How To Time Your Fashion Line and How Long It Really Takes To Launch

How To Time Your Fashion Line and How Long It Really Takes To Launch

The startup question many ask: how do you time your fashion line and how long does it actually take to launch?

If you’ve already started a line or you would like to, you may already feel a little lost to the planning part of it. You probably already asked yourself how long it takes to make your samples, how long production takes, and what season you should be starting. Timing in this industry is everything. If you miss a season’s deadline, you might have to wait an entire year to get another chance at it. If you miss your delivery date, you might lose your customers and your buyers right then and there – they will never order from you again and your reputation as a fashion brand will be ruined.

Therefore in this business, you don’t unfortunately have the luxury of going at your own pace. You really need to follow the industry standards and the industry rules, as it is definitely a fast-paced industry and you need to follow them in order to be successful. There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to timing and starting a fashion line, so it’s important to know your deadline and don’t rush. Take your time and do it the right way so that the following seasons can be so much easier and so much better for you.

Variables That Affect Timing

Now keep in mind, there are a ton of variables that go into determining how long it’s going to take for you and your brand to launch a line. Let’s go through them below.

1. Category Of Your Product: Some lines are better to launch in certain seasons. Obviously swimwear you’re going to want to launch in spring/summer, and outerwear you’re going to want to launch in fall/winter. Timing is very important depending on the category of your product.

2. Your Budget: The more money you have, the more you can pay people to do things for you, and the more you can get done faster. If you’re trying to bootstrap it as much as possible there is nothing wrong with that. Just realize it’s going to take you a lot longer and the majority of the work is going to fall on your shoulders. If you have a ton of money, you can hire a bunch of people and pay all them to do all these things for you, so you can get your line done a lot faster.

3. Time Devoted To Your Business: Are you working full-time, are you working part-time, are you not working at all, are you a stay-at-home mom, what kind of responsibilities do you have, what does your life look like? Typically speaking, I have seen from my history of working with numerous startups and so many different designers that if you’re putting in around 40 hours a week in your business, you should be able to launch your line from start to finish within a 1-1/2 to 2 year period max. If you are putting in around eight hours a week, it’s probably going to take you about 5 years to launch your fashion line. Keep that in mind because a lot of it does depend on your time and again if you don’t have a lot of time but you have a lot of money, that’s great. If you don’t have time and you don’t have money, not a good situation to be in.

4. Channels Of Distribution: Are you doing only e-commerce or are you selling wholesale to retailers? What you need to do in order to prepare for all of the different channels of distribution is completely different, so your timeline is going to look different. In order to prepare to pitch to buyers, it’s a huge long process. In order to prepare to launch an e-commerce website, you better have social media game going, you better have a following, you’ve got to have your email marketing, your blogging, and your website has to be on point. There’s a lot of things you have to do to prepare and that is going to obviously affect your time. If you’re not sure or you want to get some clarity about which channels of distribution are right for your brand, read our blog post on where to sell your fashion line!

5. Level Of Knowledge In The Fashion Industry: Timing of your fashion line and how long it takes definitely depends on your knowledge and your level of knowledge in the fashion industry and also in business. Do you have a fashion background, do you know how to sew, do you know how to make your patterns, did you go to school for fashion, did you work in the fashion industry, did you work in design or did you work at a retail store, did you take business classes, do you know how to write a business plan? All of this stuff you need to take into consideration when you’re launching your line. The less information you know, the more you’re going to need to learn and/or hire someone to coach, mentor, and train you – that’s what we are here for. Working with a coach or mentor can definitely help you speed things along because obviously we are going to show you the quickest way to get to your end goal with making the least number of mistakes possible, while spending the least amount of money possible.

6. Number Of Styles You’re Creating: Are you doing a small six to eight piece collection – which I do highly recommend you start off that way – or are you trying to do a full-blown 50 piece collection? The more amount of samples and pieces that you’re making, the longer it’s going to take for your sample development. It’s very easy to make six pieces, not so easy to make 50 pieces. Thus in the beginning, I always say keep it easy, keep it simple, do a small collection, and if you can try to do versions of the same style. You’ll save so much money and time this way because you don’t have to develop all of these patterns.

7. Difficulty Of The Styles: Are you creating simple T-shirts or are you doing custom-made haute couture gowns with hand beading, draping, and hand crocheting, hand tacking, and all of this labor and work? This is going to take a lot longer period of time than to do some simple T-shirts. So, I also take that into account when I create a timeline calendar for you. If you’re developing something brand-new – like you have this invention for this idea that doesn’t exist –  you are definitely want to give yourself tons of extra time. Or if you’re developing your own fabric or trying a new technique like 3D printing, you definitely want give yourself way more time to launch your fashion line.

8. Developing Samples Oversea Or Domestically: The last variable that affects how to time your fashion line is if you’re developing your samples overseas or domestically. Overseas is definitely going to take a lot longer. There’s going to be a lot of back-and-forth, you are going to have to wait for your packages to be shipped, and so on and so forth. Therefore  it does take a lot longer to develop your line overseas than it does here in the US, which is why a lot of people like to develop their line here domestically. Even if you’re going to do your production overseas, people will still develop their samples here, ship their samples overseas, and have the production done over there.

Guidelines On How To Time Your Fashion Line

Now let’s go into some of the guidelines on timing so that you are a little prepared and you have some kind of guidelines to go off of.

Fabric Sourcing: This could take you three weeks, it could take you three months, it could take you a year. Fabric sourcing is one of the things that is a huge variable and it really does depend on what it is you’re looking for and the price point that you need it at. If you’re someone who is looking for something super specific and you have a really low price point that
you need to hit and you’re not finding it, it could take you a very long time to find it. So just keep that in mind that fabric sourcing is one of those wonky things that could take you a little bit of time, or could take you a lot of time.

Sample Development: This obviously depends on the number of samples, but let’s just say you’re doing a six or eight piece mini collection. I would say allow yourself at least 4 to 6 months to do all of your sample development. That would be your first sample, your first pattern, doing a fitting, making revisions to your pattern, making another sample, doing another fitting – so going through a couple rounds of samples in order to perfect it and get it to
where you wanted it to be. Now, can it be done sooner than that? Of course, I did a four-piece line for somebody one time and we did it in three months from fabric sourcing all the way through to their samples been perfected and made. They were on a deadline so that’s why we did it that fast, I don’t prefer to do it that fast and we do charge extra if you are on a strict deadline, so keep that in mind. No one likes to be rushed and people will charge you extra, even the sample makers and the pattern makers will charge you extra. All of this can be done faster or slower, but I’m just giving you guys general guidelines.

Production: I always say you want to leave 4 to 6 months, four months minimum, to do your production. Now keep in mind your actual production – meaning your actual sewing of your garments – is not going to take 4 to 6 months. Production is a huge process – you have to order your fabric, you have to order trims, you have to create cutting tickets, you have to make sure your pattern is digitized and you got all your grading and marking done – there are so many steps to take in the production process and everything starts to add up time. Thus while it only might take your garment factory a week or two to sew your production, it is going to take you 4 to 6 months to get all of your shipping in order so that you can ship on time.

Building Your Social Media: Again, there’s lots of variables – do you have money to pay someone to help you with social media, do you not, are you doing all of it yourself, do you have a background in advertising and marketing? All of that stuff you need to take into consideration. To give you a general guideline, bare minimum, you need six months of actively building your social media. I say actively and consistently meaning every single day that you wake up you are doing something on social media.

Building A Good E-Commerce Website: Typically speaking, you want to allow yourself four months. It’s not going to take your web designer four months to actually build it, it probably is only going to take him or her a month maybe to build it – and that’s only if you’ve done your job in giving them a really clear helpful layout. Doing that layout and doing the homework to come up with it is going to take you at least three months to put together, if not longer. Plus depending on if you’re going to do a photoshoot or you are going to do a video shoot and that sort of stuff, it can definitely take four months to really put together a good e-commerce website, so keep that in mind when you’re building your website.

Crowdfunding Campaigns: To do your preparation properly and to launch properly, you will need an average of six months to one year of preparation. I know that sounds like a really long amount of time, but guess what? You’ve got a lot of work to do in order to make it good. Now do you have to do everything in there, no it depends. If you know a really good influencer that’s going to back you in your crowdfunding campaign, great! Then maybe you can skip a couple of steps, but most of us don’t know these high profile and influencers. Therefore it’s going to be pretty difficult for you to get the following that you need to build your crowdfunding campaign, so you are going to need to work to build it.

Business Setup & Logistics: This includes your trademark, logo, and incorporating your business into an LLC. It can take anywhere from 1 to 2 months.

If you add up all the timing of those things I just went over – fabric sourcing, sample development, production, crowdfunding campaign, building your social media, doing an e-commerce website, business setup and logistics – it would take you about three years to complete everything if you are doing one thing at a time. Hopefully most of you are putting in 40 hours a week to your business and so you’ll be able to do more than one thing at a time, and that’s why it typically takes about a year and a half for most startup designers to launch their line. Keep in mind that once you release your first collection, you’re now going to be on this never-ending constant fashion calendar that just keeps going and you need to do the next collection and the next collection and the next collection, so you want to take the time in the beginning and set yourself up properly.

For those of you who want a very specific calendar of what to do when, we do have two fashion calendars available on our website: the design production calendar and the sales and buying calendar. The design/production calendar gives you a very specific timeline for the entire process of sourcing your fabric, design development, sampling, production, all the way through to sales and it includes both spring and fall seasons. The sales/buying calendar includes six seasons selling periods along with delivery windows and exact shipping dates and that is going to help you be able to quote delivery dates and cancel dates to your buyer so that’s important that you do that properly. You can also buy them both with our calendar bundle!

Lastly, keep in mind that success does not happen overnight. It takes a very long period of time to make a lot of sales and actually make a profit. Just because you have sales in your business doesn’t actually mean you’re making a profit at the end of the day because if you are spending more than you’re making, you have no profit. So, pace yourself, do everything the right way, and you will set yourself up for success – I promise!

Download Our FREE Checklist on What You Need to Do Before a Launch!

I hope this helped you on how to time your fashion line and gave you a better idea on how long it actually takes to launch. And for weekly fashion biz tips, join our Fearless Fashionpreneur Facebook Page!


Fashion Consultant Christine Daal

5 thoughts on “How To Time Your Fashion Line and How Long It Really Takes To Launch

  1. David Biagini says:

    I was glad to see that you highlighted the amount of time devoted to the business. So many people’s expectations are totally out of sync with the time they devote to their business.

  2. Abe says:

    This article was so helpful, Im a young designer and I have to say it’s so easy to rush because of excitement. I’m pacing myself and trying to learn the every aspect of the industry. You provided some key points to pay attention to. ?

  3. V says:

    Lord, this is the damn truth. It took me around 5 months to source for a fabric supplier and a manufacturer and when I finally got it, it took another month and a half to execute samples perfectly, wbesite and launch. Then since I did pre-orders…well lets see how it goes. But I would say it can be done in shorter time depnding like you said, on how much money you have to start up with and how simple/complex your designs are. I probably spend 37 hours on my 9-5 and then an extra 90 hours per week on my business. It can be draining.

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