Fashion PLM: Design, Pre-Production and Trend Forecasting
“The existence of Fashion is not only to cater the consumer's needs but to represent the designer's innovation which brings revolution in the fashion world.” - Shaveta Pujara, Designer & Lecturer of Fashion Technology.
One of the greatest time-to-market challenges that businesses within the fashion industry face is a lengthy design/development process that is part of the product lifecycle management (PLM). This phase starts very early, long before designers can see which trends are hottest. The process of designing a new collection varies from company to company, and may include methods such as brainstorming sessions, attendance to fashion shows or focus group discussions. This is the first step of the lengthy process of creating a fashion collection, in which the designs have to match specific criteria in order to eventually come to life.
As Chinenye Nwara explains in her post: “Ideas generated in the process step mentioned above go through a procedure involving thorough screening and scaling based on the following criteria: feasibility of idea, design and development time, estimated cost of production, expected return-on-investment, benefit to consumer, competitors’ market share, time to market and man-power and technological requirements”.
This methodology drives huge volumes of work on styles that may never see the light of day. By some estimates, only about 30% of early concept sketches make it into final collections.
How to forecast if a fashion collection will succeed in the market?
As stated before, companies settle for different methodologies in order to generate new ideas and designs for their collection, whose ultimately goal is to succeed in the market. However, in most of the cases there is a factor that does not change: the dependance on market forecasts.
In the era before Internet, trend forecasters were found at fashion runaway shows, where they would learn about the collections from the high fashion designers and then pass it onto their clients, who would work on their apparel designs based on those reports. But things have changed since then.
Amongst other resources, businesses can hire the services of professional trend forecasting agencies, and the accesibility to information along with the fast-changing shopping habits of consumers has made a swift in the market where now multiple fashion businesses study the same sources of trend information while trying to maintain unique looks targeting their consumer markets.
Due to the fast-changing nature of the fashion market companies may drop half of the designs initially made as they get closer to market and decide some styles are not winners. Yet before that happens, weeks if not months could be spent developing samples, conducting fittings and making revisions.
In this environment, being in possesion of valuable data from forecasting agencies does sound like the winning card, but the democratization of technology has allowed companies to have in-house resources in the form of integrated software solutions that give business owners the chance of optimizing their resources and developing products that meet the consumers demands. These solutions provide valuable functionalities for the designing teams such as standardized libraries for materials, colors and artwork, plus standard technical pack reports to capture details for suppliers.
The equation is simple: when the information regarding future trends is significantly better and the creative team has effective tools to carry out their work, there is a hefty reduction of workload and costs and a higher chance of meeting the market’s demands without making major adjustments to your initial fashion designs.