We are very lucky to have a guest post from our Designer, Alison Lennard this week. She is sharing her design process; the steps involved in creating a range, and the timeline.
Analysis and Forecasting
I always start with considering the prior corresponding season, as well as the contrast season in between's success.
Looking at what worked, what didn’t work, what was missing, what did we have too much of.
I look if each state differed, or if there a resounding winner nationally. I
'm also following up with what worked well at retail as opposed to wholesale, and vice versa too.
Looking at and evaluating the Season predictions, from various paid and free resources
Watching all RTW and couture shows for inspiration
I create a Pinterest board each season to keep references in one place, and allow my suppliers access so they can see my train of thought
Trends have arcs; where are we at on its curve is a question I constantly ask myself
Selecting colour palette focus and deciding on key fabrications to include
Best sellers - which to continue
Establish percentages of fashion pieces, showpony pieces and essential pieces
How big /small the range should be
An escape from the day to day
An opportunity to immerse in the new
Fabrics, trims, shapes and general ideas
Commonly it’s Hong Kong, but Hawaii is great too.
After all the research and ideas, this then needs to be collated into theme and story boards which can be shown as inspiration to our fabric sources for their suggestions.
I then present these themes to the entire team at our “Range Day” and we have an open forum of print selection. Prints can be subjective and are our brand's identity so we choose via majority rule.
We cannot always produce the fabrics we love within margin. Once we select the qualities we want to use, then the haggle of costings begin.
Timing is getting tight by this point; as a general rule fabrics take 60 days from order to be produced and we need to allow for shipping time too.
Although our clothing is manfactured in Australia, the fabric is nearly all produced overseas
I am punting on sales, as we pre-order bulk so that we have a quicker production turnaround after sales.
Thismeans we can cost the garments in the range at their true cost, rather than an estimated one. This would be the case if I only purchased sampling up front.
As 80% of our fashion fabrics are exclusive to us, it is necessary to follow this process to keep that individuality.
I always start with any plain running line fabrications, such as Bengaline, Vintage chiffon or Silky jersey. This is because the fabric is always to hand.
We often replicate a new style in both print and plain, and this is the most important part of the collection in terms of volume sellers.
Each collection on average has 200 new and unique pieces within it
I design by hand, choosing to draw the style rather than by computer and then discuss each style's feel and block with our pattern maker.
Fun fact - I never design at work. I do it all at home at night, as I need peace to do so.
Each style has its own unique pattern number and style name and what we refer to as a “kit” is created. This folder includes all the information needed to take this sketch into the reality of a garment.
Once an initial pattern is made, sample cut and sewn, it is fitted on our in-house model to ensure it matches the vision and fits to perfection.
On approval, the style is then referred to as “sealed” and can then proceed to salesman sample stage.
Although every initial sample /sealer is produced in-house, our production makers produce the five samples needed (one for each state) which alerts us to any make method which may be unfeasible in bulk production.
An important part of the process, and imperative to the success of every style; both at customer order stage and also to our bottom line.
Margin for all is always key.
It’s important that the collection has a cohesive feel, so ensuring that we have the product balance correct is discussed with the sales team for their input.
We have a medley of boutique customer accounts and we need to ensure we have enough to appeal to all. Often a few extra styles will be added after this discussion or one or two show pony pieces may be held until the following season if they are too early for the current fashion flow.
I also establish the monthly drops to coincide with weather for each story and how the flow from look to look goes across the collection.
Photoshoot and Look Book
The culmination of five months' work is the photoshoot.
Styling the feel, outfits and range book layout is all done prior to the day so that we can handle the mammoth task of shooting it all in just two days.
The Look Book then goes into print and the images are chosen for marketing.
Showrooms are ready simultaneously in all states and we start the range presentations and offering the pieces for sale.
The selling window is between 4 to 6 weeks.
In theory, my design role finishes at this point and my sales role kicks in.
During the sales period, we will refit every style to ensure we are happy before each piece is then graded to our complete sizing offer of 8 -18.
All initial samples, ones in the showroom and used for our shoots are size 10.
At close of sales, we consolidate orders by fabric type and timeline
Additional fabrics and trims are ordered and the bulk cuts are raised by delivery month.
Production Manager role kicks in here
All production is cut in-house while manufacture is done out of house by our contract makers who all specialise in certain types of garments.
Coinciding with the indent sales launch of the next season, this season is now dispatched to store
Follow up with boutiques is needed and we begin the promotion of the pieces online and the additional sales of in season stock.
End of season
Be it an 8 week window like Winter or a 6 month window like Summer, at the end of every season, our boutiques go on sale and we assist where we can with their promotion.
Timeline wise this whole process has taken just over a year. As each season rolls into another, I am working on four collections at any one time.
For example my juggle right now looks like this.
High summer 2018 - instore November /December is closing out at sale
Winter 2019 - February drop just delivered to store; March and April still in production.
Promotion just about to begin online
Summer 2019 - collection just launched and indent selling now
High Summer 2019 - fabric sourcing stage
Winter 2020 - initial research and analysis has begun. Catwalk shows and Pinterest stage.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the massive process that is undertaken by our fabulous design, Alison, and her team, to bring you your favourite Australian fashion label!