Successful Fashion Designer Podcast interview with Anna Mora and Sew Heidi

SFD017: Picking a Niche Market for Your Fashion Brand with Anna of VMora

It’s easy to feel like you should design for everyone. But the old adage of “if you speak to everyone you speak to no one” holds true, even in the fashion industry. Here’s why picking a niche market for your fashion brand will make it easier to build a loyal audience and sell your designs.

Anna Livermore is founder of VMora, a fashion business and production consulting company that works one on one with independent designers. In this interview, she shares where many designers waste money that has little to no return, why you should look at your first round of production as a test, and why staying specific and niche with your idea is better than trying to please every body.

You will learn:

  • How much you need to budget for each design
  • Why timeline, costing and budgeting are essential for success
  • The number one (and number two) thing brands spend money on that have little to no ROI (and where to spend your $$ instead)
  • How to make sure your fit is perfect so it sells
  • Where most creative designers get stuck during development and production
  • The challenges of finding an investor for your fashion collection
  • How to build your audience before launching a product
  • Why having a specific niche audience will help you build lifelong customers
  • The value of staying true to your product and story and not trying to create something for everyone
  • The common mistake most designers make when choosing a market
  • How to budget your finances and time to increase success
  • Why being humble will get you further than having a big ego
  • How to make sure a factory is a good match for your product
  • Why you should look at your first round of production as a test

Guest Info & Resources:

Successful Fashion Designer Podcast interview with Anna Livermore and Sew Heidi

Enjoy the show? You can help us out by:

Save this “Picking A Niche Market for Your Fashion Brand” episode to Pinterest so you can find it later:

Picking A Niche Market for Your Fashion Brand

Looking for more resources?

SFD017: Full Podcast Transcription

Heidi: Hey everybody this is Sew Heidi and you’re listening to the Successful Fashion Designer Podcast we all knew that the fashion industry is brutally competitive and it takes loads of hard work to get ahead the problem is that everyone’s secretive and tight-lipped about their ways. After working as a designer and educator for over a decade I wanted to help break down those barriers and bring you valuable knowledge from industry experts and this show is exactly where you’ll find that whether you’re trying to break into the fashion world make yourself more marketable launch your own label or become a successful freelancer we’ll help you get ahead in this cutthroat fashion industry. This is episode 17 of these Successful Fashion Designer Podcasts, and today I’m chatting with Anna founder of VMora a fashion business and production consulting company that works one-on-one with independent designers in the interview Anna’s shares where many designers waste money that has little to no return why you should look at your first round of production as a test and why staying specific and niche with your idea is better than trying to please everybody.

Anna: I would say the common mistake I see designers is they’ll have an idea but then they water it down because they’re trying to please too many people so the tighter the audience you can home NAnna but that person will be your friend we’ll be apart forever.

Heidi: Before we jump into the interview I have a quick favor to ask if you enjoy this episode you can help me get bigger name guests on the show by leaving a rating on iTunes with more ratings and reviews it gives the show leverage and convincing higher value guests to do interviews which brings you even more valuable content it only takes 60 seconds and I’d really appreciate it visit to leave your rating and as always thanks for your support and help to access the show notes for today’s episode visit now on to the interview with Anna I would love to have you introduce yourself and tell everybody about your business and everything that you guys do.

Anna: Sure, I’m Hannah Livermore and I’m owner of the VMora and at VMora we work with designers in the production process of launching their clothing line we also help with sales and marketing so basically anything that I need to be as successful as possible we do patterns and samples we source fabrics tech packs and help manage production and then we set them up for sales and marketing.

Heidi: Awesome. And so like what stage would someone be at when they would come to you for help?

Anna: We work with designers in all stages so if they’re brand brand-new and they haven’t done anything we can help set them up you know even doing a design and edit together their designs that are going to be you know that we have experience in it in the industry so we’ll know sells best and what they’ll meet in the collection how many pieces to do or they can come to us when they already have design they can come to us and they’ve already done a few seasons of production and they’re looking to be more cost-effective they can come to us when they have a full runner production they’re looking to sell and market and get into boutiques or they need help with social media so we work with friends on all levels we just sit in and figure out how we can make the system as efficient as possible.

Heidi: Yeah. And so, and I mean I’d love to kind of dive in a little bit to the true realities of having your own brand whether it be launching the first time or whether it be you know like you said you’re in your third season and you’re trying to be more efficient or trying to get into more retail outlets and I think some of it can come off really glamorous on the surface and then when you really look behind the scene …

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …it’s a whole different animal and so you know I’d love to know like in general where do you find most designers seem to get stuck what are some of the biggest challenges to overcome?

Anna: I would say it depends we have when you think of designer you think of someone creative so if it’s somebody with that background I would say the biggest downfalls for them is not doing their budgeting they’re costing and their timeline and thinking I have a great product and once I make it it’s going to sell itself so I think that that is a common misconception you have to have your business at the end of the day it’s a business so you have to have your budgeting all the way through you’ve got to have your costing on your garment right so that you’re in profitable you can be launching on schedule that people are buying so those are all really important things to think about if you’re really creative so you know happy more we have a class just around those three things timeline costing budgeting and I say always getting those things in order I know it’s not the fun part but it’s it is it very empowering to know I can spend a thousand dollars on fabric this season because that’s what’s in my budget I can spend three grand on my website because that’s what’s in my budget you know if you have an amazing design but you run out of money there’s nothing you can do so just being mindful and planning out you know I’m not huge I’m like planning out every single step of the way like you’re going to launch and you’re going to find out who your actual client is what sizes are selling there’s no way to predict that 100% but there are some things that you can plan for that’ll just help you be more successful and then we have the people that come from the business background that kind of underestimate what it’s like working with pattern makers and sample makers and having things sourced it it’s more difficult to sort of fabric than people generally think so they don’t normally give themselves enough time so there’s quite a few different things to think about when launching the cold online and I say just expending the time and doing the research and putting together a plan and just asking people I’m working with people that have experience makes a huge difference you save a lot of time and money you can do it on your own but you want to give yourself enough time to kind of figure out that stuff out as you go along.

Heidi: Yeah, and so kind of talking about like from the creative person’s perspective the timeline the costing and the budgeting I mean those are all things yeah I think like you said it can be scary to really look at that and it’s hard to think about okay this is how much money I have to spend and how can I budget it but then once you’ve done that I love that word you use you said it’s a really empowering to say I know…

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …this much to put into that and so you know like this is probably gonna be a really hard question to answer so maybe you could just give a ballpark and then talk a little bit more about like some of the variables that may go into this but like let’s say I’m a designer and I come to you and I’m like I had this idea for a three-piece collection let’s say mid-range in terms of complexity types of garments like it’s not a simple tank top…

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …but it’s made on PLEX outerwear you know what am I really looking for in terms of budget to go through sampling proto’s pattern making like all the development to where I’m like okay I’m ready to place my first production order so getting from kind of zero to ready to go into production?

Anna: This is honestly the one of the number one questions I get and it is next to impossible for me to get a blanket statement for that because it’s so different you know you could be using silks you could be using cotton you could be doing a 50-piece production run you could be a thousand peeps production run you could be doing patterns and samples on your own you could be hiring a pattern sample maker you can spend a thousand dollars on a website you could spend $10,000 on a website so that’s why it’s a it’s really important to just sit down with somebody like myself and we can run you through all of these numbers it’s usually like between two things like how much money do you have let’s say you have $10,000 okay well this is what you can do for the $10,000 or backwards like you’ve got unlimited funds okay well this is a smart place to spend those, those funds so it’s so hard to give a blanketed number but it does cost money…

Heidi: Sure.

Anna: …that’s the one thing like you can’t start a collection with $500…

Heidi: Yeah.

Anna: …it does cost money to do you want to spend especially your first season because you want and the time and money and having really great pattern and there’s no easy way to make a pattern you can’t make a pattern in 20 minutes this is it takes it takes 8 to 10 hours to make a pattern and then you do a fitting and then you do alterations like there’s no quick and easy way to do that but once you have those patterns you use those as blocks for the next season so you won’t have to start from scratch so the next season over had that first season is a lot higher than it is ever, ever again but it’s so important to have those patterns done properly because if it doesn’t say it doesn’t sell I don’t care if you spent 30 hours hand beating the entire garment if it doesn’t fit it won’t sell…

Heidi: Yeah.

Anna: …so it’s hard to say but I would say if you activate anywhere from three to five thousand dollars per style and that would get you like a to the sample phase doing one of every size getting your production ready it’s generally but it’s so hard to say.

Heidi: Right…

Anna: I don’t know.

Heidi: Yeah, I was saying, the actual production which is the prepping to get to the point where you’re like okay now I’m ready I may only be ordering 50, I may be ordering 5,000 but that’s just a range, okay.

Anna: Yeah, I would say from three to five thousand per style because in that you have to think you need your pattern you need your fitting you need your fit model you need pattern alterations you need your sample fabric you need your final sample sewn you need your pattern digitized you need your pattern graded into the other sizes and then you need to find manufacturer, manufacturer clothes and then you have to have that Factory do one of every size for you before you’re ready for production so…

Heidi: Yeah.

Anna: …right there that’s a lot of steps.

Heidi: Yeah, and I love like you mentioned all the different various samples and then obviously the size range which is where you get one of every size may not before you go into production…

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …and something…

Anna: I think that they always want to get…

Heidi: …I know…

Anna: Please, don’t.

Heidi: …but I love that you reiterate all of that and it’s like you said a minute ago you’re building this foundation and yes it’s a little bit of expenset…

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …but maybe I need a little bit’s a lot a bit of expense upfront but the extra expense that you’re gonna spend building this foundation is gonna pay off tenfold in the long run because like you said if your product doesn’t fit no one’s gonna buy it or they’re gonna buy it it’s gonna get returned and you’ll recover…

Anna: Right.

Heidi: …from that type of a situation.

Anna: Exactly, yeah. And you know even worse if you if you didn’t do that size check on and all your sizes come back and something went wrong and the grading you know you’re sitting on an entire production that you can’t sell…

Heidi: Yeah.

Anna: …and that’s like death to a new designer because so important where you spend all your money and usually they’re putting 80% of their budget into that first production and they don’t have enough money to do that over…

Heidi: Yeah.

Anna: …so it’s just so important to take the right step to make sure that it it’s done properly that first time.

Heidi: So speaking of all this money where are you where do you find that most designers are getting the funds to do their first collection to get things kind of off the ground?

Anna: I would say most designers are self-funded it’s money that they’ve put away or they’re saving or yeah they’re mostly self-funded it’s very hard to find an investor for that initial seed money because fashion industry is so competitive and it’s said to take eight seasons for there to be an ROI at an investor’s fabulous so the long investment to you’re more likely to get an investor once you’re proving proven that you’re sold but we recently have had a client the mail romper the romp in and they did four samples and then they did an amazing Kickstarter and they raised over four hundred thousand dollars on Kickstarter and…

Heidi: Wow!

Anna: …we do have yeah, yeah It was amazing so great so we do have clients that are successful on Kickstarter but even still you’ve got to have a great video you’ve got to have a great sample they already invested they self-funded to get that perfect sample and to do the sizing and the sourcing of the fabric and then they get the Kickstarter and they had a really great video and a great marketing plan so it I would take crowdfunding and self-funded it’s the most common ways sometimes you can find a business partner that will be the investor but I wouldn’t say like relying on finding an investor to start your collection is the way to go you’ve got to do a little bit of the groundwork on your own show that you have a customer show that you’re making sales and then if you had more money you’d be able to make more sales.

Heidi: Yeah, and okay so to really get someone on an investment level you need to obviously show like you said that you have a product that’s actually going to sell so that makes one percent so getting started okay so I save up $20,000 or something where are some points along that initial process that I want to be mindful of where I spend and where I try to save so like maybe and maybe you’ve experienced…

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …this with clients like maybe people come to you and are like I just spent ten thousand dollars and it wound up eight thousands of it was a waste or where are you seeing people like that they could be a little bit more savvy with this the small little seed of money that they spend a lot of time and energy saving and then they want to spend it really like what’s some advice you could give on that?

Anna: Well I would say the number one biggest cost I see a new designer and it’s shifting I think people are learning but 10 years ago it was it would be you’d make a collection you’d make samples need to go to trade shows the trade shows they I don’t know they’re beginning to catch on and do booths at a lower price point or boost for new designers or group spaces but trade show costs $4,000 and then with the set up and the travel in the hotel if you’ve got $4,000 I see a way better returned if you buy plane tickets and still got some boutiques that you want to stop by and do space-time and show samples to but trade shows are really expensive and unless you have the money to do free trade shows I don’t suggest doing one trade show and even the clients that have that large budget they’re doing three they’re doing five trade shows before they’re getting a return on that investment and then buyers at the shows are actually purchasing one so trade shows are a huge investment but I would say the number one largest investment I’ve seen your designers make that has little to no returns new fashion shows everybody wants to do fashion show and it’s great and it’s fun and you get to show off and now these people come but there’s very little buyers there there’s very, very little return of that investment so fashion shows I’d say are the number one because you gotta get to space you’ve got to get some model she’s got the hair the makeup and the actual buyers from the boutique for the people of the show the people in the show they just want to drink and have fun they’re not actually spending money so yes fashion shows number one number two or trade shows.

Heidi: That’s some really great insights, that’s fantastic…

Anna: I know people don’t like to hear it the fashion shows are so fun everybody wants to be a designer to have a fashion show but even like New York Fashion Week the real designers and I went to Paris Fashion Week the real designers will book a showroom a pop-up showroom so that the buyers can come to their showroom and see the collection instead of doing the runway.

Heidi: So the runway is really just glamour it’s I was having a conversation…

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …with someone recently a couple conversations with multiple people recently about you know the realities of like these photos that you put on your Instagram versus like what’s really going on behind the scenes so you’ll get a bunch of Instagram photos output potentially of both of those types of events but you don’t get the return that you really need to build a sustainable business.

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: Yeah, so the trade show thing I just want to talk about one thing you mentioned you don’t really see a return on that until maybe three to five trade shows in and so in my experience my answer to why that is, is because often times and correct me if I’m wrong but buyers aren’t going to take you seriously the first time they see you because they don’t know are you really going to deliver…

Anna: Yap.

Heidi:is that the truth behind the statement?

Anna: Well yes they definitely they want to see that you’re serious they want to see that you’re showing up they want to watch you make sure you can deliver do your sizes fit all of that comes into play with a new designer but I’m not to do like we don’t like doing that right you know even North’s John and Barney it’s like all of these big, big shows there is these big department stores they’re not doing that great so they’re not they’re buying what they know will sell and they’re staying safe they’re not necessarily buying brand new talent at each other they’re just going to see the designers they are to carry and they’re buying things that are safe that they know himself I think it’s a combination of those two things.

Heidi: Got you. And so on that note then are you finding that these designers are having better success I mean I know you said you’d be better off spending some money buying a plane ticket and going and visiting some boutiques but are you seeing that even beyond that our designers having better success going direct to consumer or…

Anna: Definitely…

Heidi: …okay.

Anna: …it’s the ship and I think we’re all seeing it but I think it’s going to be even larger I was talking with some people in the industry like after the numbers come back from some holiday and fall for these big department stores I think that brick-and-mortar is almost going to be non-existent you know people are shopping online they’re shopping on Amazon there it’s so much easier and more convenient especially for the people that don’t live in a city so they just have these things delivered to their door.

Heidi: And so then looking down that like path and direction the direct-to-consumer option so there’s still a lot of logistics and work to figure out incase..

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …it’s not like you just throw up…

Anna: Right.

Heidi: …at Commerce website and everyone’s gonna magically buy your stuff and so…

Anna: Right.

Heidi: …I mean I know you said the romp-in the mail romper project they you know from our perspective we could look at wow they just threw up this Kickstarter and did for a hundred thousand but there was a lot behind the work behind the scenes work that went into that to build an audience to build those people who would then give them money and so like what are the logistics you see between people like trying to build their audience you know build their tribe for like a really cliché word to get behind their product and to actually buy it?

Anna: Yes. I think that the social media story and reaching out to your customer and building your client happens way before so with the clients that are doing the Kickstarter by the time they launched the Kickstarter people are already wanting their product and designers will say well I don’t have samples how do I have social media so you create a story and you create a brand and you talk to other affiliate people that have audiences that would be interested in your product and you connect with them but building the story on social media before you even have a product and letting people know who you are whether that like with the romper and they created a very strong marketing voice and they were consistent with that since day one and then I have other clients that a very strong story who they are why they launched a brand what their purpose is and they were very clear on that so they attracted people because of who they were so creating a story and involving people in the cross that really makes a difference because you’re right if you just one day launch a Kickstarter and no one’s ever heard of you then how are they gonna know that they want your product.

Heidi: Yeah, and so then I love this idea of sort of like so you’re building your audience and you’re really talking to them and engaging with them and I’d love to hear your perspective on well maybe not well I guess perspective but also just thoughts and what you see designers doing and not doing in a relation to understanding if an idea that they have is really viable because I could have an idea that I think is personally great because maybe it solve some need or problem that I have or I just really like it but figuring out is there really an audience for this is there really a market for this is this something that people are other people are going to be willing to buy.

Anna: I would say the common mistake I see designers is they’ll have an idea but then they water it down because they’re trying to please too many people so the tighter the audience you can you can hone in on because that person will be your customer and they’ll be your customer forever but it’s when people try and water down their idea to fit in the entire world because they want to please everyone and then people don’t really know what to go to them for and they don’t have that loyalty in their clientele so I would say if you have an idea and a lot of designers start something because it’s something that they’re looking for in the industry or that they can’t find themselves and then staying true to that and finding the people that also have that issue is more helpful than well I have this issue but my mom has this issue and my cousin has this issue so let’s just make a product that tries to fit everybody so staying clear on, on who you are and what you’re what problem you’re trying to solve or what you’re trying to fill in the market it is actually more helpful and normally it’s your signal in the market sometimes I would say that there’s a hole in the market because it can’t be done where that comes in to play is like people are people that want to do one-off custom denim there’s a reason that one-off custom denim doesn’t exist in the industry and that’s because it’s really expensive and people aren’t willing to pay so the patterning and the sampling of each and every piece there are there have been brands that have made that successful but they have an in-house manufacturing team so they’re not having outsourced of pattern and sample so you without knowing that or without talking or professional you think oh I’m just going to do that sometimes there’s a reason why it’s not out there and talking to somebody to figure out if it’s cost effective is important.

Heidi: Yeah. I’m so glad that you brought that up because there’s this ad and I won’t say what magazine I saw it in but it’s an ad for a bra that is a one size fits all 32-A to 36-B or sorry 36-D and I look at that and I go what woman in her right mind wants to buy a bra that fits everybody that just doesn’t even make any sense…

Anna: Right, yeah.

Heidi: …you know and I’ve also you know I’ve heard designers say I want to make a collection that fits extra, extra small all the way through 5x and I just think…

Anna: Yeah…

Heidi: …it can’t be scary where you think if I pick two niche of a market am I really going to be able to find anybody versus if I try to serve everybody well my audience is everybody so it’s huge I have this huge pool of people to pull from but when you really try to talk to that customer they’re not gonna hear what you’re saying they’re not gonna understand what you’re saying because you’re just too broad for them to even understand you or for them to even care about…

Anna: Exactly.

Heidi: …that thing so…

Anna: Yeah. I’m so glad you brought that up.

Anna: Yeah, we have one client and she does like very classic German where she makes burn dolls and it’s you know very, very strictly classics like people tried to tell her she needed to be more mainstream she needed to make it where it could be every day where and she didn’t and she’s been in business now ten years and she does German fest and she does costumes and she does you know at restaurants that her German theme she does all the uniforms she’s very successful and it’s because she stayed this is what I want to do so now she’s the leading person everywhere for journals in the world and that is because she just stuck to this is what I want to do and she’s found that customer and they come back to her time and time again so yeah just moving your customer and staying clear on that you’ll find the people and they’ll be loyal.

Heidi: Yeah. I’m figuring out that one thing that you want to do and then doing like a really awesome job at it.

Anna: Exactly.

Heidi: Yeah. That’s great that’s really priceless advice and something I think is very easy to convince yourself you shouldn’t take but at the end of it…

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …that’s really true and okay so those are some great sort of thoughts and an overview on you know getting started and then figuring out what your products gonna be and so going a little bit more into like the logistics of actually getting it made and the whole production process and I’d love to hear so I have my idea we have it really narrowed down and we’re going through let’s say initial like sampling and we’re getting kind of ready to go through production so talk to me a little bit about that whole process what that looks like how long that really takes and you know where some of the spots that become really challenging where are some common failure points there?

Anna: Yes, I would say finding the right manufacturer for your production is what is most detrimental and at VMora obviously who we just find that connection right away we already know what they can do and what they can’t do what they’re minimums are, are they good at 50 or they put it a thousand so with our clients they don’t have to worry about it they’re first manufacturers they’re manufacturer for life but for the clients that are for the people that aren’t working with a company to help them it just takes time because factories unfortunately our fact forthright was what they can do and what they can’t do I’ll be I do a manufacturing tour where I take designers into factories we did some last Friday and I tell them you can ask this factory oh do you do on their back they’ll say yes do you do baby quotes don’t say yes they will say yes to everything you ask and I say you know and then ask them we leave ask me what they really do is each factory is very they’re good at nit so they’re good at woven they’ll take your leather products but they’re outsourcing it so you want to it’s just it’s difficult because you have to test it out and you have to have them make a sample and you have to pay attention if there are a lot of reps last that happened in that sample making process if they miss a deadline if they said they could do it but then they never did it so finding that right manufacturers can take time and once you’ve found the factory and they create the sample then it’s great you can use that factory forever but finding the right factory can be challenging.

Heidi: And so is that and I mean, I know you do those factory tours that’s really awesome you do that in New York you do that in Chicago as well because you guys have to be.

Anna: We do.

Heidi: Okay.

Anna: Yeah…

Heidi: Cool.

Anna: …doing it all…

Heidi: And so…

Anna: …the one in New York’s a little bit different than the one in Chicago in Chicago where we have to rent a van and drive to the suburbs and the west side and in New York we just do a walking tour around the district…

Heidi: Right. And so I mean kind of talking a little bit more about local manufacturing and these factories in the U.S. do is the most of the work you guys do U.S.-based?

Anna: It is. Yeah.

Heidi: Okay. So, on that no I mean I have a couple different questions on this I guess we’ll start in order that makes most sense so you said that that can be a really, really tough process for people to go through like obviously you and your team and company have a tremendous amount of network and resources at VMora because you guys have been doing this forever and so you can help direct people okay this is really the factory that does great at lingerie this is the factory that’s gonna do your button-down woven shirts and but you know what’s the best process for that or it would it be like flying to a fashion hub and knocking on doors and like pounding the pavement or do you pick up the phone and start calling or like what’s the best process if I’d if I don’t even know where to start what can I do to start talking to factories and seeing what’s out there that might be a good fit for me?

Anna: Well, obviously I’m gonna say just booked session would VMora…

Heidi: Yeah.

Anna: I really however if you are looking for factories you’ve got to there’s different lists cities provide different lists there’s resources so just doing your due diligence online and then calling them and telling them and each factory some factories they don’t communicate via phone because their English is not strong and some factories don’t have you know because they’re in 1870 still so you just have to try all avenues calling emailing and then the most important part is if you get that interview make sure you’re prepared show up with a sample a sketch a tech pack your fabric swatches they have everything ready because if you show up and you’re like oh I’m thinking about doing design I’ll be like great come back to us in six months…

Heidi: When you’re ready.

Anna: …and then in six months…

Heidi: Yeah.

Anna: …you may or may not get that appointment again so making sure that you’re ready on your end and then when you’re at the factory asking to see samples asking looking being observant what are they working on in their floor you know are they working on all swimwear everywhere are they working on jacket but what are they actually sewing at the moment look around they’re not necessarily going to show you samples of other designers but look around and see what’s hanging what they’ve been working on and really pay attention to your intuition and you got you like this relationship does it seem like something that because the manufacturer is the most important it’s almost like your business partner they can make or break you so you want to make sure that you feel strongly about that relationship.

Heidi: Yeah, and so I think it can be really easy to sort of jump the gun like you said you come up with this idea and then the first thing you think is I need to find someone to make it for me but in reality there’s a lot of legwork and upfront work you should be doing before you actually go and approach that as you said almost business partner who’s going to make,,,

Anna: Right.

Heidi: …this product for you and so having the patience to do that prep work put together those initial logistics source your fabric and get some a sample made and get a tech pack together to even approach the factories that you’re prepared and you look professional and so what are the logistics of like actually do it like we’re doing where would I go to get that runoff sample made?

Anna: So that would be a sample maker because the sample maker isn’t necessarily the production the person that’s going to do your production sometimes the manufacturer will also develop your sample so if you’re going to see a factory at the very least you want to have your tech pack and possibly your swatches at the very least…

Heidi: Okay/

Anna: …and then they may say we don’t do patterns and samples or your patterns and samples and send them over we can do your production but yeah so there’s a pattern maker there’s a sample maker and again we have those on our team we’ve got pattern makers and sample makers in house so ideally if your pattern maker and sample maker can be under the same roof because then they can communicate to each other or you look for a pattern maker you have them make your pattern and then you look for a sample maker and you have them make your sample and then if there’s any alterations but have to be done they you’ve got to go back and forth to get that sample right.

Heidi: Yeah, it’s interesting I mean my entire background experience is all in overseas manufacturing which is tends to be tight…

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …then stateside right and so this is…

Anna: Right.

Heidi: …and you know the process and I’ve talked to multiple people about this but there can be so many different paths you can go down like you said you can have your sample done one place your patterns in another place your productions in another place you could have there’s just a lot of different ways you could go about it you could have more like a full package set up where you’re your factory does kind of everything for you and so it can be tricky to kind of navigate what do you suggest that it can be simpler to try to find more like one-stop shop where I mean I know you said sample and pattern making done under the same roof is ideal because there’s a lot of communication between those two people that needs to happen but do you find that logistically or financially it makes more sense to do one versus the other like find a factory that can do the sampling it can do the proto the patterns and the production versus piece mailing everything?

Anna: Well, it can be more expensive if you’re doing it all in one house because there is a level of convenience that you’re paid for of those two if you find just a pattern maker and then you’re picking up and then a sample maker and then you’re picking up and then production and they’re just doing production like if you’re only doing for example if you’re only doing if you’re manufacturer only has to cut and so you’re providing them all of your fabrics you’re providing them with your markers the production cost is going to be lower but if your manufacturer is doing your sample and your pattern a lot of times they’re absorbing not into your production cost your production process so you just want to shop around and look at all the numbers and see what makes sense to you a lot of times people don’t have the availability to be mAnnaging all of it so working with someone that can is beneficial for them…

Heidi: Yeah.

Anna: …so there’s just a lot of ways a lot of different ways that you can go about doing it but people are doing it every day all the time people are figuring it out…

Heidi: Yeah.

Anna: …they’re talking to the right people and not working going to these different shows like it’s definitely doable you just have to figure out what’s going to work best for you and you know we have clients that aren’t in New York or Chicago so they will do their pattern and their sample locally and then their production in New York or Chicago so there’s a lot of different ways that you can make it work I wouldn’t say that there’s one that’s better than the other though.

Heidi: Okay, yeah. Just there’s so many variables that go into it you kind of have to assess each dish we had on its own …

Anna: Right.

Heidi: Yeah. Okay and so, we’re getting through logistics of making production and like where are we in a time line here so let’s see I came to you and I had an idea and I just had like a rough sketch how long does it take and I know this there’s variables that go into this but like roughly how long could I plan to come starting with my idea I just maybe sketched on a piece of paper really rough to okay I’m ready to go into production I found my Factory and I’m just about to like pull the trigger and say okay go make my product.

Anna: I’d say three months in the sourcing of the fabric doing the fittings getting the patterns develop doing the manufacturing quotes from doing the digitizing grading and then having one of every side three months is a good timeline for that.

Hedi: Wow that’s insanely fast.

Anna: Well, you said if you came to be more and had them hire you and you were hiring us well like I said we have all the sources…

Heidi: Right.

Anna: …they take you into the system…

Heidi: Right.

Anna: …and what I was going to add if you’re doing it on your own six to nine months.

Heidi: Okay that’s still pretty fast though okay so if I come to someone like you

Anna: Just for some sample.

Heidi: Right…

Anna: just for sample, right, okay?

Heidi: … right we haven’t actually never…

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …we’re to the point where if I wanted to say okay these samples look great perfect I know how much I’m going to order and I know my size ratio and my size break out and I am ready to pull the trigger on production three months maybe six to nine if I’m trying to DIY it from the idea stage to I’m ready to go into production…

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …okay wow that’s extremely fast compared to some other people I’ve chatted with or some of their stories I’ve heard that’s phenomenal though I mean I think that is the value of you know working with someone who has the right context…

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …for the network because that can be that’s 80% of battle sometimes it’s finding the right people and places to get all this purchased and done.

Anna: Right where you’re gonna get your zipper where are you getting your labels what are your labels need to say what are those you know who’s the lawyer going to work with to get everything set up where are you gonna get your fabric how long is the facts are gonna take all of that we’ve already figured out so that’s where it saves a lot of time.

Heidi: What am I talking to a lawyer for?

Anna: Oh, it’s for your trade marking and setting up your company getting your tax ID number making sure that your company name somebody else is using that’s something that designers forget to you never want to make labels until you already have that set up you never want to launch or get a website until you already have that set up so that’s like number one that is to make sure that you can use your name and your logo your logo can’t look too familiar to anybody else’s logo that sort of thing.

Heidi: Yeah, yeah, all the little things that you don’t really think about okay so when it comes time to actually make production how are people determining how much product to buy and what their size breakout should be how many smalls should they buy versus how many mediums versus how many larges like how do you help people kind of figure out should I run 50 should I run 250 pieces like

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi:what are some tricks and strategies to figure out that?

Anna: Well, A: is budget..

Heidi: Sure.

Anna: …how much you can’t afford so you don’t want to put let’s see if you have an hour you don’t want to spend $10,000 on your production because you want to have enough money to start developing the samples of your next season so having that budget done is really important and who’s your market so if you’re doing athletic people if you’re doing teenagers so you want to set your size of but if you’re doing young contemporary you’re going to do more smalls and mediums and you are large and extra-large if you’re doing more of a woman’s then you’ll do more mediums and largest so it depends on your market of what your size range is going to be and I always like to do a smaller production run for that first run and use that so that you can educate yourself to reinvest to do a larger production around the second time right and I would much rather have a designer sell out and but super exciting and they’re super motivated and cut and reach through larger production than be sitting on inventory because it can be it’s just like heavy on the designer that they weren’t able to sell everything that they produce so if you sell 250 garments and that sells you out that’s better than selling 250 garments only you made a thousand so I feel doing that first production then coming back and doing a more educated production because maybe your clients younger than your thoughts then you thought maybe a certain color sold way more than you thought it would that it’s the best way to see what’s actually gonna sell is to actually sell and then you can come back and make a better production run based off of that smaller production than how sales went there.

Heidi: So you’re almost looking at that first round of production as like it’s a test really?

Anna: Yeah, exactly because I you can we had a client and they worked with a marketing company and NPR and did all this research and Annalytics and like had everything they said a lot of money and then they launched and they thought their customer was going to be between like forty to fifty only their customer was twenty to thirty so they had to redo all of their branding and their photography and everything but how are they to know there’s really no way to know that even if you’re working with the professionals that are going to forecast what it’s going to be sometimes are wrong.

Heidi: And so maybe it’s a matter there’s like a fine balance between like doing some research to make sure you’re going about this smart and talking to your audience but just keeping everything reasonable and then doing the first production run as a test and like you said that’s really the only true way to figure out how this is gonna go.

Anna: Exactly, yeah.

Heidi: Instead of investing all this cash to really do all these analytics and data science to try to estimate something that can still turn out wrong?

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: Yeah and I love I I want to reiterate something you said earlier because you know not only if you sell let’s say 250 out of a thousand are you left with those 750 pieces and you’re sitting on cash but you made the comment if that can like weigh really heavy on you as a designer and so I think there’s something valuable to be taken away from that in terms of now you’re not just sitting on this cash but like it’s also can be hard to like physically and mentally pick yourself up after that type of a thing I’m just on an emotional level…

Anna: Right.

Heidi: …versus the high you could get off of selling out 250 when you only ordered 250.

Anna: Exactly, yeah.

Heidi: So being in such a brutal and competitive and tough industry you know being mindful of those emotions because that’s sometimes what you need to keep moving forward can really be beneficial towards your success or break your success.

Anna: Yeah 100%.

Heidi: Yeah.

Anna: Yeah. I just I like that you said that so I wanted to reiterate that point it’s not always just about the finances but it’s sometimes about how that experience makes you feel and can…

Anna: Yep.

Heidi: …determine whether or not you have the ump to move forward because it’s tough it’s tough.

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: Yeah. Awesome. Well is there anything else I missed about the whole process that you want to share anything I didn’t touch on that use you see happening a lot or any last advice you want to give to everybody out there?

Anna: I think we touched on a lot yeah I would just say that there’s definitely a movement in the industry and there is space for independent designers in that movement people are paying attention to who they’re buying why they’re buying where things are made which is great an independent designer that’s producing locally and just strong to their voice and who they are and hustle this is new designer has to hustle and not take things personal you’re going to hear know a lot but you just continue to keep moving listen to their advice and keep selling and hustle as much as possible.

Heidi: Yeah, it’s hard work it’s hard work that’s for sure…

Anna: Yeah.

Heidi: …well, thank you so much Anna before we close there’s one question I ask at the end of the interview that I’ll throw at you it’s a people tend to get stuck on it so I’ll give you a second if you need to think about it but what is one thing you wish people would ask you about working in fashion but never do?

Anna: Yeah. I think again it would be this idea that it’s so glamorous it’s a lot of fun but it’s a lot of hard work and it is doing product development and its production and you’re in the factories so while it looks glamorous and fun you have to be a smart business owner and like I said again that budget that cost my costing and the timeline is so important and just being a smart business owner because fashion is less about ego the really successful designers aren’t so egotistical they’d stayed humble they’ve worked through the industry they pay attention to change the level of things that I have to and they’re smart business owners it’s the designer that goes in with the ego that I’m amazing I can you know my manufacturers are working for me so I can treat them however I want and my pastel just because it’s amazing and I’m an amazing designer those designers never make it you have to stay humble and you have to be smart and you have to be a smart business person and although it looks glamorous and fun it is work and it is a business and you should treat yourself seriously and treat your business seriously.

Heidi: Yeah, that’s great advice really, really great sound advice so where can everybody find you?

Anna: Our website is that will be V is Victor and then my email is anna(A-N-N-A)

Heidi: Awesome. And I love to follow that collection…

Anna: I offer.

Heidi: Yeah.

Anna: …complimentary strategy sessions 20 minutes that we can talk and I can help I love helping I love talking to designers and yeah that’s why I do that free, free little consult for anyone but yes they look what a bet that big mean and just visit

Heidi: Fantastic, and I will put links to all of that in the show notes thank you so much for your time shape is really fun to chat welcome learn everything about what you guys are doing and thanks so much for all the great advice you shared and everything you’re doing for the industry it’s really fantastic thank you for listening to episode 17 of these Successful Fashion Designer podcast if you’d like to learn more about any other resources mentioned in this episode visit the show notes at and since you made it this far you must have liked the episode I’ll remind you that more ratings and reviews gives me leverage to convince higher value guests to do interviews which brings you even more valuable content if you can take 60 seconds to leave a review on iTunes your tiny bit of help goes towards making the show better for you and everyone it’s super easy to do and I’d really appreciate it visit to leave your rating and again thanks for your help and support.


Heads Up: We use cookies to customize your experience and track how you interact with our site to serve you better.    OK     more info