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The Way the Fashion Industry Works

Written by: Robert Charlton | February 12, 2014.

We have just arrived into the spring and summer 2014 fashion season and that probably confuses a lot of you when you consider the weather outside. But fashion is a highly competitive and forward-thinking environment, so we thought we’d try and give you an in-sight into the making of the clothes before they reach the selling environment which you see them in.

Mainline Menswear Scarborough

The Design

The process itself can be a long drawn out affair- excuse the pun- but by the time fabrics and styles have been established clothes will usually need to go through these key stages before starting circulation.

Drawing up – designing the clothing and picking fabrics.

Signing off – passing the ideas with senior figures and pricing up.

Samples – initial practice production, trying and testing.

Production – mass production and delivery to retailers.

Buying

Mainline’s team of buyers are currently out buying for winter 2014 and this is the best illustration of how the world of fashion works. It might feel like we are yet to finish with winter 2013, but buyers have to be forward-thinking and can’t afford to rest in pursuit of the most on-trend garments.
Buying is a high pressure environment as the individuals have a high level of responsibility due to the fact they have to consider a number of factors whilst doing their job, such as; customer demand, price, budgets, quality and availability. Added to this buyers have to judge whether products fit with the retailers ethos, at Mainline buyers have to consider a brands credibility as a designer make.

FACT:
The general rule amongst brands and buyers is that stock is bought around nine months in advance of the season itself, so when this is added to the time spent designing and producing the lines, it takes at least a year for an item to be ready for sale from its creation.

Jeans in Dapper Men

Short Order Brands

A short order brand makes it easier for buyers because they allow retailers to buy smaller quantities of items and consequently process orders quicker. This effectively means that buyers can respond to trends mid-season and bring in items in-line with demand. Usually a short order brand will be a smaller company trying to make a name for themselves by getting a big retailer to stock them, in general the bigger brands will require a long notice period to process orders, and will have certain requirements and stock levels to meet.

The Seasons at Mainline

Spring/Summer & Autumn/Winter

There are two main fashion seasons each year and it sounds obvious really, one is the spring/summer one which we are currently introducing into our range and the other is autumn/winter, which typically gets introduced early in September. The general focus of brands or retailers like Mainline is always on the opposite season to the one currently on the lines. So for instance once the Autumn/Winter lines are stocked and ready for sale on the website, buyers and designers will instantly switch their attention to the following season.

Pre seasons

The main two seasons can be divided down further due to the stock which arrives mid-season. We call these “pre seasons” or “high seasons” as they are sometimes known in fashion, and there are two of these to add to the two main seasons which arrive in May for pre-autumn/winter and November for pre Spring Summer.

Quarterly

The main shoe companies work in quarters such as Adidas, Nike and Lacoste in the Mainline range. Of all the clothing brands every one of them delivers the 2 main seasons, half do a pre-season, and some function in quarters and refer to them as Q1, Q2, Q3 etc.

Capsule Collections

A capsule collection will usually include no more than 5 unique items and will arrive mid-season for maximum effect. They are usually a limited edition collection which will only be offered to certain retailers who the brand think carry off the right image.
Past capsule collections at mainline include; Adidas Stan Smith, Fred Perry- Bradley Wiggins and Blood Brothers with Fat Willy’s Surf shack.

Below: shoes from the Stan Smith collection

Starting a Career in Fashion?

It is often viewed as a glamorous industry and that’s why thousands of graduates year-on-year try to enter the competitive fashion work place, some of the jobs include:
– Fashion Designer
– Textile Designer
– Retail Buyer
– Retail Merchandiser
– Production Management
– Fashion Writer
– Sales Assistant

The Stats

If you’re looking to break into the fashion industry then knowing your target job sector is a must. According to a Fashion United report from 2009 the UK are the third largest employers in the world within the fashion and textiles industry. This roughly equates to 600,000 people and is only bettered by Germany and Italy. Of the six hundred thousand currently employed 435,000 are employed in the retail of textiles, clothing, footwear and leather goods, while from 2001 to 2009 we also saw a large decrease in the number of workers employed in the production of textiles, apparel, footwear and leather products.

The UK high street fashion industry is also worth an estimated £44.5 billion per annum, while UK retail as a whole is worth an estimated £285 billion – showing the gulf between online, mail order and high street fashion.

 

Moving the timeline on slightly to 2013, business analytics and software experts SAS.com report that UK retail was set to grow 1.8% year on year to £300.7 billion – which is also the highest rate of growth since the recession began. Interestingly they also believe that the age demographic that will experience the largest growth in terms of online sales is 55+, showing that online fashion websites are placing more time in their usability testing and development. The result is easier navigation, simpler payment options and more people shopping online – especially those aged fifty five and over.

Finally, Retail Search have been quoted as saying:
“Clothing, sportswear, homewares, DIY, furniture and curtains and floor coverings should do well as a result of the fact that consumers have a little more to spend but the housing market will grow rapidly. In contrast electronics, music, books, entertainment, and leisure will continue to suffer declines.”

But more importantly that retail growth in the UK is estimated at 3.9% in 2013; in 2014 3.4%; and 2015 3.4%-3.8%. This equates to volume rises of 2.4% in 2013; 1.6% in 2014; and 1.6% in 2015. These positive estimates also include online sales, and in my opinion will be massively weighted by online sales as eCommerce and online shopping channels continue to grow.

Insiders Tips and Hints

With over 40 members of staff currently employed by Mainline Menswear we have a little bit of experience of the fashion world, so to get some more insight I spoke to a few people in different departments within the company. Highlights from the chats include tips from Andy Hoyle, Head of Online Marketing and Cloe Smith, Photographer.

Cloe: “In the past I have worked in retail but only ever on the shop floor, I’ve always wanted to do something a bit more behind the scenes. Getting an opportunity to work in the photography department at Mainline was great as it fit perfectly with my love for fashion, and my love for being creative.”

Andy: “My biggest tip has to be work hard. I came into Mainline Menswear in mid 2007 with only retail experience and a-levels behind me and have had to learn everything as it was put in front of me. Working in fashion and eCommerce you’re in the midst of two of the fastest changing industries and have very little time to sit back and take stock of what is going on. Trends change, technology evolves but through tons of hard work, plenty of reading / researching and outright inquisitiveness when you meet an industry ‘expert’ you can quickly get a grasp of what is going on.”

We hope this has opened up your eyes to the exciting world of fashion, if you are intrigued to know more- don’t hesitate to leave your questions below.

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