Fashion product managers play a crucial role in the fashion industry – making sure that products are created smoothly from concept development to production.
But with such a broad scope of work, there can be a lot of questions about what the role truly entails.
So, in this article, we’ll explore the role of a fashion product manager, you’ll learn how different this role is from that of a production manager (spoiler alert: they are TOTALLY different!), what skills you need to work in this industry, potential earnings, and even opportunities for remote freelance work!
Let’s dive right in!
Why am I qualified to write about this stuff? In my 15 years of experience in the fashion industry, I’ve journeyed from being an in-house designer, starting my own brand (yep!), to growing my freelance career to $100,000+. Now, with all the knowledge I’ve learned along the way, I want to help fashion designers (and PDs, TDs, etc.) like you make it in the industry.
Fashion product managers oversee the development and production of fashion products, ensuring that they align with the fashion/retail company’s vision, quality standards, and market demand.
It’s the fashion product manager’s job to coordinate closely with all the team members involved in the product development – from the design team, merchandisers, planners, up to the suppliers and manufacturers. Their expertise helps maintain balance between creativity and commercial viability and making sure that the designs are feasible for production.
Fashion product managers often find themselves buried in spreadsheets as they manage budgets and timelines which are key elements in ensuring any successful collection launch.
This role involves lots of juggling, but it can be incredibly rewarding “owning” products and pushing them out in the market.
To get into detail, a fashion product manager role involves overseeing the following areas:
People often confuse the two as they sound alike. And although both need to collaborate closely with each other to make sure that garments get launched successfully – these two roles are distinct.
A fashion product manager focuses on the overall lifecycle of a fashion product, from design conception to delivery. Their responsibilities include market research, trend analysis, material sourcing, design collaboration, production oversight, budgeting, and ensuring the final product aligns with the fashion brand’s vision and market demand. They serve an important role in balancing design creativity and commercial viability, ensuring products not only meet quality standards but are also aligned with the brand’s business objectives and consumer preferences.
A production manager, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with the manufacturing process. They are responsible for the efficient, timely, and cost-effective production of goods. This includes managing the production team, scheduling, quality control, inventory management, and ensuring that products are manufactured within budget constraints. Production managers focus on optimizing processes, minimizing waste, and ensuring the smooth flow of operations on the factory floor.
Gaining industry experience is super important to become a fashion product manager. In fact, a lot of fashion product managers started out as designers themselves.
Here are important factors to consider to become a fashion product manager:
If you want more insights, I have a podcast interview with Emilee Goff where she shares how she snagged an internship in the fashion industry within a week of graduating high school – and how she pursued a career as a product manager.
And another pod interview with Shelby Collins, a fashion merchandiser and product manager. In this interview, we get into the nuances of working on the production/merchandising side of the business vs working in design/development. Shelby also shares some great tips on preparing for interviews and networking as a product manager.
Here’s a fashion product manager job description sample:
As a Fashion Product Manager at [Your Company Name], you will play a pivotal role in the end-to-end product development process. You, as an industry expert, will collaborate closely with our design, sourcing, and marketing teams to bring our creative visions to life. Your expertise ensures that our products not only meet the highest quality standards but also align seamlessly with our brand identity and market demand in the fast-paced retail industry.
Talking about money can be uncomfortable, but let’s rip off the band-aid. As a fashion product manager, your paycheck depends on several factors like experience level, company size, and location.
According to Glassdoor, the average salary for this role in the US spans from $70k to over $120k annually.
Working in-house is great for some, but what if I told you there’s a way around where you can also dictate your own prices and work at your own time?
What most people don’t expect is that almost every job in fashion is totally doable remotely and on a freelance role (yes, even freelance fashion designers, technical designers, pattern makers, and so on!).
And this does not exclude fashion product managers. As a freelance fashion product manager, you can leverage your skills to drive projects from concept to creation while enjoying the freedom of remote work by utilizing online organization and communication tools.
You gain the autonomy to choose who you collaborate with and which products to develop. Plus, freelancers often have higher earning potential compared to their employed counterparts when they maximize their opportunities correctly.
Becoming a freelancer lets you set your own hourly rate based on expertise and demand for your services. And you can say goodbye to the 9-5 grind (where you’re tied to a desk all day every day) and hello to a flexible lifestyle.
Ready to take the leap? You can get started with my free step-by-step guide to freelancing in fashion.