So far in our monthly Speaker Series, we have sought insight on how to master product development and how to source supplies and manufacturers. These processes are the initial steps that take designs from drawings on paper to produced goods. But what happens after your products are ready to leave the factory?
This is where someone like McKenna Semin comes in. As the Senior Product Merchandiser for luxury brand Proenza Schouler, and an alum of Marc Jacobs, she has plenty of experience navigating the market calendar. This is the different points across the year that each collection is presented to wholesale buyers or retailers, who then go on to place orders for their store.
Semin’s typical routine involves working with all aspects of the product lifecycle, from design and development to ecommerce. Her role sees her create merchandising plans, analysing margins for retail and making sure the designer’s vision for the product is well communicated.
She’s passionate about enabling small brands to be successful, creating longevity and cultivating excellence. Which is why, for our August Speaker Series, Semin joined us to share her knowledge and expertise in product merchandising, with insight on what to do in a market meeting and preparing collections for wholesale.
1. Think Like A Wholesaler
Beyond showing your collection at fashion week, invite retailers to your showroom to see the pieces in person, if you have one. But you can also visit trade shows, such as Coterie in New York, to present your collections to potential buyers. Trade shows are great for also scoping out brands and products across various price points, and to see what tools other brands are using. Put on the mind of a wholesaler so you can anticipate the needs of your wholesale partner. This will make them feel cared for, and show how serious you are about your business.
2. Be Flexible
Working far in advance to the fashion calendar often means that you have a pretty fixed plan that you’re working to but it’s prudent to leave some space to be nimble. This way, you can react to current market trends that will still make your collections relevant when it is presented. It’s important to have a delicate balance between your future design plans and what’s happening in the fashion world.
3. Speak The Language
Every industry has its own vocabulary and it’s important to learn the terminology when you’re meeting with wholesale partners. From SKU to core styles and minimum order quantity, it’s helpful to know what each one means so that you’re clear on what you’re communicating. Some businesses may use the same terms to refer to different thing so when it’s not clear, don’t be afraid to ask for clarity.
4. Refine Your Assortment
The editorial pieces are the statement designs that drive your brand image and what you’re all about and you need a few of those each season. You’ll also need commercial pieces, also known as volume drivers, which are the basic designs that you can comfortably produce. These pieces should be entry price point and have good margin for retailers. Don’t be afraid to edit your collection to take out or add stuff if you need to: maybe you show two colorways of the same shirt instead of four. Make sure to refine before you present.
5. Add Some Personality
Presenting yourself and your brand at market appointments can be a nerve-wracking experience, whether it’s taking place in person or virtually. And while remote working has blurred the lines between professional spaces and home offices, it’s best to avoid being all business during meetings. When establishing partnerships, you want to strike a balance between being business-oriented and personable.