Fashionable Ideas: An Interview with an Expert

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in Creativity,Money

I have a little secret. Actually, it’s a secret weapon and I’m going to share it with you today.

Over the past few weeks, I have shared my story of the “sock project” or, my adventures in trying to get a sock manufactured for toddlers. What I didn’t tell you is that my escapades didn’t end there.

Enter the coat project.

I won’t bore you with the details except to say that in my second journey into apparel manufacturing I was smarter. I didn’t attempt to know or do it all myself.

Which is why I began collaborating with an expert in the fashion industry:  Christine Wegmann of Sheer Style Inc.

I have found that if you are going to be successful, it is incredibly helpful to have the right experts on your team for the particular project you are involved in – whether that expert is a banker, lawyer, realtor, graphic designer, webmistress, or consultant.

Christine Wegmann (on right) with her grandmother, Eleanor Bisnette, who she credits with being her rock, mentor, inspiration, and friend.

And, Christine is definitely an expert in launching apparel lines. With more than 23 years of experience in the apparel industry and global sourcing, Christine has helped such well known brands start, expand, and reposition their product lines.

I asked Christine if she would be interested in sharing her thoughts on launching a product line and she graciously agreed. What follows is a conversation of sorts. Be prepared to be informed and inspired.

AO:  So many people have dreams of starting an apparel-based business or adding a line of apparel to an existing business. What advice would you give to someone who is considering getting into this business?

CW:  Entering the world of fashion is a dream for so many people I meet. It is creative, fun, social and ever-changing. For people who want to seriously enter the industry, I would recommend they make sure they are doing it for the right reasons. Many people want to launch their own label and have wonderfully grand ideas about the front end (e.g., designing their brand identity). However, there is much to the back end of the business – like having a sound financial plan as well as a roll-out and exit strategy. Launching a new clothing line is like getting married. Sometimes people focus too much on the wedding planning and not the marriage and the commitment required.

AO:  Could you tell us a little bit about how a piece of clothing actually gets made?

CW:  The steps it takes to produce a piece of clothing are unbelievably vast – including creating the design, generating a CAD drawings of the pattern, selecting fabrics and notions, and sewing samples. The two major categories for fabric manufacturing are wovens and knits. There are mills that specialize in knits and factories that specialize in wovens.   The content of the fiber in the yarn plays a pretty big role in how the fabric feels and drapes. The weight of the fabric impacts the drape of the fabric on the body. Once the fabric has been knit or woven, the fabric is spread, inspected and then is ready for cutting and sewing each silhouette. The icing on the cake are in the details with the notions – like buttons and finishing details. Today, many of the popular yarns are natural in content such as cotton. They are truly an agricultural product. Not all cottons are the same, nor do they yield the same result depending on where the crop was grown, weather conditions and geographical location. There are tolerances for each fiber content and process that we adhere to.

AO:  What are the biggest mistakes you see people make when they are starting out? Things they often overlook or underestimate the importance of?

CW:  Naturally, one of the fun parts of launching a clothing line is designing the collection. I always insist my clients fully investigate the financial commitments in the early stages to make sure they are not spending thousands of dollars on samples and product development only to find out later they do not have the resources to go into production.

AO:  Does it take a lot of money to launch a line of apparel?

CW:  Yes and no. You can create a collection of five t-shirts and, theoretically, launch an apparel line. You can also spend $20 million depending on how you want to market your brand – for example, by taking out full page ads in every major weekly and monthly editorial. I think you get my point – it depends on what you want to do and how much money you want to invest. The minimums (the minimum number of units a manufacturer will produce of any product) play a large role. Typically, it is difficult to find a domestic manufacturer who will take on a contract for less than 300 units per style. So, if you are making 300 units of tube socks or 300 units of wedding dresses, naturally the financial outlay will vary greatly.

AO:  If you want to launch a line, what are three must-does or must-haves when you are starting out?

CW:  I would say these are critical:  1) have a clear vision of your brand and product; 2) understand your target customer; and, 3) make sure you understand all of the financial commitments involved.

AO:  What are the pros and cons of having your line manufactured in another country?

CW:   Personally, I love a product made in the United States. Unfortunately, it is difficult to compete with offshore prices; therefore, some clients decide to go offshore. The pros of going offshore tend to be that the product is cheaper to produce and the quality is typically excellent for amount of labor and details that go into a silhouette. On the other hand, by going offshore, you do not have control over production unless you hire someone to manage it – it is a lot easier to fly to a domestic factory than it is to China. Also, communication can be a struggle.

AO:  You’ve helped launch many successful lines. When you look back, what common qualities do you see in the success stories?

CW:  My clients who have profitable and successful businesses all have extremely focused energy and drive. The common denominators appear to be persistence, commitment (especially during difficult economic times), and the ability to adapt and transform their business model on a dime.

AO:  If I wanted to launch a clothing line (as if we haven’t had this conversation already!), how could Sheer Style help?

CW:  Sheer Style Inc. is a full service apparel solution company and we work on both large and small scale projects. We can help design a line, manage production, and assist with branding and marketing. We pride ourselves on being extremely flexible in order to meet the specific needs of our clients at a given time.

So, now you know my secret. Her name is Christine Wegmann.

You’ve got to know her if you’ve got a fashionable idea.

 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy Stone-Goldman August 3, 2011 at

Andrea – The coat!! I happened to see the Tweet that led me here, and I couldn’t resist. Had been wondering about your wonderful (one) coat. As always, you know how to find information and resources. You haven’t lost your touch.

Love the picture and color scheme here, by the way. Did you have someone help you with that, too?

Judy Stone-Goldman
The Reflective Writer
http://www.thereflectivewriter.com/blog/
Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing

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Andrea Olson August 4, 2011 at

So glad to see you here, Judy! Yes, I believe in getting the best help – http://www.violetminded.com (Amanda) did the design for the site and http://www.alisonjensen.com did the photos. :)

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