Careers in Fashion Merchandising: The Product Developer

by Mani

The role of Product Developer in the fashion industry is an exciting and dynamic career option. Product development is a broad description for many fashion merchandising careers that cover many aspects of the apparel industry, from design to manufacturing.

Fashion careers within the product development field could include (and are not limited to) Product Developer, Brand Manager, Technical Designer, Fashion Designer, Preproduction Coordinator, Sourcing Coordinator, Licensing Coordinator, Spec Technician, Fabricc/Trim Buyer, to name a few.

The Product Developer/Brand Manager for a fashion label has the exciting role of developing new styles that are in-line with the company’s brand image, financial plans and business strategy. The Product Developer takes all aspects of apparel manufacturing into consideration when designing new garments, including the technical processes, fabrics and trims, and logistics, to design new products that meet the quality and cost specifications that the company sets forth.

A quick job search through WWD (Women’s Wear Daily) reveals dozens of opportunities in the area of Product Development. One example is a recent job listing at action sports fashion line, Fox Head, Inc. for a Product Developer–Denim included the following description:

Essential Functions of this Role:

  1. Communicate daily with the design team and overseas factories
  2. Participate in sourcing decisions based on volume, technique, fabrication and cost
  3. Generate and maintain tech packages, tracking reports
  4. Conduct fittings; provide proto, size run and confirmation sample approvals
  5. Participate in proto review meetings w/ Development, Design and Merchandising team members
  6. Track and approve all necessary submits of artwork, trims and packaging
  7. Negotiate costs, minimums and lead-times with factories
  8. Ensure calendar dates and line plans are being adhered to
  9. Must know denim/non-denim fabrics, construction, washes/finishes and fit
  10. Actively and frequently shop market and attend applicable trade shows
  11. Keen sense of denim and bottoms market trends
  12. Having reliable mill and factory contacts a plus

Required Skills:

  • Knowledge of costing, fitting, grading, garment construction and all production coordination is a necessity.
  • Excellent communication, team player, and multi-tasking skills.
  • Ability to anticipate and trouble shoot issues of consequence to quality and delivery with ease.
  • Must be detail oriented and organized with strong follow through.
  • Need to know different fabrics, washing, finishing and printing techniques
  • Understands and is able to analyze in detail cost breakdowns from factories

With technical knowledge beings such an important factor in this role, it’s clear that earning a degree at a fashion merchandising college is a big advantage for those hoping to enter the Product Development job market. Majors such as Merchandise Marketing, Product Development are examples of areas of study for aspiring Product Developers.

Fox Head, Inc. 2013 denim line. Image courtesy of shopfoxhead.com

Fox Head, Inc. 2013 denim line. Image courtesy of shopfoxhead.com


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