You have a great concept, you have the backing and the drive, but all of these things can’t make a line successful if it doesn't ship on time.
One of the biggest pitfalls for designers is staying on schedule and making their deliveries on time. It’s a struggle to design, produce, ship and sell on time, especially for designers who are learning how the fashion calendar works. The industry has standard dates that are predetermined for designers to follow as guidelines:
- Fabric shows – when the season’s fabrics become available
- Sales shows – when the current season collection is presented to stores
- Store delivery dates – when stores accept orders
Designers who end up with late product either do not stick to their calendars or are setting their calendars up incorrectly.
How you organize your time before and in between these industry dates will make or break your business. It’s easy to get caught up in the design process, forget about Chinese New Year and mill closings, or not realized that the trim you want is out of stock and needs 6 weeks for delivery. Argh!
This is where a TIA – Time in Action— calendar comes in. You can build your calendar by marking key industry dates and then working backwards from your final due date keeping these guidelines in mind.
Below is a list of important dates to help guide you:
1. DESIGN – Work backwards and see how much time you realistically have for design
TIP: As a general rule, this time needs to start earlier than you think! You should have an idea of the collection, concept, silhouettes and fabrications you are looking for while at the fabric shows. This way you can order sampling to test early on while making muslins. Try to have your ideas and details hashed out before starting your first samples.
2. DEVELOPMENT OF PATTERNS & SAMPLES – Block a time for development and STICK to it! Think through every detail in terms of fit, construction, fabrication and be decisive. It’s easy to keep designing but there is a moment when you have to say yes or no and move on. You should strive to go through 1 or 2 rounds of this and then proceed to final samples.
3. SAMPLE MAKING – Make sure you give your sample room or factory ample time and all the trims that they need. They get booked up and you want to make sure your garments are sewn properly so you will have an accurate sample to show the buyers.
4. SHOW DATES/ SAMPLES READY - Where are you showing (NY fashion week, a booth at a trade show such as Coterie, D&A, or at a showroom)? Do you need one set of sales samples or more? Do they need to go to the showroom or be photographed for a look book? (BTW - It’s always good to shoot the clothes before they go to the showroom or show as it can often be hard to get them all back as sales doesn’t like to relinquish them).
5. SALES DATES - There is a certain time frame the collection will be shown during market, which occur during set times in various locations. Are you doing more than one market? LA & Paris shows are later than NY. Do these dates interfere with your fabric ordering? Are you able to project your fabric buy? You may have to in order to get your fabric in on time.
6. FABRIC – How long does it take for your fabric to arrive? Is it a stock item or does it need to be woven/knitted from scratch? Most production fabric coming from Italy takes 8-10 weeks but could even be 10-12. Lab dips for custom colors will add time to this. Add in time for an approval cutting before they ship bulk so you make sure that your fabric is finished correctly. Consider their Holidays—Italy is usually closed for the month of August. Not ordering fabrics on time is a fatal error because when fabric ships late, factory gets it late, factory ships late, you ship late and lose credibility and business. All of this can be avoided if carefully planned for.
7. TRIM – Don’t forget the trim! Does it need to be special ordered? Certain colors, finishes, sizes etc. take extra time. Make sure when you sample that you know what the delivery date (and minimum) is to order more trim if they are out of stock.
8. PRODUCTION - How long will it take to produce the clothing? (be realistic J) Add two weeks to this time for extra cushion. Factories are busy so the sooner you get your cut work in the better off you are. Don’t let holidays take you by surprise - Chinese New Year, European Christmas or summer holidays can seriously bum you out and mess everything up if you do not allow for that extra time so add accordingly.
9. DELIVERY DATES –While this is the last step, this should be the first date on the calendar during which everything will be planned backwards from. For example:
- Fall 7/30 & 8/30
- Spring 1/30 & 2/28
TIP: Make sure it is clear if you offer an ex warehouse delivery date or an in store date. Also note that department stores have special procedures for shipping so take note that this often will take time to set up, and may even require outside help. Stores will cancel orders if they are late and you will be left with product.
Working backwards from the above list will help you stay organized and keep realistic goals for sample making and production. To help you with planning your calender here is a general industry calender that you can download and use.
Best of luck planning!