How to Optimize Your Fashion Production and Launch Calendar

business optimization lean practices Dec 14, 2018

A big piece of planning out a new year is deciding how you will plan the launches of your new collections.  Even if you have decided to ditch the traditional fashion calendar and release your collections as "immediates" there is a still a lot of planning required for successful and profitable launches.  The first step is to decide how many collections you will be designing and launching, typically 2 - 6 collections throughout a given year.

Will you be launching 2 major collections that align with Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter?  Or will you be releasing more frequent collections, such as Resort, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter?  Will you do any holiday or theme specific collections or edits such as Festival, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Independence Day, Christmas, New Years, etc.?

This is a decision you will need to make for your brand, but the advice I always share with the companies I work with is to keep it super simple (KISS) and lean!

For my own jewelry brand, I give the appearance of releasing 6 collections per year - Resort, Festival, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter/Holiday.  HOWEVER, I actually only produce 2 collections.

Huh?!?  Let me explain.

Launching a New Collection

Collection launches are BIG time and financial investments!  At a very high level, there is:

  • Product Planning
  • Initial Product Design
  • Initial Samples
  • Fit Testing and Adjustments
  • More Samples
  • Curating the Collection - what I call "the art of the edit"
  • Product Details - name, price, sku, quantity, etc.
  • Product Photos on White
  • Editorial Photos
  • Linesheets (if doing B2B)
  • Lookbooks
  • Content - collection and product descriptions, blog posts, etc.
  • Collateral - postcards, social cards, catalogs, swag, etc.
  • Product Manufacturing
  • Product Packaging
  • Making Products Available for Sale - website, showrooms, retail locations, etc.
  • Product Campaigns
  • Advertising
  • Collabs - Influencers, Ambassadors, Retailers, Brands, etc.
  • Graphic Design & Marketing Materials
  • Etc, etc, etc

And as long as that list is, I am sure you will recognize many things not included because there is SO MUCH more that happens.  So how can you keep all that super simple?  Especially if you don't have a huge team or unlimited budget?  Similar to the answer I always give, it's to optimize the process.

Optimizing the Process

Look for places where you can batch items that have the biggest time and financial investment and are least likely to change, and do everything else just in time or "JIT", to allow for flexibility and changes based on customer response and feedback or shifts in the market.

For my jewelry brand, I design Resort, Festival, Spring and Summer all at once.  Why?  They have a similar vibe - for us, that is a beachy / desert vibe.  I then design Fall and Winter/Holiday together because they have a similar vibe which is more earthy and celebratory.  It is likely different for you, so ask yourself which collections can batch well together for your brand?  I find this also helps with the overall cohesiveness and flow of one collection to the next.

In addition to design, I do the product planning, initial samples, fit testing and adjustments, final sample set, and product photos on white all together.  Batching these things together saves a tremendous amount of time and money!  I sometimes do a second smaller batch of samples and photos closer to the release of the collection if there are any changes, but the bulk of the work is done, allowing plenty of time for linesheets and other collection launch prep activities.

The things I do just in time?  Product manufacturing!  You will learn a LOT while selling your current collection that can influence the who, what, where, and how you choose to market and sell your next collection.  As we all know, the fashion market is always changing and sometimes things need to shift in order to remain relevant.  It's possible that you cut pieces you were "certain" you would produce because similar products were a flop...

“The customer is the final filter. What survives the whole process is what people wear. I’m not interested in making clothes that end up in some dusty museum.” – Marc Jacobs

In other cases, local or world events may impact the timing of a collection launch.  One brand I worked with had to hold off on the release of their t-shirt and mug collection because what was funny at the time they designed their products would have seemed insensitive if they released the collection when originally planned due to unexpected world events that occurred.

So what else should be done just in time?  There is no definitive answer as to what makes sense to batch and what makes sense to do just in time because it can be different for every brand.  But there are some that stand out across the various companies and brands I have worked with.

Things to Batch

  • Product Planning
  • Collection Design
  • Product Samples
  • Fit Testing and Adjustments
  • Photos on White
  • Product Details
  • Editorial Photoshoots
  • Planning of Product Campaigns
  • Graphic Design
  • Marketing Materials
  • Content Planning

Things to Do Just in Time

  • Collection Curation
  • Product Manufacturing
  • Implementation of Product Campaigns
  • Advertising
  • Online Merchandising - i.e. making products available for sale on your websites
  • Collaborations
  • Product Packaging & Printed Collateral
  • Content Implementation
  • Release of Editorial Photos & Lookbooks
  • Linesheets (JIT will be at least a season ahead for B2B, sometimes as much as a year ahead)

Once you determine which collections you are going to launch, and which activities to batch vs. do just-in-time, it's time to plan out your launches.  Start by choosing your launch dates.  For example, if selling exclusively B2C via your website, your launch dates may look something like this:

  • Resort: January
  • Spring: March
  • Summer: June
  • Fall: August
  • Winter: October
  • Holiday Edit: November

Then work backwards to determine when you need to complete each of your major activities.

What is the biggest struggle you have in planning and implementing your collection launches?  Please share.  I would love to help!

XX, Crista

by Crista Grasso

Crista Grasso is the go-to strategic planning expert for leading global businesses and online entrepreneurs when they want to scale.  Known as the "Business Optimizer", Crista has the ability to quickly cut through noise and focus on optimizing the core things that will make the biggest impact to scale a business simply and sustainably. She specializes in helping businesses gain clarity on the most important things that will drive maximum value for their clients and maximum profits for their business.  She is the creator of the Lean Out Method, 90 Day Lean Out Planner, and host of the Lean Out Your Business Podcast


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