Don’t design what you want: A successful wearable product is what the customer needs AND what the customer wants.

A lot of soft goods products are wearable. This means that not only do they need to be functional but also look good so that people are willing to wear it. This is hard when people’s style is very personal and varied. As a designer we must recognize when something is too divisive. We have to be very objective about something that is inherently subjective. So how do we do this? We remove the emotion and make decisions around what we know works. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up along the way:

Don’t design what you want

Styling decisions are some of the hardest decisions you’ll make when developing your product. Clients are often very good at making functional decisions as it is normally clear what the right choice is, but once they get to the styling they allow emotional attachment to the product to creep in, which either clouds their judgement: You may absolutely love one colorway but know it’s not to everyone’s taste; or causes them to be indecisive: You may not be sure if everyone is going to love the blue zip over the black zip so how do you decide? As a result, styling runs the risk of really slowing down a projects progress. Therefore, remember to stay focused on the bigger picture: The objective of a successful product launch is to sell as many products to as many people as possible.

To make styling decisions easier, take an analytical approach.

– research into your target market
– get insights and allow these to shape the design.
– Receive honest feedback, not from biased friends or family
This will give you data to base these styling decisions on and help remove the emotions for you.

Avoid bright colours and bold patterns

– These can be divisive and could be the thing that stops a customer buying the product despite it doing what they need and solving the problem they have
– For a first product to market, use neutral colours such as black, navy, grey as they are universally appealing colours that tend to sell
– Brighter contrast colours are a great way to add visual interest and develop a range without being too divisive or increasing your manufacturing costs too much.
– Eventually you can release new colours as the money coming in from the first launch can fund a wider colour range
Aim for timeless design
– Trends change so fast, especially in clothing that creating a wearable product that follows a particular fashion trend could land you with a large order still to sell that are “so last season”.
Value your styling
– While it is important to focus on getting the functional design of any product right first, before worrying too much about aesthetics. Once this is ready, taking the time to carry out a proper styling stage is really important
– There are clever ways of applying styling to a product to create a range without having to redesign it every time. EG. Baxley bags use a different colour webbing to create a whole range out of the same bag. This gives their customers more bags to choose from to suit their personal style but to achieve this, they only have to ask the factory to sew a different colour webbing to the otherwise same bag
Customer loyalty
– Styling of a wearable product can be the difference between success and failure but if done right the styling of a product can build the bones of a strong brand identity and house name. Which in turn creates brand loyalty from customers who are willing to pay more for the original branded version than any copycat product.

We are not encouraging you to create products that look exactly the same as what’s already out there. No one needs more of the same, especially not the clothing sector! But when developing an innovative soft goods product, the problem it is solving is what sets is apart. After that, you want to make the way it looks as appealing to as many people as possible to boost initial sales. Once you have income, a brand identity forming and a manufacturer you are working well with, you can start to bring out all kinds of colour and fabric variations to develop a range. Just remeber: don’t design what you want. A successful wearable product is what the customer needs AND what the customer wants.

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