So you want to start a clothing line? Who do you serve?
As a designer or new start-up who wants to launch a fashion product, understanding your target client is more than just the obvious market segments this client belongs to. Without a clear picture of who your client is, there is no assurance that your product will matter to them, no matter how great it is. A product that doesn’t matter in it’s fullest capacity won’t make clear cut sales. Without clear cut sales, you don’t have a business. Period.
Many people come to see me wanting to bring a product to the forefront. Most often their idea stems from their own experiences and needs. They feel the products available to them do not provide the quality or performance they seek. This is a great start in the customer profile creation process. Yet this does not mean that an idea will be able to fill a niche strong enough to assure sustainability and an income with a passion project.
Just because complaints and issues regarding existing products exist, this does not mean that larger and more established companies have not explored these avenues before. Most often product leaders have studied these areas and decided that these areas would not provide enough sustainable business for them. Often a smaller company can profit from servicing these niche areas, yet this does not mean that a smaller company will be an instant success with their vision.
True development takes research, time and lots of testing. Yet before any of that can happen, a clear-cut picture of your vision is necessary. The most important part of this vision is WHO will buy your product and WHY.
Take the time to develop your AVATAR, Your SUPERHERO, your MUSE.
Here are some steps that are important to consider.
Step 1 — Understand Basic Market Segments:
The initial step is understanding what basic market segments your client belongs to.
· Gender: Men’s wear, Women’s wear, Gender neutral etc.
· Age Range: Infant, Toddler, children, tweens, teens, Junior women, mature women, seniors etc.
· Geographic: Is your product defined by a geographic segment? Are you designing Bathing suits? Winter coats?
· Behaviour: What is your client’s buying pattern? Where do they shop and why?
· Lifestyle: Does your product fulfill a need in a specific lifestyle area? Work, Hobbies and activities, economical, value-based viewpoints etc.
· Social: Who do they align themselves with? What social groups, circles etc. are they a part of? Do any of these specific social areas matter where your niche product is concerned?
· Economic: Income range, other economic situations that can be helpful in defining their needs
Step 2 — What will it take to fulfill these needs and wants:
What will make a difference for this product? What matters most? What are the standards, fit, quality, functions, price point and details that this client expects in this product? Define these as deeply as you can.
Step 3 — What brands does your client currently buy and WHY:
Once you have a deeper idea as to who your client is, begin to navigate what brands they buy and why. What does your client like about them. What do they wish was different? For what reason? Find 3 specific products currently in the market and create a comparison chart comparing the points you’ve outlined in step 2. Clearly list the pros and cons of each of these items in EACH AREA, include your product.
Step 4 — What does your target group say?
Many people don’t feel like discussing their ideas before they are real and concrete. However, if your impression of demand relies solely on your personal need for it, there is no guarantee that your product will succeed. Gather a group of Minimum 10 people and have them participate in a collaborated meeting to discuss your 3 comparisons.
Often people will take in friends or family members who are excited for their endeavor. Your friends are not always your clients. Do not be offended or discouraged by their lack of interest or support of your product for their own usage. If any of your friends or family members clearly fall within your client profile, awesome. If not, go out and find your dream client for your focus research. You want as much clarity as possible.
Step 5 — Is product performance feasible:
Once you have completed Steps #3 and 4, determine if your product can fulfill the cons of the other brands yet maintain the pros that the client will continue to expect in yours. One common area is PRICE. Small Start-ups should be cautious when wanting to produce an existing product for a better price point, especially if the existing product is being distributed by a large established brand. This is extremely risky and seldom successful unless the Startup has the resources to accomplish this. Improving an existing product in the market and targeting a client base willing to pay for these upgrades is often the best direction as this is what filling a niche really is.
Step 6 — Filtering the feedback:
With this valuable information you are now able to move forward. You have either established that creating this product may not be worth it or you’ve established a sincere need in the market and want to move forward with development. If the latter is determined, you can refine your client profile and clearly outline what you want for your product. Having a clear-cut list of expectations will allow the development phase to move quickly and assure a prototype as close to your requirements as possible.
So now what?
Designers with development training may attempt to move forward with PD on their own or choose to outsource specific areas. Areas that are most often outsourced are tech packs, computerized sketches, drafting, grading digitizing and technical specialists to verify and fine tune their final packages prior to production. Entrepreneurs without a design background wanting to develop textile products are best to hire product development companies to see them through the process.
Taken from my previous article written in 2018. Click here to read the original!
Colour Alchemist provides Product Development of Apparel and other Textile Products from Concept to Production Ready.
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