Product Development + Production
Created on:
August 27, 2020

How to Work Remotely as a Fashion Brand

In an industry as tactile as fashion, it’s strange to think about remote teams working together to bring their products to market. Luckily, with today's connectivity, setting up and managing remote teams and workflows has blossomed with new tools and processes.

As global pandemics change the way we think about working, living, and commerce, these new processes and tools are crucial to work remotely to grow a brand. 

It’s about adapting.

In 2012, N.A.bld founder Amanda Curtis was down on her luck. She had the fairy-tale beginning. She graduated from Parsons, found a business partner with funding, launched a collection and made it to the finals of London Fashion Week. But when it came time to produce orders for buyers and develop a DTC business she was out of luck - and cash. That’s when the idea came to launch a platform to help brands pre-sell products and plug into a network of manufacturers to launch quickly and with less risk. 

Since then, N.A.bld and sister site Nineteenth Amendment have helped over 2K brands from around the world springboard their businesses. 

So what’s the secret? 

We’ll share five areas of focus to build a distributed brand that's ready to operate efficiently while working apart. Let’s get started!

De-risk development

Product development can be a long process. In fact, traditionally it takes brands about 6-9 months to bring products from concept to completion. At N.A.bld, we’ve brought that down to 6 weeks. How? By making decisions quickly and de-risking as much as possible. Here are some examples of what this looks like in action:

  • Resourcing fabrics, trims and notions in advance of launch
  • Assigning design ownership for each product so that one person is solely responsible for the design decisions
  • Setting cost profiles and budgets in advance of product development so we can source to those requirements
  • Ordering multiple swatches and duplicating patterns to make sure there no delays in production due to lost-in-transit items

These are just some of the strategies we have found to be successful in speeding up the design process for brands.

Build your team and find partners

Even with a solid foundation in development, many brands struggle with finding a production partner who can execute their vision. Luckily, depending on how and where you’d like to produce, there are many possibilities such as Maker’s Row, Foursource, SEAMs, and N.A.bld. 

Unlike other platforms, at N.A.bld, we work to identify premium preferred US-based partners, training them on our software, vetting them through a production run, and requiring acceptance of our code of ethics and terms to make sure we have partners with integrity and skill.

Finding manufacturing partners requires research and time - but finding the right partner who can work with you remotely can help smooth your manufacturing process and reduce headaches long term.

Automate workflows

Once you’ve found your partner, production begins! But getting the right inputs to the right partner at the right time can be a lot of work. That’s why it’s important to leverage tools that help automate a lot of the production management so you can minimize your time to market and any hiccups along the way. You should be looking for:

  • Rules for timelines and alerts
  • Automation of Bill of Materials
  • Mobile-readiness for operating while on the go
  • Costing profiles to help you make decisions quickly

Project management tools like Asana and Monday for example, can help generally with managing your workflow but they lack the industry specific features that can really propel your production management.  At N.A.bld, we combine many of the features and more to make a PLM lite tool that can be used by anyone looking to hasten their hustle!

Prioritize proactive communication

Hand-in-hand with picking the right partner, is the ability to prioritize communication (and therefore accountability) throughout the production process.

Don't let your manufacturing process, or design process, become a black hole. Ask team members and partners to provide updates at a frequency that suites you or at different steps in the process.

At N.A.bld, we build this proactive communication into the tool with updates, reminders, and email alerts when specific users perform specific actions.

Leverage pre-commerce

E-commerce is no longer optional. As traditional multi-brand retailers go bankrupt and stores can no longer stay open due to high rents (or pandemics), selling on-line is truly the way to set your brand up for success in the post-pandemic future. With the many ecommerce platforms out there and a bevy of design and software freelancers, it’s easy to set up a digital store but figuring out your inventory strategy can be difficult. When cash flow is low and space (in your house) is limited, we suggest exploring a pre-order model. Pre-order models are the hidden gem of retail allowing you to test products before placing inventory orders and to operate with less debt (and more space). In addition, when you leverage a platform like Shopify and the N.A.bld integration, you can connect your pre-orders directly to your shopping cart to go into production as soon as orders come in, making true made-to-order and just-in-time production possible for brands.

Consider fulfillment-as-a-service

Once your product is made - it's time to get it to the customer. Many brands like to perform the final QA and packaging to customer but if you're a busy brand owner on the move, a third party or service may be right for you. Dropshipping is an option but not all manufacturers provide it as a service. Be sure to check in with your production partner to see if they are willing to drop ship for you (N.A.bld also offers fulfillment QA, and return management as a service for brands using the platform).

In the end, it is all about making fast informed decisions, flexibility, and problem solving. Executed correctly, this new way of working will free up your time and energy to focus on what’s most important - channeling your creativity and focusing on your customer.

And remember - you don’t have to do it alone! Running any physical goods company requires a lot of work and wearing multiple hats. Make sure you stack your team with partners, collaborators, and employees who can help you fill in the gaps.  At N.A.bld, we have been managing remote teams and production partners for over 5 years. It can be done and you can do it. Sign up for a time to speak to our team and learn more or get started on a free 14 day trial today.