I get this question a lot. While there’s no perfect answer, here are a few guidelines:

    • There’s a difference between the number of styles and the number of pieces you have to show a customer (or a retail store buyer). You can have 5 styles, each in 3 colors, which will give you 15 pieces for a buyer to choose from. That’s a nice selection.
    • If you’re selling online, you want enough pieces to fill up a page so your online shop looks full. This could mean 9 pieces (9 different options for the customer to choose from) and I think 12 looks pretty good. Of course, you can have many more than 12. Keep in mind, 9 PIECES could really be just 3 STYLES, each in 3 different colors.
    • If you’re doing womenswear, I vote for 3 – 8 styles for your first collection. 
    • I strongly recommend you keep your product assortment narrow when you first start. You don’t need to launch with a whole mix of pants, skirts, tops, blazers, handbags, etc. WHat they taught you in fashion school is NOT what you need to do.
    • There’s nothing wrong with starting with just one type of product, like just skirts. You don’t need more than that! It’s OK to get known for one thing and you can always add products as you go. I know one designer who makes girls’ hair accessories – mostly bows – and that’s it. And she sells a truckload of them! You can make a great living with a small product assortment.
    • Within one product category, you still have options. For instance, you can have short skirts, long skirts, embellished skirts, whatever.  They are skirts. It is one product. You have one length of zipper that you usually get. You have a certain type of closure. It’s easier. It’s not as exhausting and a full collection. From a manufacturing standpoint, it’s not as big of a challenge.
    • Having been a retailer for a long time, I can tell you there is something great about a line that comes in and says, “I do skirts, that’s what I have”.  Then I know where to go when I need a skirt.  I know what they do. It’s straightforward and it’s easily understandable.
    • If you design jewelry, think about how many pieces will make a nice “story” in a retail store, at a craft show, or from your online store. Jewelry and accessories look best when they’re merchandised together and make a statement to the customer. You often need a certain number of pieces from the same group to look good on a table in a retail setting.
    • Dresses can be more ITEM. Meaning that they don’t need to be merchandised together as much into groups – it’s usually OK to have a dress here or there. Dresses stand on their own. One of my most successful clients started with 3 dresses. That’s it! ner launch and her line were constrained and manageable. Fast forward to today, she carries tops, skirts, pants, jumpsuits — all the things. But Phase One was just 3 styles of dresses. Simple.


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So now I’d like to know what you think. What product do you make? Did you start with a broad assortment, get exhausted, and narrow it down? Tell me your story in the comments below!

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