Get Your Fashion Line to Market: Introduction to Wholesaling

Of a Kind, Co-founders, Of a Kind

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5 Lessons (26m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Pricing Your Line

    • 3. Photographing Your Line

    • 4. Presenting Your Line

    • 5. Reaching Buyers


Project Description

Create a linesheet and lookbook to sell your collection to buyers

Pricing Your Line

  1. Understand the industry standards

    Understand the industry standards. Markups from wholesale prices to retail prices vary across product categories: Housewares are typically at 2x markup. This means that if, for instance, you wholesale a vase for $10, a store will multiply that price by 2 and will sell it for $20. Apparel markup is generally 2.0 to 2.5x, and accessories—jewelry and leather goods—are 2.5 to 3.0x. Also! Markups can vary greatly between across retailers. A small boutique and a big department store may do different markups on the exact same item.

  2. Play around with our handy-dandy spreadsheet!

    Just download the spreadsheet here and plug your numbers into the yellow fields to calculate the wholesale and retail prices for each piece in your line, keeping in mind the standard markups IDed in step 1.


  3. Think about your market

    What audience are you trying to reach with your line? Say, after entering your costs and markups into the spreadsheet in step 2, you determine that you should be selling a leather clutch for $600—but that your target customer is a twentysomething girl who wants a fun, bold statement bag and probably doesn’t have $600 to spend on one. From there, you have to think about either 1) attracting a fanbase that is willing and able to spend that amount on a bag regularly (something that can be addressed in our next two units, about photographing and presenting your line) or 2) tweaking the clutch in ways that lower its cost—maybe it’s removing hardware or a custom lining—to achieve a price point that fits your target customer’s spending habits.

  4. Consider the interplay of your wholesale and direct-sale businesses

    If, right now, you sell your own work on your website (or Etsy or the like!) but you plan on wholesaling eventually, price your pieces to account for markup that retailers will eventually need to build in. Otherwise, you’ll be in a sticky situation: You’ll have to double or even triple the price of your pieces down the road so that you aren’t undercutting your retailers, and that’s bound to aggravate your earliest fans!

Photographing Your Line

  1. Consider the photography styles that would represent your brand

    Think about the photography style that is most representative of your line. Natural light or studio lighting? How important is hair and makeup to the brand you’re building? While it is worth in investing on the things that will make the photos of your work really shine—maybe for you that’s a photographer, a stylist, a model, or lighting—it’s definitely not worth going all-in on every aspect. We’re big fans of using natural light and taking advantage of (free!) outdoor spaces for photography, but if you’re, say, making high-end evening wear like Katie Ermilio, it might make sense to keep the setting really minimal and clean and spend on a model who really nails your aesthetic.  

  2. Source the right equipment

    You don’t necessarily need to hire a photographer, but you do need to work with professional-quality equipment (no Instagram lookbooks allowed!). Cameras, tripods, and macro lenses (important if you’re shooting delicate jewelry or anything with intricate detailing) can be rented from camera shops, and, to photograph items (still-life/product style) on clean backdrops, many designers swear by light tents—you can buy one here or learn how to DIY one here.

  3. Shoot on a model and on a white backdrop

    No matter whether you’re making dresses or necklaces, shoes or handbags, shoot all of your pieces both styled on a model and on a clean white backdrop. The former allows you to convey the vibe of your line—what customer you’re after, how pieces look together—and also creates a sense of scale, which is super-important when someone is seeing your line for the first time. The latter allows a buyer to see the details and hone in on the pieces from your collection that really speak to him or her. Lizzie Fortunato does a great job of combining both of these types of images in the line’s lookbook—see the spread below. In the photo on the left, you get a real sense of the label’s sensibility, but the necklace and handbag (the pieces from Lizzie’s collection) really pop. In the photo on the right, you can see see the leather, the hardware, the stone detailing.



Presenting Your Line

  1. Understand the roles of a lookbook versus a linesheet

    A lookbook is meant to showcase your line—to convey how your pieces wear, and, in many ways, who your customer is. A linesheet is the information dump. Someone should be able to look at it and very quickly know the wholesale pricing and suggested retail pricing, sizing, the shape of the piece, any color/fabric variants—and how to contact you to place an order! Here, from one of Rachel Rose’s lookbooks:



    And from her linesheet:


    Showing the fabric swatches is incredibly useful! That way a buyer doesn’t have to flip back-and-forth between the lookbook and the linesheet a million times!

  2. Think through navigation

    Be thoughtful about how someone will navigate your materials. As mentioned above, anything you can do to make your materials easier to digest will, ultimately, help engage buyers. We love when linesheets show on-white product shots (that we recommended taking during the previous unit!), as Winifred Grace does here:


    Seeing the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) is also incredibly useful: That eliminates the need to do lots of mental math and helps to keep pricing in-line across all of your accounts. If you feel strongly about retailers not selling your pieces above or below certain prices, those are conversations to have with each buyer.

    And we’re also HUGE fans of combining the utility of both a lookbook and a linesheet into one PDF document so that we don’t have to do cross-referencing at all! This is our dream scenario. Look how easy this Osei-Duro one is to navigate:


  3. Consider how you want to share your lookbook

    Is this something you’ll be handing out in-person? If so, get it printed—but do NOT spend a bunch of money on fancy paper and printing services. If your designs are good and the photos do them justice, a simple Kinkos job will absolutely cut it. Remember that the people you’re handing these to are eventually going to throw them out! And probably soon! When sharing your materials digitally, send optimized PDFs of the entire package (so that they don’t clog up people’s inboxes, annoyingly!) or send a link to a Dropbox or Hightail download. And always include a link to your website (more below!) that a buyer can check out for more info.

  4. Share your lookbook directly on your website

    Make it easy for people to discover and access your lookbook when you’re not reaching out to them! We personally love when designers share their lookbooks directly on their websites, posting JPGs that you can navigate through easily (no Flash!), like Ilana Kohn does here and Samantha Pleet does here. This also encourages sharing on social-media platforms like Pinterest! If it’s tough for people to see your collection, they’re less apt to want to buy it. (If you don’t have a website yet, Squarespace is a good resource to set one up, as Nikki Chasin did here, and even a simple Tumblr with all of your lookbook images + your contact info will do in a pinch.)

Reaching Buyers

  1. Participate in retail events that buyers troll

    Renegade Craft Fair (which travels across the country), Dose Market in Chicago, and Bust’s Holiday Craftacular in NYC are great examples. Also, some boutiques that foster new talent host events specifically to check out new lines, like Thistle & Clover in Brooklyn, or you can just pop into a shop to drop off your lookbook (or email it to them!).

  2. Cold email buyers at store that seem like a good fit for your work!

    Keep the email short and sweet—no need to get into your whole design philosophy right out of the gate. Just include a line or two about you or your work along with your lookbook, linesheet, and link to your site (as we talked about in the previous unit).

  3. Look into online wholesale marketplaces

    A few of these online platforms have popped up in recent years—like JoorModalyst, and POP-Market—where brands post their lines and retailers place orders, year-round.

  4. Consider trade shows

    Though they can be expensive endeavors—participation can cost a couple thousand dollars—they are a good way to get in front of many buyers at once. For fashion, trade shows happen two times a year (in cities like NY, Paris, and LA) following the fashion weeks in those cities. In NYC, we always check out Capsule, and MAN and WOMAN are also on our radar. For lifestyle/home, NY NOW is another option. We really like it when the designers themselves man the booths, but if you can’t do that and have to send someone in your place, make sure that person is extremely knowledgeable about your line and can answer every question that could possibly come up.

  5. Explore showrooms

    Showrooms manage wholesale sales of your line to retailers. The beauty of this is that they have relationships with buyers, and so they can do a lot in terms of getting the word out. If, say, a buyer comes into the space to see the latest collection from a silk separates line she already buys from, she might end up discovering your amazing knitwear line in the process. And since the showroom already has relationships, the team there will be able to help you determine which retailers make the most sense for your business right now. This is an investment too, though: You pay the showroom a percentage of sales and often a monthly fee—like a rent—for being part of their space. A few NYC-based showrooms to research: Mega Mega Projects, The Collective, Parlor, 52 Showroom, Steven Alan, eM Productions, Maryim Nassir Zadeh. Depending on your business, it can also make sense to look into showrooms that handle foreign accounts—that, say, manage your accounts in Japan or Europe.

  6. Don’t get discouraged—it’s all about developing relationships!

    If a buyer doesn’t bite immediately, follow up about your next collection. Often, buyers like to keep their eyes on labels for a couple seasons before picking them up—or, it’s possible that they’d spent the money they’d set aside for buying inventory from new lines when they encountered your work. So, KEEP AT IT. And soliciting feedback from buyers you really respect can also be very useful!


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