. Current trends in apparel manufacturing are to return some offshore production to local sources for these reasons.
The production of modest clothing for girls and women is a worthy endeavor with vast possibilities as a niche market that is overlooked by the large manufacturers. Read our complete, 4,000 word essay at the following link: Basic steps in starting a modest clothing business.