So what designer should you choose? This is a great question, and one that most people would answer with ‘’the cheapest’’.
If you are looking to start an idea or you’re developing an existing fashion company, cheaper makes sense on the surface. Maybe you’re tight on money or you already have a concept for your fashion idea that doesn’t need any additional design input. In this situation you might feel like getting an intern or recent graduate will be cheaper and make it easier to get yourself up and running…….
Take a second to think about this. If you buy a house you have to get a survey which evaluates the quality of the home. The survey ensures that the foundation is solid, the roof doesn’t leak, the pipes are in good working order, and so on. It will also outline all the problems that the house has that require fixing. After that it’s your choice whether to buy the home or not. Either way, you’re going to be making a well-informed decision.
A designer, a good fashion designer, is both your survey and your foundations. An experienced fashion designer will do more than just draw your ideas out. He or she will make a spec for manufacturing, understand processes that you might not, advise you on fabric choices, and help you avoid mistakes that you might make otherwise. If you are new to fashion design you should understand that this isn’t your area of expertise. Believe me, it’s not as simple as people think. Designers don’t draw a few pictures and then call it a day. They engineer clothing, and the process is far more complex than most people imagine.
While you’re creating a brand you will make mistakes. A great fashion designer is there to help you avoid them, while saving you a ton of “mistake money” in the process. He or she will make sure that your product is true to your idea, viable for production and economical. It’s a delicate balancing act. When you’re choosing a designer to handle all of this, I don’t think you have to choose the most expensive person you can find. Let’s be honest though, if a designer is cheap you should really be asking yourself why. You wouldn’t trust a graduate to build your house, and you shouldn’t trust one to build your fashion brand either.
Have a look at one of the first jobs that I did as a recent graduate. The sketch is drawn well enough and the garments came back fine. It was OK for the experience I had then, but it’s certainly not my best now. Today I can see that the detail of the rib makes it incredibly expensive to produce, should I choose to bring this piece to production. At the time I didn’t have a lot of experience and expertise. But that was many, many years ago.Today I would use a very different design, and the drawing would be much better as well.
This lack of experience what will cost you time and money should you hire a bargain-rate designer. If you want to get it right the first time then hire an expert. If I had been working for you and this was your idea, the sample would have come back far more expensive than it needed to be. If you hire a graduate you might end up paying as much as $600 in labor costs and go through three months of sampling to get it right. If you hire someone with experience, you’ll pay around $500 for a single sample cost and you’ll have the sample delivered in two weeks.
I hope that I’ve convinced you that the cheapest choice is rarely the best. So what should you look for when you’re hiring a designer? Let’s get a bit more practical with some tips and resources.
NO 1. Manufacturing Experience
The first thing to look for on a designers CV is “retail and manufacturing” experience. If a designer doesn’t have this then they probably won’t know how to construct garments. This can affect the quality of their designs are and they certainly won’t be able to produce a tech pack for the clothing, essential for getting it made.
If you want to check out the process for garment sampling and how it should work, then you can read The 9 Step Sampling Process
No. 2 Tech Packs
Check their CV and ask about tech packs. See if they can show you an example of their work. Tech packs for clothing are basically blue prints on how a garment is made. I mention them a lot in this blog because they are an essential part of reducing costs and time. The quality of a tech pack can mean the difference between waiting 2 weeks and 6 months for a final sample. If the tech pack is poorly done it could cost you up to $10,000, if you even bother to follow the idea through at all.
Tech Packs are one of the three most important things that you should spend your budget on when starting a fashion brand or idea. The quality of the pack depends on the experience and knowledge of the designer. If you hire a cheap designer you’ll lose money to delays, wastage and development issues.
If you want to learn more about Tech Packs, you can watch a webinar I did a while back on what is in them. Click HERE to watch the webinar, and if you are interested in learning how to do your own, don’t forget to sign up for the notifications of the book release by joining our mailing list, where you’ll have loads of product and manufacturing help too. [remember to tick the box] Simply click the image below.
No.3. Trend Research
To some extent every company needs trend research, even if you think you don’t. Some fashion brands heavily rely on it while others just need some colour palettes and adaptions done. But it will always be an advantage to have a designer who has strong prediction skills. It is a term [also known as trend forecasting] that a lot of designers bounce around, so it’s difficult to know how well they actually understand it.
A quick tip is to go to your local high street or shopping center before you interview someone. Take a notebook and write down key colours and themes. For example, look out for certain details like fringing, leather, 70’s clothes, or an abundance of green [be specific on the colours]. These should be details that you notice are common in a few different shops.
Then when you interview someone, ask them to bring / show you some collections for …[insert season and year you are currently in]… Compare these designs to your notes, and see if their themes / details / colours match up to what you have written down.
The more they match with your notes the stronger their trend forecasting skill is.
No 4. Don’t be Fooled by Awards
People with lots of awards are fantastic, but you have to understand that awards are usually given for highly creative and unwearable ideas. A designer might have very beautiful designs and they might be fantastic at creating one-off fashion ideas, but that doesn’t mean that a he or she knows how manufacturing works. If they don’t, and most award winners don’t focus on the manufacturing side, then they won’t be able to produce your idea on a large scale, or create a viable tech pack. This is clearly not the type of person you need to bring your idea to life.
No 5. Never Hire a Student
If you are relying on experience to push your brand forward and you’re going to use a single designer, please don’t hire a student or a recent graduate. In most cases knowledge is the difference between success and failure, and student or recent graduate is not going to be able to help you. By all means, if you have a team of experienced people who can take time to train a graduate, then please do. We desperately need more skilled designers. However, if you’re hiring a single person to execute your idea, then this is a terrible idea. I understand that the lure of cheap labor is appealing, but in the end it’s just not worth it.
See how my designs have changed….
Freelance designers are everywhere and you can visit a number of places. These sites freelancers for all types of work, but you’ll still need to vet them to do the work for you. When I moved country, I tried to hire staff for my own company from these directories. Maybe I was unlucky, but I found that the things listed on their CV didn’t actually match with their real experience. It also took me a long time to sift through the hundreds of emails I received. However, I do know of other people who have successfully hired from these places, mainly in admin or IT, and they swear by it.
An advantage is that because they are all contract workers, you have no long-term overheads and you don’t have to worry about legal issues with employing someone full time. Personally I’m not sure about this option, but it should of course be mentioned.
In the spirit of honesty, I own one so of course I am going to praise them. Not because I have one but for many good reasons and here’s why…..
I can’t speak about other fashion companies, but in my business, I hire specialists in different product areas and market levels. Every time we design or do other services, they have specific knowledge about the product they are working on. Tech packs are done quickly and to the highest level, and your sample comes back pretty much perfect first time round. No delays. No cost wastage.
The other advantage is that because the designers are freelance there are no long-term employment commitments or overheads.
However, you should be aware that not all companies are created equal. Even though I spend a lot of time with my staff, that doesn’t mean other bosses do the same. That’s why you should follow the tips above, even with a fashion company which is offering their service. You need to make sure they are professional and have a high standard of quality. If you are interested in learning more about my company, or simply want to compare services to other companies, then you can find us here at: Fashion Services.
FULL TIME DESIGNER
Full time staff are a great idea if you have lots of work that can be given to someone experienced. However, you have to know who to hire….. if you follow the tips above this will help. Each company needs a slightly different person though. Someone a little different with stronger or weaker skills in different areas. You need to figure out what is important for your business, while also ensuring that the prospective designer knows how to make good Tech Packs and forecast trends.
A good place to look for a designer is any trade magazine for the fashion industry. Drapers Record, which is an industry Magazine based in the UK, has international listings and its own job website. This is a great place to find good quality staff. Another option is Retail Choice, which has a similar setup, but you need to click their international option on the home page menu if you are outside of the UK. They also cover a much broader range of jobs in retail.
I’ll leave you with a quick last note….. Costs quickly add up as you develop a solids sample pack. At such a delicate stage in your company’s development, you should be trying to make things as smooth as possible. While being thrifty is important, sometimes the cheapest option is actually a false economy. Re-hiring designers, and choosing the best option regardless of the price, will save you time, money and stress.
If you are interested in any of the resources mentioned in this post, you’ll find them below. If this post has been helpful to you, then please use the share buttons below to spread the word, and help others out as well.
http://www.fashionserviceshongkong.com/ [ My Company ]