5 Things Designers & Entrepreneurs Need to Know before Manufacturing a Swimwear Line

Few blue bikini bottoms photographed

So, you want to start a swimwear line and you’ve already got some stellar designs ready to go. But now you’re wondering if you’re finally ready to get your clothing designs made. Don’t leave any stone unturned because we’ve got you sorted: Here’s everything you need to have in place before you manufacture your swimwear!

So, you’ve burnt the midnight oil sketching some impressive swimwear CADs. Trendy? Oh, yeah. Cheeky? A little! Comfy? Heck, yes! We can go on, but we get the gist: your target audience is not ready for what’s about to hit them!

Just like Patrick Swayze told Jennifer Gay in Dirty Dancing, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” we know how badly you want your swimwear label out there. But before you hit fame, make sure you’ve got everything in place before you go on to manufacture your swimwear line. Without beating around the bush any longer, check out these 5 must-haves you should tick off before you find your manufacturer.

Figure your audience and target market strategy

Though the excitement of actually designing your swimwear line is far more exciting than the nitty gritty b-plan work, many early-stage entrepreneurs underestimate the value of market strategy planning and financial budgeting.

You might be thinking, “yes, we already know this, let’s move on,” but pause there for a second. Understanding the potential capacity of your target market and the financial requirements to bring your swim line into said market is key in substantiating your hard work.

Let’s elaborate a little: Researching your market opens you up to understanding how to design your swimwear and thus, be able to give your potential apparel manufacturer the exact requirements. Are you looking for polyester blends? Perhaps nylon? How about the weight and properties of your material? Are you looking for something that is chlorine resistant? What trends are your audiences liking and rejecting? Are they season-savvy? These are all questions you need to ask and answer by diving into the needs of your target market. This will be the premise that forms the entirety of your relationship with manufacturers and defines the parameters of your requirements and checklists.

Dropping knowledge before you drop your $$$

Now comes your financials: What are your costs involved in manufacturing a swimwear line catering to your market? Cost per piece of garment can skyrocket depending on your design and customization requirements. If you have frills, zips, studs, clasps and decorative trims, the unit cost will climb. So, very early on, it is imperative to cross your t’s and dot your i’s and ask yourself: how much does it cost to start a swimwear line?

To answer it, have a comprehensive financial plan in place to see your CADs come to life. Ranging from your brand, designs and product goals, retailing regions, size ranges and quantities to macro assumptions about the market size, growth rates and so on will help you to create a budget for the next few years. If you’ve made rounds for a while in the fashion industry, you’ll have a general idea about cost structures involved and this will help you negotiate better when it comes to finding the right partner to manufacture swimwear lines. On the other hand, if you’re only just dipping your toes into designing clothes and swimwear, reach out to your network and do some extra research about costs involved so you can be prepared to hit jackpot (or as close as you can) when you embark on finding a swimsuit manufacturer.

A basic financial worksheet should include your assumptions, projected cash flow and income statement. You’ll then have a very clear picture of the feasibility of manufacturing costs and your margin threshold when it comes to reviewing a manufacturing partner. In certain cases, you may want to budget for overseas factory visits too.

Figuring out your finances is an on-going process. You may have to make slight tweaks to account for events and instances that may arise as you figure out how to get your designs into your markets, but having a base foundation will help you understand how to review and negotiate manufacturers.

Have a tech pack ready

A tech pack is like a dating checklist: Have a tech pack with all your requirements ready to go. A swimwear tech pack is a non-negotiable necessity that will see your designer swimsuits come to life. Your swimsuit tech pack will be the go-to document you and your manufacturer will use as a reference. The more thorough you are with designing your pack, the easier your articulation of requirements will be to your manufacturer.

This document is created by the designer and will contain design drafts and sketches, the product dimensions, fabric type and exact specification such as fabrics, the weight of the fabric, the colours, embellishments, any required printing, how the seams will be finished, compliance requirements and so on. A tech pack is an absolute must-have to avoid poor design finish and quality, and delays in production due to unclear specifications. Many clothing design manufacturers will refuse work without it. Having a tech pack enables accuracy in design, greatly reduces human error, enforces a greater degree of quality control and allows a manufacturer to give you an exact quote.

Here’s a snippet of a sample tech pack that’ll help you get started (if you haven’t already got one!):

Know what you are looking for and what to ask for

Once you have your tech pack ready to go, you'll need to make a list of the qualities and capabilities you are looking for in the perfect manufacturing partner. We like to think of it as a checklist you use when you come across potential Prince/Princess Charmings (yes, it’s that important!).

The first step before you even start thinking about a manufacturer is deciding if you want to go ahead with a domestic partner or go overseas. There are pros and cons in both and the decision should be based on your expectations and requirements. Overseas manufacturers are cost-effective, but long distance relationships can be tough and will require you to establish clear channels of communication and stricter quality control processes. Knowing what you are looking for will help you to seek candidates through referrals from your network, fashion schools and fashion incubators, and tradeshows.

After deciding on how you want to outsource your manufacturing, make a note of manufacturing competencies, machine specifications, technical excellence, certifications, current and past clientele, commitment to quality and prototyping.

It’s also important to identify if you, as a designer, will source fabrics and materials and provide them to your manufacturer or if your chosen manufacturer will do the sourcing for you. If you decide to go with a manufacturer who may not have access to all the materials and fabrics you need, make a note of other relationships you may have to build to source these requirements.

Regardless of which decision you opt to go with, make sure your tech pack has every minute detail about each design’s fabric and material use. The more detail you have, the more effective your communication will be and this will altogether avoid expectations falling through (win-win!).

Clearly defined time frames and production quantity

Outsourcing your apparel manufacture versus having to create your own custom swimsuits can greatly reduce your time-to-market and improve margins. So, whilst you get everything ready to hunt down that perfect manufacturer who’ll make all your dreams come true (or most of them!), make sure you have an idea of timelines and quantities.

For instance, if you’re designing in-reason trends or season specific swimwear, make sure you have a rough understanding of the timeline from ideation all the way to execution and production of your swimsuit line.

On top of this, estimate how much you’ll actually sell. This is dependent on various factors exclusive to market fluctuations and target market capacities and capabilities. Knowing how much to manufacture will help you understand your total costs and have clear expectations when you reach out to swimwear manufacturers.

By coupling these two factors together, when you finally bring your line to life, they will be current, relevant and too hot to trot!

The hardest part is always the start and if you dream of a label that will stand the test of time, finding the right fit when it comes to a manufacturing partner will be crucial to surviving your initial years as a swimsuit designer. But before you even think about finding a manufacturer, have your homework done and take your time to finalize your scope from financials to tech packs to timelines and quantities. This is crucial because when you’re finally ready to embark on finding that true manufacturing partner, they can do justice to your hard work and give life to your designs and dreams. It might seem daunting and you might even feel a little impatient to get this ball rolling, but trust us when we say, good things take time (and a bit of elbow grease)!

Now that you know what you need to gear up for manufacturing, read our article on "How to select the ideal swimsuit manufacturer for your swimwear start-up label".
Runway Kit is a unique e-commerce platform that offers fashion designers and entrepreneurs the option to design, sample and manufacture in smaller, flexible quantities – all at start-up friendly, transparent costs.
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