Product development is expensive. I’m not going to tell you otherwise. There is a lot of time, money, and testing that go into developing a garment from scratch and getting it right. And this is all upfront long before you are able to start selling the product and see the return on your investment. But there are ways to still develop and offer your customers new options while staying within your budget.
A quick and easy way that requires almost no additional development cost is to release an existing style in a new colorway. Maybe you released a top in spring in a light summery pastel, but it can easily transition to fall and be styled in a whole new way simply by now offering it in burgundy or black. You could switch it up even more by offering the style in new prints or by color blocking different pieces of the garment. Perhaps the trims or hardware finish could be changed. This is a great option for best-selling styles or staple pieces that customers can’t get enough of.
Another way is to recycle what you already have. Is there a sleeve detail that you love in one of your pieces? Use it again in a different silhouette! If you have a dress that fits great, split it into separates and now you have a top and skirt to offer. Look at what you already have developed and see in what ways you can recycle elements and recombine them into new styles. Not only will this save on development cost, but it gives your customer a consistent fit that they can depend on.
Beyond just recycling, you can build on what you have. Turn a pant into shorts, a skirt into the bottom of a dress, or a crew-neck into a “v”. Use your best-selling styles as the blocks from which to create variations or simple changes. The basic fit that you worked so hard on (and spent a lot of money) developing will stay the same, but the hems, necklines, and style lines can be altered to create a whole new style.
If you do a lot of testing on your fabrics before development (and you should at least be washing, checking shrinkage, and noting content and weight) you can save money by using the same fabric across multiple styles. This way one set of testing results can apply towards multiple styles. If you’ve used the fabric for a style in previous seasons, you can potentially save even more by using that previous style as a block from which to start the new style’s pattern. This way that particular fabric’s stretch, compression, weight, and behavior is already accounted for in the pattern and the overall fit shouldn’t need as much adjustment. Sharing fabrics will also make it easier to meet fabric minimum order quantities and help keep your production costs lower as well.
If you are smart about what products you add and how you develop them, you can maximize your product development budget and really fill out your product offering. Have questions or want to share a way that you have saved on product development? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear.