Tag Archives: production

Indie Designer Production Series Continued!

Have you been following my series on production over on the website blog?
A new post is up! This one covers how to work closest to the dollar when you purchase fabric up front. How do you manage sales? What do you do with excess fabric? And more!


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Don’t BEE afraid of production for your small fashion business

Don't BEE afraid of production for your small fashion business

Today I give you 2 approaches to master production for your small retail apparel business. http://tfbm.weebly.com/blog/2-approaches-to-production-for-your-retail-fashion-business

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June 16, 2014 · 5:43 pm

Production Planning For Your Small Fashion Apparel Business

I have started a series on production planning over on my website blog.  I will help you to define your production needs, inform you on what is involved in the production process and will finish with a download that will help you plan your production to increase your sales and income.  

Come read my last two posts to get caught up!



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June 13, 2014 · 5:05 pm

Wholesale Series: Production Planning

As I get into this wholesale series I am going to start with how my journey into wholesale began.  Some of you know this story already so I will keep it precise and brief.  In 2008 I opened my Etsy shop when I was 3 months pregnant and laid off from a nice paying job.  Unable to find a job I decided to take the plunge into the creative career I had always wanted.  I started by dusting off a sewing machine in my closet that I had never touched and equipped with the sewing teachings of my grandmother when I was a child and my computer (gotta love google!) I got to work.

I started with baby blankets and burp cloths and soon after I added faux fur children’s ponchos.  My ponchos were noticed by a shop in Japan.  (They found me on Etsy.)  The shop said they wanted to place a wholesale order and I was surprised when they ordered 60 ponchos for their first order.  I sewed every one myself.

After 3 more wholesale orders that season from that shop and another in Japan I gained the confidence to take the plunge into designing clothing.  I created my first collection based on the boutique styles I was exposed to on Etsy but I created my own patterns and designs.  I used designer woven cotton material.  I had the collection photographed, created a line sheet based on my own research and made a list of local shops to target.  I also sold this collection in my shop.  I then set out to find manufacturers.

Little did I know I had already made 2 major mistakes.  Do you know what they are?

  1.  I created a collection that would be expensive to produce.
  2. I marketed a line off season that I would be selling before it would ship to clients.

So let me get into mistake #1 today and I will pick up with #2 tomorrow.  So mistake #1 really has some other hidden mistakes (or learning opportunities for my fellow optimists).  While I did get some orders getting them through production was a huge learning curve for me.

a.       I didn’t understand how my garments would be produced on industrial sewing machines.  When I designed the collection I sewed my samples on a home sewing machine.  I had no idea how industrial machines worked or how my garments would be produced in a production line.  Most home sewing pattern using designer cotton require a large amount of top stitching.  Single needle work is time consuming and adds cost to production.

b.       I didn’t check on fabric supply prior to selling.  It was a sad day when I got another order and had to turn it down because the mill was out of fabric.  I did order wholesale direct but it turns out the mill stopped making that fabric line and I got the last bolts.  No they did not tell me this when I was ordering and being a rookie I didn’t ask.  Hard lesson learned as I could have had better profits with better planning.

c.        I didn’t budget a cut shop.  Or really even think too much about one until I met with the sew shops.  I figured they did it all at the sew shop but most sew shops are not full service and require you work with a cut shop.  Luckily I was referred to a very flexible cut shop that not only worked with my low minimums (though I had to pay extra for it) but they also made the master cut sheet for me using my paper patterns so I didn’t have to pay to have my patterns digitally reproduced.  This only worked because I had already graded all my patterns by hand.

d.      I used expensive fabrics.  The price of cotton has gone up substantially over the last few years but even prior to that it was expensive.  I was working with fabrics that were upwards of $6/yd wholesale.  Boutique children’s patterns with a lot of ruffle require 1.5-2yds of fabric on average.  So fabric alone was costing me $9.00/dress.

e.       Low minimums = high cost  I had to order labels at low minimums so my labels ended up costing me almost 50 cents each based on the design I picked.  Packing and shipping supplies and costs also added up quickly.  The sew and cut shops charged me more because my run was under 100 pieces per style.  All of this added up to costing me about $18/dress to produce.  I wholesale priced them at $24.  Not a good profit margin considering there are other overhead costs in running a business.

I had the idea in my head that as my volume went up my cost would go down but this was not the case in my first seasons.  I ended up making most of my money on the retail side of my business (my Etsy shop) while I worked on building the wholesale side.  This first production run using sewing shops may sound like a flop the way I described it but in the end it all turned out well and gave me some great knowledge and tools moving forward with future collections.

Here is what I want you to take away from my experience:

  1.  Gain an understanding of wholesale production.  You do not need to go to school you can simply do some online research and talk to people in the industry.  To get you started here is a post I did on finding sewing help and an overview of the production process.  https://thefashionbusinessmentor.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/finding-sewing-help/
  2. Be sure to ask about fabric stock before you design your collection.  Check out point 3 in this post to learn more about what you should ask and fabric planning.https://thefashionbusinessmentor.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/want-the-gritty-truth-my-top-3-flops-of-2012/
  3. Be sure you have a proper profit margin and if you don’t redesign and resource supplies and labor before you start selling.

In my next post I will cover planning for wholesale sales/seasons and designing and selling to not compete with your wholesale clients.  Until then…yours in success, Katie TFBM

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The Angry Designer

ImageCurious about my path to becoming a wholesaler and how it’s turned me into an angry designer? Read my latest blog post.

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How to Calculate Wholesale Prices

Pretty excited to bring you my first “Ask The Fashion Business Mentor” Post!

—-Is retail always 2xs wholesale?

At least.  Once you start selling to large chains they will talk down your wholesale price so they can turn a larger profit.  It also gives them more wiggle room for the big percentage sales (50% OFF!) they have.  They couldn’t make money if they only doubled wholesale and they will expect you to lower costs if you want to do business.  Keep this in mind when you price a collection that you plan to market to large chains.

–If you figure out what retail pricing would be according to the formula below, and think that it is too high, how low should you go to get the wholesale price down to get the retail price down?  Or do you make other changes such as fabric type to get the price down?        

  • cost of dress x 2 = wholesale x 2 = retail (if this is too high?)               
  • cost of dress x 1.5 = wholesale x 2 = retail               
  • cost of dress x 1.25 = wholesale x 2 = retail (Is this too low and not worth doing at this point?)

Fabulous questions I personally struggled with.  If it costs me $20 to make a dress it is very hard to ask $80 for it if my target market is toddlers.  Wholesale pricing is based on volume and when you sell in volume you buy in volume so your costs go down.  The problem is that if you are just starting out you aren’t getting the price breaks in materials or production (sewing).  You need to do some research and planning here to project volume costs:  

1.  Project Volume

Determine the volume you think you will sell in a season.  How many stores are you targeting and how many pieces do you think you will sell?  In forecasting you need to be realistic and conservative. 

2.  Get Volume Based Materials Quote

Determine how much fabric you will need for the season based on your projections.  Say you determine you need 30 yards of fabric (same color) and you need 3 colors.  So a total of 90 yards.  You will get wholesale pricing on this so find out what it is.  If you are already getting wholesale pricing you may get a larger discount for volume.  Ask and negotiate.  Almost all fabric dealers will negotiate and all of them offer wholesale pricing.  Buy from the source not the local fabric store.  You can buy a bolt of fabric direct for the same price as a few yards at your local shop. Don’t forget to get quotes on notions and labels too.

3.  Get Volume Based Production Quote

Talk to your seamstress/sew shop about costs based on volume.  How much if I bring you 10 of the same thing?  20?  50?  100?  Time yourself sewing the garment and see if this price is fair.  Keep in mind if you use a home machine for sewing it takes 1/3 of the time to do it on an industrial machine.  I have one and now that I have timed myself sewing I realized my seamstress was making $40/hr.  Too Much!!!

4.  Calculate how much one garment will cost based on these volume quotes 

Now use this formula:

cost of dress x 2 = wholesale x 2 = retail

If this is too high based on what you think is fair market value you can cut into your profit margin or you may need to make changes in fabric or how your garment is constructed.  You can ask your seamstress what part of the garment is taking the longest or how you can change the design to make it easier to produce.  OR You keep the high price and market it to high-end clients.  You may sell less but you have a larger profit margin.  If you do this then you really have to make a unique product worth the price not just slap a high price on a generally simple product.

So initially you will be making low volume (which will cost you more) but selling it for high volume prices.  Do the math though, don’t lose money to try to wholesale your line.  If you are losing money you need to make changes to your product or charge more.

Want to “Ask The Fashion Business Mentor” an anonymous question?  Email it to katie@kangacoo.com.  OK I will know who you are but I won’t tell.  However you may see your anonymous questions and my answers here on the blog.

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