The fashion loop starts with taking inspiration from music, magazines and trendsetters and with the direction of the trend institute regarding color, style and material.
The first step in creating a new line, following the fashion loop, is research. The first research that should be done is market research, to understand which is the target market for the new company; and consumer research, to grasp who the target consumer is and what are his/her expectations regarding the new line. Then the research shifts to a more technical one, thus the product and color research starts. For example, if the target consumer is young women and men between the ages of 16 and 20, and the market research concludes that they desire more t-shirts that are in bright new colors, then the product research can focus on the styling, best fabrics and accessories that should be used, and consequently, the color researchers are in charge of finding out which colors would best fit the line and would attract the consumers.
The next stage in the loop is design. During this stage the designers will start planning the new t-shirt line, sketching the designs, selecting the fabric desired, which for the example could be a single jersey, the trims, and developing the initial tech pack that will accompany each style throughout the whole loop.
The subsequent phase is style selection; during which the designers start making the first patterns and prototypes for the t-shirt styles and, based on these, they also choose which styles will be included in the final line, and which will be instead discarded of, for example because one of the styles has a neckline that is too low and does not fit with the concept of the line. This is also the stage when an eventual sales sample of the t-shirt can be ordered, to be used in the later step.
The following stage is marketing. This is when the new line of t-shirts is presented to possible retailers if the company does not retail on its own, or to possible buyers. The next two steps are quite closely related to each other, these are: pre-production and sourcing.
The pre-production activity starts with the inquiry, with which the company asks the supplier if he will be able to produce the t-shirts line, what is the cost and if he will be able to respect the expected date of departure and expected date of arrival. The pre-production also includes various samples of the product that are sent back and forth between the supplier and the buyer. These are used to check the styling of the t-shirts, colors, fabrics, sizes, accessories and to perform the required tests. During this stage the designers also start deepening the details in the tech packs for each style and also do the grading for the size range. During this process it is important to respect the time and action calendar that was established. Sourcing instead entails the choice of supplier or suppliers and sourcing terms. There are normally two sourcing options: full package or CMT, and each company should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each system, in light of the production line. For example, again referencing to the t-shirt line, if the company prefers to deal with only one supplier and is not taking the responsibility to order the fabric separately, then the full package is a good solution. Geographical position must also be considered, especially together with lead time and buying strategy. So, if the company is buying the t-shirts during the season and has thus a short lead time, it should choose a supplier that is near the distribution center, so as to cut down the transportation time. Time is becoming a factor for competitiveness. Local sourcing and reshoring is also becoming a trend across companies.
The second to last stage is production. Again, while in the fashion loop the phases are depicted in a linear way, in practice, they normally interact with each other quite often. For example, if the company in question received the knit downs of the single jersey fabric for the t-shirts during the pre-production process and has approved them, it means the supplier can start the bulk production, even though the pre-production is not finished yet. This is also the stage when the quality is checked, meaning making sure the garments meet the standards set by the buyer.
The very last stage is distribution, and this could mean shipping to the distribution center for some, or directly to the retailer for others. In the case of the t-shirts example, if the buyer has a distribution center, depending on what shipping terms he has agreed upon, let’s speculate FOB, he will pay for the transportation from the port in the production country to the distribution center, and will then ship from there to his retailers. Throughout the whole loop, communication is the key to assure a smooth passage of the garment, from concept to finished product.