Starting a Clothing Line – Product Development

UNDERSTANDING APPAREL DEVELOPMENT COSTS

Let’s dive into the development costs that will go into your development and production budget.  It is crucial from the get-go to learn how to manage the cost of your garment. These 7 important factors will help you understand sample and production costs as well as your eventual pricing.

DEVELOPMENT COSTS 1: FABRICATION

Depending on the garment you’re making, 30-60% of your garment cost comes from the fabric chosen. When designing and planning pieces, the most important element is the fabric price point per yard. As an example, if it takes 2 yards per shirt and fabric is $8/yard, the cost for fabrics is $16 per shirt.

The trims are another important factor. Being aware of the price added by each buckle, bow, and binding placed on the garment will help you control costs from the start. For example, if you’re making a button-down shirt, you will need:

  • Fabrics

  • Buttons

  • Interfacing

Each of these items will have a specific price per unit that will need to be added to the overall cost of each garment.

DEVELOPMENT COSTS 2: ADDITIONAL PRODUCT ELEMENTS

Fabric, cut, and sew are obvious items to include but don’t forget about things like care or size labels, hang tags, and poly bags. Also, think about the interior of your product. Is there interfacing or a stabilizer needed to hold shapes or a button placket? Make sure to include every tiny item into your costing!

DEVELOPMENT COSTS 3: CONSTRUCTION

Taking into account the finishes, specialty stitches, and amount of seams within a style will help to control your price point. There will be times that the more seams you add to a piece the price will increase (in labor cost), and sometimes the lack of a seam will cause a higher price (in fabric consumption). Adding in French seams, baby merrow stitches, 5 needle flat locks, all take specialty machines. These types of construction, also dictate where your line is produced.

When it comes to construction, it’s likely you’ll need to work with a professional pattern maker with experience in creating production-ready garments. The pattern maker should have access to work directly with the sample team to ensure that pattern specifications will be executed correctly. 

DEVELOPMENT COSTS 4: LOCATION

Fully lined garments with inner support construction and handwork will most certainly be produced in a different factory location than a 4-way stretch legging with 5-needle flatlock seaming. Identifying a factory that specializes in shirt making, for example, before you hire a technical designer or pattern maker is good business practice. It is not uncommon for sewing factories to not have every kind of machines and skilled labor. The more efficiently the factory can make a shirt, the better pricing they can offer your brand in production.

Alternately, you can partner with a full-service production and manufacturing house to help you source pattern makers and manufacturers. The price may not be higher than doing the legwork yourself since the business will have in-house employees and established relationships with specialty manufacturers. They may be able to offer some of the benefits of scale that you as new designer lack.

DEVELOPMENT COSTS 5: QUANTITY

The number of items that you are purchasing from a contractor will always affect the price of that garment. The higher the quantity, the less the price. Learning how to produce apparel with your intended aesthetic, fit, finishes, and market level, while simultaneously staying within your price point, are invaluable to a designer’s success.

DEVELOPMENT COSTS 6: PACKAGING

Are you selling directly to the consumer, through resale channels, or both? If you’re selling direct, you’ll need to account for packaging costs. Whether it be a hanger or polybag for an apparel item, custom boxes, tissue paper, ribbon, brand information inserts, or luxury mailing containers, there is a cost. There will be fewer packaging costs if you’re going through resale channels, but of course, the middle retailer will also take a cut of your profit margin.

DEVELOPMENT COSTS 7: SHIPPING

This industry is global, so your fabrics and trims could be coming from Japan, Italy, India, or any number of places. Without knowing the exact price of shipping, you can always take the total cost of your materials and multiply it by 10%. This estimate will work initially. When you get your final invoices from the vendors you can update the price per yard or piece with the actual amount, including shipping.

Once you understand these 7 items, you’ll be able to start putting together a cost for your sample – and look into cost-saving alternatives. Contact us to get started with product development TODAY!

Should I patent my clothing line? Your First 5 Questions Answered by lawyer Oliva Bedi

You are a clothing designer and you just came up with the coolest new shirt. It makes the

wearer smarter. Yep – a guaranteed increase of 25 IQ points. The shirt is also striking looking – it

has three distinct straps that serve no purpose in making you smarter, but it makes the shirt look

absolutely amazing. You want to protect your new US-made shirt from others copying it and several people have told you to patent it. What does that exactly mean?

1. There are two different types of patents in the U.S. – utility and design.

The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) grants (or rejects) utility and design patent applications (also “plant” applications and trademark registrations, but we won’t discuss here). A utility patent covers a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter. It protects the functional aspects of a useful invention. A design patent protects only aesthetic features of a useful invention. It cannot have functional aspects. Huh?

2. So what’s the difference between a utility and a design patent?

A utility patent protects the way an article is used and works. Your new shirt may be eligible for a utility patent because it is functional (it is capable of making you 25 points smarter, remember?). No shirt has ever done that before. This is new technology that serves a new and useful purpose.

A design patent protects the appearance of something – for aesthetic purposes, not for structural or utilitarian features. Your shirt could also be eligible for a design patent because the straps on your shirt do not serve a purpose. The straps play no role in the technology that makes you smarter and could have been left off altogether. Because the straps on your shirt are ornamental (and not functional), the shirt could be eligible to be protected by a design patent.

3. Which one should you choose?

Both types of patents give you a monopoly to exclude others from using, making, selling, offering for sale, or importing the shirt, but with differing patent terms. For a utility patent, that right to exclude is 20 years from the date the patent application is filed (there may be some adjustments). For a design patent, that protection is usually 14 years from the date the design patent is granted. However, it generally takes much longer for a utility patent to get through the

USPTO than a design patent. To be clear, once you are granted a patent, you don’t get the right to make the invention – you get the right to keep/stop others from making it and you can license others to make the invention for you if you don’t want to manufacture it yourself.

4. Why a Utility Patent?

Utility patents are a lot more expensive to get. In exchange for the monopoly, the inventor/patent owner must teach others how to create or duplicate the invention. The requirements are complex and require a lot of back and forth with the patent examiner. Here, your application must include specific descriptions of what other apparel, if any, is capable of making the wearer smarter, what is new and novel being taught here, how to make this shirt (hey – if you don’t want to share this new tech and it isn’t easy to reverse engineer, you should consider keeping it a trade secret… perhaps a blog post on trade secrets is next!), the best way to make this shirt, drawings of the shirt, and detailed claims (the metes and bounds of the invention) covering the shirt. A typical utility application can cost upwards of $25k, including USPTO costs and attorney fees.

An advantage of teaching this wearable tech and getting a utility patent would be that you could cover variations of this invention. If you can teach use of this tech in hats, pants, socks, and scarves, for example, you may not be limited to protecting your invention to just the shirt.

5. Why a Design Patent?

Design patents typically make it through the USPTO much faster than a utility patent; in fact, it could be years faster. It is also typically much cheaper. A design patent can be around $7k. This is because a design patent application does not include claims at the end of the patent or any written details describing how it is new vs. the what already exists or how to make the invention. A design application consists of just drawings.

On the flip side, the utility patent advantage is that you would be protected by any variations to the design patent you are granted. If a competitor changes aspects of your invention enough (altering the amount of straps, for example) so that an ordinary observer does not confuse your shirts, you would not win an infringement suit against her. It used to be that utility patents were thought to be “stronger” than design patents.

However, recent cases show that design patents have as many teeth as utility patents. The infamous Apple v. Samsung wars were fought over design patents and major apparel designers and clothing manufacturers are using design patents to protect themselves. Lululemon has multiple design patents on its sports bras and yoga pants and hasn’t been afraid to assert them.

Lulu has sued Calvin Klein, G-III and Under Armour; while they haven’t gone to trial and the settlements are confidential, Lulu’s aggressive enforcement supports the strength of design patents.

Now you know the basics of patenting your new smart shirt clothing line… now go put it on and decide which one, or both, to pursue!

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Olivia Bedi

Partner

Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg

8 Things You Need to Consider Before You Manufacture Your Clothing Line

Before your clothes roll off the production line, there are some things that you need to know. I've compiled this eight-point checklist that will improve your chances of manufacturing success.

1. CREATE A TECH PACK

First, you need to create a tech pack — it's a roadmap for manufacturing your clothing line. This sheet will include things like measurements, materials, and sizes. You will send your tech pack to your manufacturer so they know how to make your product according to your exact specifications.

2. ORDER CARE LABELS

Care labels are really important. They include valuable information about your clothing — the size of your garment, the country of origin, washing instructions, etc. Here in the United States, care labeling is a legal requirement — the Federal Trade Commission has clear guidelines on what you should include on your label — so make sure you get it right.

Labels can take up to eight weeks to receive, so order them early on in the manufacturing process.

3. CREATE COLORWAYS

Colorway layouts serve as a blueprint for manufacturers when they make your clothes. You need to submit these to your manufacturer and have them approved.

Colorways tell manufacturers the exact colors to use when producing your garments.

4. TEST FABRICS

Test your fabrics before you send them to your manufacturer. Once you're happy with the results, order the amount you need. This can take between 2-6 weeks (4-10 weeks for custom orders), so you need to act fast.

5. TEST YOUR TRIMS

You also need to test your trims before you can manufacture clothes. Order times are similar to fabrics: 2-6 weeks or 4-10 weeks for custom orders.

6. APPROVE THE FINAL SAMPLE

This is the most important point on this list. The problem is, designers often forget to do this, which causes a lot of problems.

Once your manufacturer has sent you a final sample. You need to test and approve it. Check that it meets your requirements and brief. If it doesn't, you need to ask your manufacturer to make changes.

7. APPROVE THE FINAL PATTERNS

Once you have approved the final sample, you need to check the final patterns. Don't just focus on one size — you need to approve garments in every size you plan to sell. If there are problems, talk to your manufacturer.

8. CREATE A PURCHASE ORDER

By now, you should be good to go. But there is one final step: Creating a purchase order. Your purchase order is a document that lists your product quantities and agreed prices, and you will need to send this to your clothing manufacturer.

Follow the eight steps on this list if you want to streamline the apparel manufacturing process and get your garments to market in a quicker time frame. Ready to manufacture your clothing line? Download our checklist and find out!

Want to learn more about the clothing industry? The Apparel Academy provides you with the skills you need if you are trying to understand the business side of fashion. Click here to find out more.

Why we make in the USA & not China

When I started this journey of owning and operating a USA Clothing factory it all stemmed from a background of making clothing overseas. I had worked for a few companies as head of product development and had visited several factories in other countries. The conditions were horrid. 

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Here's the thing: I knew they were only showing us the "good" factories. I know they were prepared for our visit and I know they were proud of these factories. With that being known, I can't imagine what it is like in the underbelly that was never exposed. 

These are the conditions I walked into: An armed guard at a gated factory that seemed more gated for the purpose of keeping people in than keeping people out. The workers lived at the factory in squalid conditions that many times we were not allowed to tour. The workers got 1 day off a year. Seriously, 1 day a year. That is what was told to me by one worker I spent some time with. They were fed in slop lines at the factory. They worked 14 hour days, 7 days a week. Their room and board came out of their pay, with little to none left after those expenses. 

One day while I was working in one of these factories (in a plush office removed from the production scene) the internet shut down. I asked what happened with the internet. I was told that they shut it down because the lunch bell had rang and they did not want their workers accessing the internet.  It was at that point, I truly understood these workers are basically prisoners without the free will to come and go as they please working in slave-like conditions. 

As I walked through the factory, the eyes of the workers were glazed and lifeless. I tried on several occasions to engage with them but I was met with fear, exhaustion and shells of humans. It truly is grim, as grim as you can imagine. Need I remind you, these are the factories we were allowed to see, the "good" ones. 

As I left one particular clothing factory we passed a famous factory called Foxconn who is know for making the iphone. My driver pointed to the worker housing and then pointed out the nets that were being hung below windows and balconies. These nets were the solution to stop workers from jumping and committing suicide. 

I am sharing this story because it is a huge part of why I started and operate a made in USA clothing factory. We are proud of what we do here. Proud of the wages we pay, proud of our skilled workers that also have home lives. We are proud of the life and light and exuberance in our building and proud to make in the USA. 

I am also sharing this story because I know many people will never have the same opportunity as me. I also understand, if you don't see it for yourself it is easy to push away the thought and ignore it.  I want people to think twice before buying that $10 t-shirt. Understand how that $10 shirt came to be. Someone somewhere has paid for that shirt. If we all cut down on our fast and cheap fashion consumption, we can better lives. If we are willing to own less and own better quality, we can change lives. If we are willing to ask companies #whomademyclothes and let them know we do care, we can change lives. All the power is in the consumer. That is how it will change. 

4 Reasons Why Production-Friendliness Matters

Design is a creative process. Partnering with designers gives us the opportunity to support their creative vision. As a cut-and-sew clothing manufacturer, our focus is helping those designers bring their brands to market in an efficient, cost-effective way. To that end, our company guarantees that any garment we develop is production-friendly, key to the success of small batch manufacturing.

Why does production-friendliness matter? We'd like to highlight four key reasons why any new piece has to work from both a creative and a production standpoint for brands who seek product consistency and a substantial profit margin.

1. PATTERN AND PROTOTYPES NEED TO BE REPEATABLE

Some brands may tailor to a specific clientele who buy unique, one-of-a-kind items. Most designers are not in this select group, and want to do a production run of a specific garment. In the development stage, it is essential to determine whether we can make several of the same garment at a later point in time.

If a design is too complicated, it may be challenging to implement quality controls that ensure consistency of the later product. This may be the essential difference between coming to us to get a sample of your garment, compared to a tailor. While we are also dedicated to creating a beautiful piece, we have the additional insight to recommend how it might be modified to ensure your buyers know what to expect.

2. QUALITY CONTROL FOR A FULL RUN

Another factor is the ability to ensure quality control, not only on a sample garment, but on a later production run. We accomplish this in various ways, such as pattern making, universal markings, drill holes, and templates. These tools tell the sewers precisely where to place specific details.

If the pattern is not sufficiently repeatable, quality control is a substantial challenge. Every detail is important, from the placement of your brand label to the guage of the needle used to stitch the seams. When two items that are supposed to be identical go to market with obvious flaws, it reflects poorly on your brand -- something we want to prevent.

3. TRIMS THAT ARE FUNCTIONAL AND EASY TO SOURCE

Often, the trims in a garment reflect a designer's personal style. They are therefore not interchangeable with just any other element; they can compose an essential part of the piece. At the same time, they must stand up to use. You must be able to source them when time comes for a full production run.

Part of our process is to closely analyze the trim, including snaps, zippers, buttons, and buckles, to confirm they are easy to order in bulk. The details that appear in the sample have to reflect what will go through the manufacturing process. They have to be durable, holding up to repeated washings and wearings by the final consumer.

4. DEVELOPING A COST-EFFECTIVE PRODUCT

In our work for brands, we are always thinking about the ultimate cost of production. This is front of mind as we analyze the trim and create the pattern. Often, we will work with the designer to break down the product if we sense it has become too complicated to be cost-effective.

Ultimately, we want our clients to have a product that's economically viable and consistent with their brand. To that end, we help them decide what's important in a design and what can be removed. The result is a strong partnership based on a shared vision of creating and selling a great textile product.

These are the kinds of perspectives we bring to our courses on apparel entrepreneurship, offered through The Apparel Academy.

3D Prototyping what is it? And 4 reasons to use it for your next clothing line!

Today, I'm going to teach you something very important about manufacturing.
When you think of prototyping your designs, you probably think of building a one-of-a-kind early rendition, then rinsing and repeating until you have something perfect. These physical, traditional prototypes are also, yeah, 3D...but when we say "3D prototyping", we're actually referring to a different, much more efficient process.

Once upon a time, all design- not just clothing- was done by hand, with tools, by workers. This, however, is expensive, so US clothing manufacturers have gone overseas, where labor is cheaper and more plentiful...at the expense of American workers and ethical manufacturing.

Make no mistake: reducing labor cost is a smart business move, and any serious apparel entrepreneur should want to do it. But what if you were able to save money and American jobs?

This is where 3D prototyping comes in.

#1: FITTING SESSIONS ARE EASIER THAN EVER, THANKS TO CUSTOM AVATARS

Let's face it: not everyone looks like Angelina Jolie or Chris Hemsworth. (I certainly don't!) If you only design apparel around those body types, you're going to get a lot of unhappy consumers.

Using custom avatars, you can create your average body for the demographic you're targeting. You can really create any kind of custom avatar you want- what's important is that it matches with your target demographic.

Once you have a custom avatar and 3D prototyping, you get to perform virtual fitting sessions. Virtual fitting sessions will show how your design looks on a realistic human form, allowing you to spot and fix design issues more quickly, and see how well it actually fits.

With the right parameters, you can create a tension map, showing how the clothes fit the model, whether it's too tight, too loose or just right. All this without leaving your computer, without having to pay to get a traditional prototype manufactured or a model to try it on.

#2: 3D SAMPLES CAN BE USED FOR CROWDFUNDING, INVESTMENT, AND MARKETING PURPOSES

3D prototyping can also be used to create photorealistic renders of your product, which can then be used for marketing purposes.

Say, for instance, you want to launch a Kickstarter campaign for an innovative shoe design- 3D prototyping can get you a very enticing proof of concept at a fraction of the price.

#3: GREATLY STREAMLINES APPAREL CREATION PROCESS

Efficiency is the name of the game in business.

With traditional clothing and apparel manufacturing, you have four steps: design, prototype, tech design, and final manufacturing. The problem is that these steps cost time and labor that you're trying to save money on, and you may have to repeat these steps multiple times before you can finish the process.

With 3D prototyping, you can streamline the first three steps into one, which can be quickly and easily repeated and iterated on until you've reached perfection.

#4: IT'S CHEAPER AND MORE ETHICAL

You hear the horror stories all the time. People working for unimaginably low wages- children, even. Low safety standards. Accidents. Laborers overseas being cruelly exploited, en masse, for the benefit of American consumers.

If you're interested in ethical manufacturing, that probably bothers you. Fortunately, you don't need to stoop to that to be successful in this business- thanks to the reasons listed above, 3D prototyping will save you a lot of money, money that would normally be unfathomably more expensive with American manufacturing.

You won't be hiring as many workers, sure, but the ones you have will be safe, happy, and well-compensated for their work. And you will have a sustainable manufacturing model.

If all of this is compelling to you, then I want to help you out.

I run an Apparel Academy Mentoring Group. For $20, you can get a month of mentoring from myself and other experts at Clothier Design Source, where we can teach you all you need to know about manufacturing clothing and making the most of innovative technologies like 3D prototyping.

6 Surprises in the Apparel Industry

When you’re starting an apparel line, it’s easy to assume that all it takes to produce the designs you want is a few sketches, some fabric and a production team. But what you’ll find is that there are several aspects of the process that just may surprise you. That’s because there’s usually a ton more involved than you may expect. Here are six surprises in the apparel industry we’ve learned along the way:

1: YOU’LL PRODUCE LESS THAN YOU DESIGN

It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs new to the fashion industry to underestimate how much goes into the process of manufacturing a clothing line. But we've found that you'll "over-design” and produce just a fraction of your concepts. For instance, it’s common to create 100 designs for your collection. But by the time you take it to an apparel factory for manufacturing, you may only create four to ten designs out of the entire collection. That’s because your designs get narrowed down by each step of the process. At market, you may only show 50 or 75 designs out of the 100 you first produced. Then those designs are edited even further so that it’s ready for manufacturing.

2: KNITS AND WOVENS ARE TWO VERY DIFFERENT WORLDS

When you create a knit collection versus a woven collection, you’ll soon learn that these are two very different worlds of fabric. There are apparel manufacturers, fabric vendors, pattern makers and even sewers that specialize in knit and others that specialize in woven fabrics. That means you’ll need to find the right team to handle the type of collection you’re trying to make. For example, if you design your apparel collection with woven materials, then you’ll need a cut and sew clothing manufacturer who specializes in wovens to produce the line for you.

3: THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF KNIT TECHNIQUES

From different gauges to various weaves, the world of knit fabrics is even more specialized than you may think. There are research and development (R&D) teams that even specialize in specific yarns and techniques. So, it’s worth doing your due diligence and finding an apparel manufacturer that specializes in the type of knit technique you need.

4: PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT IS VERY IMPORTANT

While it’s great to design clothes, if the clothes you’re making isn’t “production-friendly,” it won’t last. You have to take the necessary steps to produce a quality line especially since this can impact your brand's reputation. This includes making the time to develop a prototype, which is a key step we include in our four-step process at Clothier Design Source.

5: TIMELINES ARE EVERYTHING

It’s not uncommon to see fast fashion companies today create their own timelines and make clothes for customers in a matter of months or even weeks. But if you want to create an original collection and not follow copies, production takes time. You have to design seasons ahead of what's in stores today and work a year in advance. But getting these products to the consumer on time is less challenging when you opt to get your apparel made in America. A USA clothing factory can help speed up the time it takes to deliver the product for a USA-based audience since they are physically located near your base customer.

6: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DETAILS

We've realized that every detail that goes into your garments matters. From the trims to the construction to the technical design, you have to consider every factor as it can impact the look and final cost of your apparel line. For example, if you design your apparel collection with knit materials, then you’ll need an apparel design factory, pattern maker, and technical designer who specializes in knits to produce the line for you.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Whether it’s a new apparel designer or a long-standing USA clothing manufacturer, we’ve partnered with a wide variety of apparel entrepreneurs and organizations to help them bring their vision to life, including helping them find out more about the apparel industry through the Apparel Academy and Facebook group, the Apparel Academy Mentoring group. Don’t be caught by surprise. Instead, team up with a fabric expert with the experience you need in finding the right fabrics for your clothing line. We're here to help you get started. Contact us

5 Things to Look for When Sourcing Your Fabric!

Today's apparel entrepreneurs know that becoming an expert in raw materials will give you the edge you need to market your apparel designer skills to clients.

But as a longtime apparel entrepreneur, I've learned that one of the essentials is knowing how to tell certain fabrics, and their construction, apart from others.

I've therefore put this list of five things to look for when sourcing your fabric. Knowing the answers to these key things will make all the difference in the world when it comes to the success of your fabric sourcing.

1. THE CONTENT TEST

The tag on any given shirt will only give you about 15% of the information you need about the content of the fabric. So to go to a manufacturer and say that you have a favorite shirt with material that is 97% cotton and 3% spandex, for instance, would only give the manufacturer a small glimpse into what you, precisely, are looking for.

2. IS THE FABRIC KNIT OR WOVEN?

This is one of the most basic elements of knowing your fabric. If you're new to the industry, however, you may not know this. A lot of people don't know the difference between the two fabrics. But knowing the difference is actually one of the key things that will answer a series of other questions for you. For instance, which manufacturer will you go to? What vendors will you outsource to? Most fabric mills specialize in either one or the other -- knit or woven -- so don't count on having a "one-stop shop" for your fabric, either.

3. WHAT TYPE OF KNOT OR WEAVE?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of types of knots and weaves that are available. The trick is to determine which type, specifically, you are looking for. The way the fabric is tied together determine the type of knot -- or weave -- it is.

4. WHAT'S THE WEIGHT OF THE FABRIC?

Fabrics are measured by the gram. So, a fabric that's 199 g. is obviously going to be a different type of fabric than one that's 300 g. Even if two fabrics have the same characteristics as described above, they will be completely different fabrics if they have different weights.

5. WHAT'S THE GAUGE OF THE YARN?

You can have two fabrics that have the same characteristics in every other category, but if they have two different gauges of yarn, they will be two completely different fabrics.

FOR APPAREL DESIGNERS: CONCEPTION TO COMPLETION

To succeed in this competitive line of work, consider teaming up with a fabric expert. Many US clothing manufacturers and apparel designers partner with Clothier Design Source for this very reason.

We source fabrics from wholesale vendors across the globe and can arrange made-to-order or specially developed custom fabrics. We listen to your vision, suggest the best raw materials, and present you with hand-selected swatches to evaluate.

You select the perfect material and let us take care of the sourcing, ordering, or other requirements.

Interested to know more? Get tips and descriptions on clothing design services and all related apparel development issues by subscribing to our YouTube channel today. Or click here to join our Apparel Entrepreneur Academy!