What Is A Range Plan For Fashion Designers?
The fashion world is a high paced environment where efficiency and innovation reign supreme. To achieve any goal you must have plan, and in this business that is no exception. Last week we talked about business plans, this week we discover why great designers must have a solid understanding of range plans.
A range plan is an overview of your collection with all of the design and financial parameters set out. The plan outlines the specifics of your collection; from how many styles you will have, to what fabrics and colourways will be used. It is used before you dive into large scale production. This is incredibly useful for you to follow as a designer but most importantly it gives potential buyers a clear understanding of your vision.
Range plans usually include:
- Total number of garments
- Illustrations or flat drawings of every garment
- Proportion of different garments types (Tops/bottoms/dresses)
- Specific garment styles
- Different fabrics and colourways for each garment
- Cost price per garment
- Selling price per garment
- Order quantities per style
- Manufacturer details
While this can seem overwhelming, take it from me, it doesn't have to be. There are tons of resources online to help you with a range plan, so I'm not that interested in taking you through it. But I'd like to take a quick look at WHY you need one in the first place, so instead of just going through the motions, you can actually get to grips with your business and set yourself up for success.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, and the first step to any great line or collection is a cohesive vision. The story of entire civilisations can be told from the garments that they wore. Think about the story of your designs and the culture they reflect. A tried and true way to accomplish piecing your thoughts together is to set up a mood board, consisting of colour palettes, textures and themes from various sources.
When you have the overall concept of your line, it is time to begin looking at the market you are selling to. Think specifically about your brand and the people that it will serve. Get specific - narrow your overall market. Consider income level, gender, age and what that particular group is looking for as the function of their attire. This will have an immense impact on not only the marketing of your line, but the manufacturing of it too!
It's easy to feel overwhelmed when looking at a designer collection and think that you need to produce a huge range of completely different garments per collection. This just isn't the case. Remember, changing minor details on the pattern, or using a different fabric or simply just a different colour can totally change the feel of a garment. Buyers often prefer to have a few key styles and number of options within that style that they can choose to best fit their customers. It also massively cuts down your work load.
The Cutting Glass have done an awesome "by numbers" analysis of a Rick Owens runway collection, showing how many styles are different or the same just in different colours or fabrics. It really puts the range plan into context.
One of the many reasons laying the foundation of a streamlined range plan is so important is that each part affects the others. When you first started your plan, I mentioned that it was important to have a vision and understand the niche market you are serving. This is mainly because when it comes to your pricing strategy knowing which niche you are targeting can define the strategy you choose. Knowing how much money your target market is willing to spend will undoubtedly be a factor when choosing the fabrics and production methods and vice versa.
The biggest factors when pricing your line are raw material and production costs. Remember, if a garment has a more complicated pattern or the sewing together is quite labour intensive, then your production will take longer, meaning costs will be higher. You may want think about how to offset this. For example, if you have one or two more complicated pieces in the collection, you may have a few really simple designs that are super quick to make.
The same goes for choosing fabrics. You may want to use a few luxury fabrics mixed with some cheaper lines so you can stick to an overall budget. Or if you are intent on using only the highest quality fabrics, you need a clear strategy for reaching out to a high end market.
Another important part of your range plan needs to be where you are sourcing your fabrics from. As Director of Offset Warehouse, a fabric shop, I cannot tell you how important it is to know where you fabric is coming from and making sure the fabric you wish to use is still going to be in stock when you want to go into production. There's no use creating a sample piece from limited edition or end of line fabric that you can't get again. It only takes a quick enquiry to check if a fabric is an ongoing stock line.
Cultivating solid relationships with your source is key to having a successful line. Also, be prepared when talking to fabric reps and agents about what you are looking for and remember to ask for wholesale prices. The price per metre of fabrics will often go down with the more you buy. That's definitely something you need to consider in your range plan, so don't just look at the initial price. At Offset Warehouse we include a tiered pricing system on our fabrics so you know straight off the bat how much cheaper it is to buy in bulk. Take this Sateen for example, if you buy 50 metres you save a whopping 50% per metre! This means that the cost of each garment will become lower with the more you make.
Think about including physical fabric samples in your range plan too, this will give buyers and even better understanding and feel for your collection.
So there you have the basics behind creating a range plan. Just like a business plan, a range plan is primarily for yourself, so include what you need. But if it's all a bit overwhelming, there are plenty of resources online to sink your teeth into before you get started. There are a plethora of templates you can work to for your first collection, and once you've got the hang of them, you'll have the confidence to embellish and make your range plan unique to you.
Here are two free templates to get you started:
Check out this YouTube video talking you through a range plan template. Range plans are big business and you can even take courses in how effectively range plan like this one at the Fashion Retail Academy.
The development of a range plan takes careful consideration and collaboration between designers, buyers and merchandisers. While you may consider fashion your art form, you must remember that it is also a business. Keeping true to your vision is important, but to make money you must be organised, and plan! In fashion, as in life, there must be a balance.
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