Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Contract work - hearts and headaches...

We've been terrible about updating the blog.  Shame on us!  Please accept our sincerest apologies!

Quick updates - Spring 2011 went off without a hitch.  Beautiful prints on a lightweight voile paired with super comfy knits.  Lots of smocking and oversized details.  Go to our Facebook page to see some photos from the collection. 

We've just finished the designing and patterns for Spring 2012.  It is a beautiful collection with lots of print choices in bright and fun colors trimmed with cotton eyelet trim.  Let's talk a little about the development process.

Headaches.  2 days before we were to meet with our pattern maker to do the handoff of Spring 2012 designs we received an email from her letting us know that she is completely overbooked and would not be able to do the patterns for this season.  This is one of the risks you take when you work with contract/freelance employees.  The biggest issue for us was that this meeting had been planned for 3 weeks prior when she never made any indication of possibly having a scheduling conflict.  If we had been notified of this  problem 3 weeks prior it would have been a huge help.  We could have started working sooner with another pattern maker.   To add to this problem, we are located in New England.  Not exactly the apparel manufacturing hub of the world.  Patternmakers are hard to come by.  But I digress...  The quick solution is to seethe over this issue for an hour or two and then get over it.  That's what we did. 

So, after a frantic 24 hours of trying to find a replacement at the last minute (are you available NOW?) we were referred to a local pattern maker with a great reputation.  Ok, she's 1 1/2 hours away but that's better than NY or CA.  She has turned out to be a fabulous find.  She's fast, asks lots of questions and communicates well.  And best of all?  Every single style looked fantastic on the first try.  No second fitting required for any style!  Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!  This is quite a wonderful thing to happen the first time you are working with a new patternmaker.  Many times it takes a season or 2 for you to be on the same page. 

What YOU need to do to help have this kind of situation happen more often than not. 
  • Do you have a basic body measurement chart that you use as a base for your line?  If you don't, you should.  It will be tweaked a little here and there as you develop your line and get through a few seasons.  
  • Tech packs.  Tech packs. Tech packs.  Details, details, details.  
    • Sketches - these must be DETAILED all the way down to the stitch detail.  A tech pack is a packet of information that goes to the pattern maker with all the design details included.  Is that hem finished with a 1/4" double turned hem or 1/4" coverstitch?  If you don't know, the pattern maker doesn't know. This packet will be updated many times during the process of design and development and will eventually be given to your sample maker and/or your manufacturing factory.  This is their BIBLE.  I strongly suggest hiring a freelance tech designer with previous experience in creating tech packs for at least the first season or 2 (if not for every season) until you get the hang of what needs to go into this packet.  Warning:  If you don't update your sketches and all the other details in your packet do NOT be surprised if the garments you get back match those packets exactly.  Even if you had called multiple times with changes...  Back up EVERYTHING with the paper otherwise you will pay for it both in time and money.  
    • Here is a link to a great article about what a Tech Pack should include from a seasoned patternmaker.  Please note that I don't think you need anything more than Excel to create a tech pack.  This article references a software that can definitely help you but new companies need to watch their cash flow.  While using Excel/Word/Illustrator may be the longhand way of creating a tech pack, trust me that it works.  If you hire a freelance tech designer they should already have their own templates that they work with.  Be sure to look at some samples so that you know what you're getting. 
    • If your pattern maker or sewer or factory suddenly can't complete something then you can hand this information off to the next company you hire.  It will save you lots of headaches.  I promise.
  •  Reference Samples.
    • These are not necessary but are very, very helpful.  If you see something that can help your pattern maker understand what you're trying to create be sure to include that in the handoff.   Explain to them what it is about the reference sample you think will help them - is it the drape, construction, fit?  
    • Tape or staple a piece of paper to this sample with a reference number so that there is no confusion about what sample you are referring to for later conversations.  
    • Be sure to include a note in your TECH PACK about this reference sample - "refer to red dress sample #... for sleeve detail."  
  • Communication.
    • Make sure your pattern maker has everything they need.  Trims for reference, accurate elastic measurements, fabric to work with, etc...
    • Call and email to make sure their questions are answered and to follow up on schedule.  Every pattern maker I've worked with tends to forget where they are and what time it is once they get into their work.  This is a GREAT thing but also something that YOU need to monitor.  Help them to help you by discussing with them an order of preference (if you have one).  Which styles do you need to see first?  If you hand everything off and just expect everything to be on time without checking in and double checking on the status of everything you are going to be disappointed and in a bind.  
  • The Golden Rule
    • Always say thank you at the end of any of your emails or phone calls.  You are paying for their services, yes, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't say thank you.  I'm surprised by how many people I've seen not do this.  Thank them for their time and for a job well done. 

Hope this information helps!  Feel free to ask questions. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gearing up for the holidays?  Doing your holiday shopping?  Allow us to help. 

How does 55%-65% off sound? 

I know, right?!?!!!!

Bina Apparel is having the last sale of the season and it starts at 8pm tonight EST - Nov. 14th.  The sale runs for 3 days on Totsy

Sign in to www.totsy.com early to get the best selection. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lookin' Good while Giving Back

Another on-line flash sale for you!!!! 

The Mini Social will be hosting an on-line flash sale for Bina Apparel this coming Thursday October 14th.  "The Mini Social is a private members only on-line boutique, featuring up to 60% off designer clothing and accessories for mom, baby and child."  They were one of the first companies to feature these kinds of sales!

A discount on designer duds isn’t the only thing you can feel pleased with yourself about. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to several favorite women’s and children’s charities, including the United States Fund for UNICEF and Shoe4Africa. It’s the social with a conscience.

You need to be a member to access the sale, so please go to http://www.theminisocial.com/ to sign up!

See you there!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ready. Set. Launch!

13 days and counting!  13 days until the official launch of Bina Apparel!
We are so excited because this launch has an extra something added to it by way of www.zulily.com.  Zulily is a private sale site that offers temporary sales in limited quantities, aka "flash" sales,  on designer apparel and accessories for kids and parents.

**We are very proud to announce Bina Apparel as the FIRST company Zulily is doing a launch event with. **

What does that mean for you, you ask?  It means that you get to shop the Bina Apparel Fall 2010 collection BEFORE it hits the stores AND at a discount!!!!  (Can you see my smile?)

"With more of a vintage flare for the Fall 2010 collection, shoppers will find warm tones, exceptional fabrics, and incredible attention to detail on the garment construction. Details include pintucking, appliqué embroidery, pockets, and pleats.  In addition, Maria designed and created the tweed fabric found in the outwear pieces, offering not only a unique aspect, but also one of a kind.

Though zulily is known for their special online events and sales, this is the first launch event they have offered for their customers.  zulily Buyer Kat Leonard said of the Bina Apparel line launch event, "We're always excited to see new lines and innovative products hit the kids' market. It's fabulous to be able to offer our zulily members the first shot at a new product . . . and at a great value, to boot.”"
This is a member site which means that you need to sign up to access the sale.  Please email your address to info@binapparel.com and we will send you an invitation email. 

The dates of the sale are Monday August 23rd - Wednesday August 25th at www.zulily.com.

Thank you for all your support, everyone.  We will see you at www.zulily.com on August 23rd!!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sell, sell, sell...DANCE!

Selling your own line is hard work but you don't have to do it alone.  

When I started thinking about what my sales and marketing plan should be I had a few people and places that I referred to help figure it out.  Here is some of the advice I received that I DIDN'T end up following and I'll tell you why.

1) I was advised to send personalized emails to the potential customers instead of mass emailing.  I started to do this but it was so incredibly time consuming and I never knew if anyone was actually opening the emails or going to the links I provided.  So after a bit of research I decided to sign up with an email marketing site.  There were a few things that I knew I wanted the main thing being TRACKING.  I wanted to know who was opening my emails, who was clicking the links, which links they were clicking, what they were looking at, for how long, etc...  What a great decision.  I was able to see all that and more.  Yes, you'll probably need to pay for the service but it's nominal really.  Especially when you realize that your time will be more productive because you'll know who and where to direct your time and efforts. 

2) Some people swore up and done that I HAD to do a show (by "show" I mean trade show).  Shows are expensive.  And assuming you are a new(er) company you probably don't have relationships with buyers yet.  This means you may be spending a lot of money to sit and hope that buyers will come by, see your things, like them and will spend time to talk with you about the collection and hopefully make a purchase.  When I was deciding whether or not to do a show I did a cost breakdown of how much the entire event would cost, wrote a list of worst case scenario outcomes (no orders by the end of the show), talked to a few people who have done a show and then made some decisions.  The short version of this story is that I realized that I was much better off using those funds to hit the road and try to get appointments with the buyers. I met with them in their stores which helped me to see their layout, how they merchandise and where my collection would fit.  Another reason I decided against doing a show this season was that many companies have slashed their travel budgets so they were not going to be attending shows that required travel.  The last reason is that I have been to many shows in my career and unless you have buyers that you can't easily see that are attending the show and you have actual appointments with it may not be worth your time and money.  There are a LOT of vendors at these shows.  A LOT.  And as a buyer it can be a bit overwhelming and draining.  So save your money and get to schlepping.  Your dollars will go a lot farther. 

3)  A few people had advised me to not hire a sales rep until I had sold $XX,XXX in goods.  So my original plan was to sell the line by myself.  I quickly, QUICKLY realized that I simply could not do it all.  Research, design, develop, work with pattern maker, source fabric and trims, run the business side of things, price production, manage cash flow, look for funding sources, plan production, AND SELL!  Selling requires a lot of phone calls, travel and follow up.  And assuming you are starting with zero accounts the time you spend cold-calling and following up, following up, following up...well, let me just say that I was finding myself getting up at 2 a.m. and working until 5 a.m. to get all the other things done.  Add being a wife and a mom to this list and I realized that something had to give. 

So I did some research and made a list of the reps that I wanted to approach to sell my line.  Man oh man, it was the best decision I made. 

This is not the first time that advice that was given to me that didn't feel quite right, I went with my instinct and it turned out to be an awesome move.  Sometimes we need to remember that we know what we know and that we learned it from experience.  

GO WITH YOUR GUT.  This is the most important thing anyone can tell you and it applies to everything.  Luckily my dad taught me from a very young age to trust my instincts and go with my gut.  He always said that it would rarely, if ever, steer you wrong. 

Want to hear the best news of all?  We are basically sold out for wholesale sales for this season.  I had set a cap for production quantities (make sure to do this!!!) and we met them.  

I don't know what a "jig" is exactly, but if you could see me I'm doing my version of one right now!