Garment Technology - Hawthorn's Tips, Tricks and Insights
The FRA recently got in contact with Rob Williams, Managing Director of Hawthorn to find out more about what they would recommend for fashion startups and their tips, tricks and insights! Hawthorn is one of the UK’s leading clothing manufacturers, producing and distributing garments of the highest quality to fashion brands of all sizes.
From a manufacturer's point of view, what would you advise for fashion start ups?
As a manufacturer one mistake we see time and time again is brands using budget photography techniques which don't show the products in their best light at all. Some brands in fact go to such an extent that they will photograph their items on a coat hanger against a white wall on their phone which is leagues apart from the service a professional photographer could give. One of the best investments for a new brand is a fantastic photographer who can really show your brand in it's best light. Images are the main part of your brand and the first impression, so don't scrimp on photography. The costs of these don't have to break the bank if you shop around either.
Can you briefly tell us the process from garment design to end product and what stages it has to go through to get onto the shop floor?
The process from taking a garment from concept to reality isn't very complicated, thankfully. It all starts with an initial idea, which for some people may be a simple hand drawn sketch, or for others can be a highly detailed CAD or a full technical specification. We can work from most concepts, but of course for a manufacturer it's always preferable to have as much information as possible available. Usually once a design has been presented there is a little back and forth where requirements are clarified or amended, as sometimes technical limitations do come in to play. For example, embroidery can be limited by the complexity of the design. When the design is locked in, a manufacturer will go about creating patterns and ordering all of the necessary materials like fabrics, custom hardware etc. Once this is done, samples are produced, sent to the customer and post approval, bulk is manufactured.
How would you advise brands to check on a product's quality?
With regards to the quality of a product there are two main areas to look at; the quality of the fabrics and the quality of the construction. Quality of fabrics is the difference between being able to buy a 100% cotton tee shirt for £5 or £50 from different brands, there are many different grades and extra washes that can be given to give the item qualities like extra softness or an improved hand feel. Fabrics which have been treated as such and which are from a premium source will be of a higher quality. When it comes to the construction of the item, handmade is always best. This is because you can count on the person actually stitching your product together having the experience and quality control required to ensure a high level of accuracy. In fact one of our quality checks is that each item must be checked by the person stitching it together.
What are your top 5 tips for success in the fashion industry?
There are many things to consider, but the top 5 things we would suggest would be:
- Don't scrimp on photography
Photography is such a huge element to a fashion brand that you really shouldn't underestimate its power in conveying your brand and your message.
- Don't have an amateur website
Customers are very good at spotting an amateur, whether it's because your photography is weaker than other brands or because you're using a mobile number or a free email address. If you start as you mean to go on with regards to professionalism it will give you a great chance of success.
- Develop a healthy range
Some brands start with just a couple of items, but this should be avoided where possible. Customers love to see brands which are unique and dynamic, and a brand which only has a couple of items for sale can be seen as limited and amateur.
- Focus on quality
In everything that you do, quality should be way up there on your priorities list. From your products to your website and social media, a great way to think is to look at your idols within the industry and the way they present themselves and their products, and think "would my competitor/idol be doing this" before making any decisions.
- Take inspiration don't plagiarise
For some brands, they may want to take inspiration from others which are already out there, however there is a big difference between taking inspiration from someone and from simply copying what they do. If you plagiarise other brands then it's sure to be spotted by someone and it could leave you in a lot of trouble legally or at best put some customers off of your brand and your products.
What are the current challenges you think the industry faces?
At the moment, as with most business in the UK, the fall in the value of the Pound following Brexit is having an effect. It's particularly bad for businesses who deal internationally since most costs are dealt in US Dollars. This means that profits can be squeezed, however one saving grace is that the margins that can be achieved when retailing clothing are huge, and there is still plenty of room to create a successful and profitable business. The uncertainty caused in the financial markets has certainly taken its toll on business in general, but this isn't any different for fashion as it would be for other industries.
What is the biggest mistake people make when starting a fashion business?
The biggest mistake we see clothing brands making is the underestimating of the time, finance and commitment it can take. This is usually by people who see it as a bit of a "get rich quick" type of business, however students of the Fashion Retail Academy will by nature be highly committed to the industry. With any business, especially fashion, you should take your original estimates for time and finance and at least double them. Unless you have started a successful business in the past then it will no doubt be a learning curve which will inevitably take longer and cost more that originally anticipated, but with commitment it's a fantastic business to get in to, especially if you're passionate about fashion in general.
We would like to thank Rob Williams, Managing Director of Hawthorn, for their insight into fashion manufacturing.
If you are interested in studying Garment Technology or for more information on the course that we offer at the Fashion Retail Academy, click here: Level 4 Garment Technology