7 Stages of fashion production for your British-made brand

Are you starting a new British-made fashion brand?  You may have had a brilliant idea, but how do you get from that initial idea to having physical product to sell? We have laid out the 7 stages of fashion production to explain what you can expect on your journey.

We get a lot of people contacting Make it British who are looking for a UK manufacturer. Problem is, often they are just starting to think about launching  a clothing or accessory brand and are a little too early along the journey to be speaking to manufacturers. If you approach a manufacturer unprepared then they may not take you seriously. So we’ve laid out the 7 steps of fashion production so that you have a clear understanding of how the whole process works.

What are the stages involved in fashion production? And what do you need to have prepared before you visit a manufacturer?

In this article we will guide you through the process, explaining what tasks you will need to complete and in what order. That way you will be well prepared when you meet a manufacturer.

Don’t be too daunted. There aren’t many people who would be able to do all of these tasks by themselves, to the standard that you would want for your brand.  Fashion production takes detailed planning and a specific skillset; there will be times when you will need to ask for help or hire a professional. But, if you keep your production local you will find it easier to stay on top of the process.

Fashion Production, research

1. Research

You don’t want to approach a manufacturer unprepared; a poorly planned approach will often end in rejection. Working with a UK manufacturer is a partnership, they will need to have confidence in you as a viable client. So this stage is really important. You’d be surprised how many people we see leaving this stage out!

Your research should involve understanding who your customer is, what they want to buy, and which other brands there are out there selling the type of product you want to make.

You will also need to have planned out a product range, have a good idea on what sizes and quantities you want to make, and have thought about target cost prices. You can use our calculator to help you work through some prices.

Fashion Production, design

2. Design

Your research will inform your design process. This is also the time to do your fabric and trim sourcing.  The fabric you choose will have a significant affect on the design. You need to know what it will be and that you will have the quantity you need for production at the right time and price.

Your final designs will need to be turned into a tech pack. This document will tell your manufacturer exactly what it is you want, so needs to be as detailed as possible.  You should include technical flat drawings, construction details, critical measurements, colourways, and consider adding photos and samples to better communicate your design.

After you have reached the end of this stage you are ready to start looking for a manufacturer.

Fashion Production, sample development

3. Sample Development

This is the time for you to develop your design and iron out any issues. Allow lots of time for this stage, it’s important to get it right.

Pattern-cutting and sample-making always takes much longer than you think it will. You will more than likely need to produce several samples before you get to the perfect one.

It’s a good idea to work with your chosen factory on the sample development, although there are also companies that specialise in just pattern-cutting and sample-making too. But by having the factory make the sample they will be able to give you advice on creating a quality garment that is cost and time efficient.

This is where working with a local UK manufacturer is so beneficial to your business. Being able to meet with them in person aids communication and therefore product development.

Once your sample has been approved and agreed by both you and your manufacturer, and is made in the correct material, you have what is known as a pre-production sample.  This will provide the benchmark for all the garments produced. It is important for quality control and in resolving any possible future disputes.

When the pre-production sample has been approved the pattern can be graded and materials and trims can be ordered.

Fashion Production, manufacture

4. Manufacture

Once the bulk fabric, trims and labels are at the factory your production can begin.

If you’re using a UK factory you will find it much easier to stay up to date on progress. It’s also a good idea to visit the factory whilst the production is going through in order to ensure production is happening as you want it to.

Your manufacturer will cut your fabric, make-up the product, add any finishes and press. This is often known as the CMT process (cut, make, trim).

Many UK factories will only carry out CMT. The other type of manufacturer is called Fully-Factored or Full Service. This type of factory will take an order and buy the fabric and trims, supplying one finished price for the whole garment at the end.

Whilst a Fully Factored service might sound like a great option for a start-up, because the whole process is managed by the manufacturer, there are several reasons why this is not always a viable option for a new business.

Because a Full Service factory is taking the risk with purchasing the materials they will usually require much larger order quantities of each style, and the cost price will also be higher to account for the extra admin work that the manufacturer has to do.

Fashion Production, quality control

5. Quality control

Quality control is included within the trim aspect of a CMT service and should never be left out! When you visit a manufacturer it is always a good idea to ask them what quality control procedures they have in place.

As the name suggests, loose threads are trimmed but it involves much more than that.  Products should be inspected against the pre-production sample that you have previously agreed on, and any errors rectified.

Having a sound quality control procedure at this stage is crucial to your bottom line, as you want to keep returns to a minimum.

Fashion Production, packing

6. Packing

The final process of the trim aspect is to label and pack the product. Some manufacturers will manage this stage for you, or you may prefer to handle this step yourself.

Depending on whether you are supplying your product wholesale or selling direct to the consumer you may have different criteria for packing.

You also need to assess whether the packaging that you have chosen fits in with your branding, and how will it appear to the person receiving the product. Plus will it protect the product properly in transit.

Fashion Production, distribution

7. Distribution

If you have chosen to work with a UK manufacture then the lead time for your finished products to be distributed to you, or your retailers, will be significantly less than from an overseas manufacturer, as goods manufactured offshore will likely be at sea for weeks. The sooner you receive your products, the sooner you can sell them.