Fashion is such a tactile industry, which makes it hard to imagine how developing and fitting new designs remotely could even work. The good news is it is totally possible. Fashion companies who manufacture overseas were already doing it in many ways, and I’ve been helping independent brands develop and fit their designs remotely since well before the pandemic. If you’re wondering how you’re going to develop new products this Fall with a scattered team, here are my tips for success.
Conduct fittings over Zoom
You really only need two people physically present at the fitting – your fit model and an assistant who can be a pair of on-site hands. The designer, patternmaker, and anyone else involved can join the fitting virtually. While it is nice to be together in-person, it still works to do fittings virtually. The on-site assistant doesn’t even need to be a fit expert; they can be someone from the fit model’s household willing to help. The patternmaker overseeing the fitting will know what to look for, ask about for feedback, and notice on the garment, so they can guide fitting. Just make sure your fit model has all the samples she needs and the assistant has a measuring tape, straight or safety pins, scissors, a cell phone or camera, and a fabric marking pencil.
Document with photos
I recommend taking good photos during fittings regardless of the circumstances, but it is especially important when you are working remotely. For fittings, take photos from front, side, and back of the fit model wearing each garment along with any close-ups of design details. Take the photos before the fitting begins as well as after the garment has been marked and pinned. For development, photos of fabric swatches and trims, color comparison, internal garment construction and stitching are all great to share with your remote team. Reference photos like this are very helpful when you might not be able to wander over to the sample rack in the office to look at a detail and when you need to write the product descriptions, marketing copy, or factory sample comments.
Tech packs are even more important
With a remote team, the communication needs to be on-point and the tech pack is the document that communicates all the information about a style. (If you are curious what all goes into a tech pack and why it is important, check out this series of posts.) Your style-specific reference photos, fitting photos, and fit notes can all live in the tech pack. The format forces you to be clear and concise with development notes. Your team and factory should all have access to the tech packs so you are all working off the same information together and can refer to that document for any updates or decisions. Looking at this one document makes it an easy go-to and keeps important details from getting lost in everyone’s email inboxes.
Decide who needs to see what and ship directly there
With your team not all in one office together, decide who is responsible for what aspects of development and then make a list of the things that should be shipped directly to them for review. Instead of shipping everything to your empty office and then shipping things back out to each team member, you can save yourself some shipping cost, time, and hassle by sending each item to who needs it. Fit samples can most likely be sent directly to your fit model from the sample maker. Fabric swatches can be sent directly to you as the designer. Photo samples can go right to the studio. Production can ship directly to your warehouse (or even be drop-shipped to your customer if you are comfortable with that and your factory offers that option!)
Stay organized and informed
Staying organized is crucial for any remote team and is true for fashion as well. Someone needs to be in charge of updating tech packs, tracking samples to and from each person, and remembering who has what sample or swatch card on their home-office desk. I’m a big fan of shared Google Drives, Dropbox folders, or other digital file sharing and team collaboration platforms. They cut down on the paper clutter and give your whole team access to the information and reference materials they need wherever they might be working from. Staying organized during development will make sure that everything stays on track and nothing falls through the cracks.
Developing a collection remotely can be a bit of a shift, but there’s no reason it can’t be just as successful as the in-person process you’re used to.