Product Focus

The most important thing to remember in building and editing a line is to focus and keep it simple. Most designers enter the fashion industry with the intent to be creative. They envision endless sketching and visits to museums for inspiration. The reality is start up designers don’t have time to be creative. Less than 2% of your time will be spent on the creative process - the remaining 98% is in the details.

The fashion industry is highly segmented. A typical manufacturer will specialize in a particular customer range such as Missy or a specific lifestyle segment such as Resort.

Peculiarities of operation and unique sales procedures are associated with each category. Building a line with several “non related” product lines requires several different suppliers, supply sources, production and selling methods.

The famous Liz Claiborne started her company based on the fact that she felt that there wasn’t any adequate and comfortable clothing for working women. So, she started off with just a few pieces, including pants, skirts, sweaters, and shirts, all of which became a huge success. Claiborne found her niche in the market and went with it, finding where the need was.

Consider that virtually all successful designers started out small with key items they excelled in. They then branched out into complete collections.

  • Ralph Lauren started with ties

  • Kate Spade started with handbags

  • Calvin Klein started with jeans

  • Nicole Miller started with printed patterned ties

  • Juicy Couture started with form-fitting T-Shirts

  • Vera Wang started with bridal gowns

  • Josie Natori started with embroidered shirts

  • Todd Oldham started with sequined and beaded gowns

  • Liz Lange started with maternity

  • Eileen Fisher started with French terry coordinates

  • Linda Evangelista started a clothing company for Yoga devotees

  • Easel Jeans started with unique jeans

  • Adolfo started with hats

  • Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel started with hats

  • Salvatore Ferragamo began as a shoemaker

  • Gianfranco Ferre started with jewelry

  • Halston started with hats

  • Diane Von Furstenberg started with moderately priced dresses

  • Giorgio Armani started with Men’s formalwear

  • Anne Klein started with Junior size clothing

  • Fernando Sanchez focused first on furs then lingerie

  • Josie Natori started with embroidered shirts

and the list goes on…

For a start-up, keeping the line small and manageable is important. Use your first two seasons to create a specific niche product that is high in quality, style and is unique. In general, first collections consist of 10 - 20 pieces offered in various styles, colors and materials.

Generally, building an entire collection of product lines- outerwear, blazers, pants, blouses and dresses- is too overwhelming for one person. Estimate one full time employee per product line. If you decide to include sweaters, overcoats, jeans, handbags and jewelry in your first collection, the bulk of your effort could go to managing five different contractors, then five different sales reps and finally five different retail buyers. Not a smart use of time when starting out.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are Christian Dior. ; )