Fuzzy Front-End in the Fashion Industry
To succeed in fashion, you must be innovative and capture the attention of consumers. To determine the direction and the approach you take, you need to go through the fuzzy front-end process of product development.
This begins by utilizing the tools available in the industry. Technology has allowed the apparel industry to make considerable advancements. It is estimated that 75% of product faults are found when going through the early product development phase. Of those defects, nearly 80% still make it through the final process. The problem is that too often the fuzzy front end process is unstructured and hectic. In order to be successful, you must create a structure to your system that allows the design development to run an analysis and adjust designs.
The fuzzy-front end process has five parts associated with it.
1. The Portfolio Stage
This is the creation of the designs you want to add to your product line. You might use a computer aided drawing program or an old fashioned sketchbook to create them. When you have your designs, you begin to process through them.
2. Project Setup
Begin to piece together what you want to create from the sketches. You remove the designs that aren’t realistic or you feel would clash with the other designs you are considering rolling out.
3. The Planning Phase
You begin to determine the supplies you need. What patterns will go with what items. At this point, you are preparing for the items you’ll create prototypes of.
4. Execution Phase
This is where you produce your working versions of the designs. You determine what works, what doesn’t. All to create the vision you have. This is more about creation and less about pinpointing problems at this point.
5. Review Stage
It is here that you begin to explore the physical designs. You inspect them to see what works with them and what doesn’t. This analysis phase is important because it can help to create new products, while helping you to determine what won’t work. As you do this, you boost the quality of the output and can reduce the costs associated with mass production. Especially if there are flaws in the original design that need to be addressed.
Here’s an important thing to keep in mind with any new product development. More often than not, the early stages will fail. The reason, is that you’ve established at the beginning why it would fail. There is a clear definition of the tools and when you reach this point, you’ve determined why formal development isn’t the best choice. Now for products which would be a success, this process allows you to go through the associated variables and confirm there is a minimal risk of rolling them out.
There are a few things to note.
- Have a champion. Their goal is to help focus on making a product successful.
- Try to simplify the process. When possible, combine elements to have some uniformity between pieces.
- Drop items that are not working. You’ll find that removing these elements from this and future designs reduces the number of flaws your pieces have.
- Involve select customers in the process. Design pieces around them, especially high profile figures. Gain their input on what they like and make adjustments to create pieces that shine.
- Make certain communication remains open between departments. You need to have everyone working towards the same goal, in order for the fuzzy front-end process to be successful.
- Assess items as individual pieces and as part of a collection. If an item works alone and not as part of a collection, consider showcasing it as something else. But never add an item to a collection that doesn’t make sense.
- Allow creativity during the fuzzy front-end stage. While the designs and elements are yours, this allowance helps pieces to stand out. If a sample sewer realizes there is something in the design that extends production time and costs, while it can be simplified, give them the authority to change it. You’ll find this does help you in this stage of the process.
- Define what you want to accomplish and the priorities for each garment. This can help to better guide you through the process so you can be successful.
With the right approach, you should find that you’re successful with your fuzzy front-end in the product development process. Begin by creating a team who will work together and create magic for your line. With the right players on hand, you’ll have a balanced process designed for success.
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Photo: Tanya Lefevre