From a Single Collection to a Collection Portfolio

Thomas Brownlees

Thomas Brownlees

CEO and Founder,
440 Industries

Introduction

In recent years, fashion companies have stopped developing a particular line at a particular price point but instead have started approaching design in terms of line portfolio. This is because at each segment of the fashion pyramid profits can be made by adjusting the fashion content, cost of production and promised values. Armani is an example of a fashion brand that has been able to conjugate its unique brand identity to forge several lines spanning from haute couture to denim and mass market. 

In this  post we are going to address:

  1. What are Collection Portfolios
  2. What elements should inspire the process of collection creation?
  3. Collection Timing and Shelf life
  4. Conclusions

1. What Are Collection Portfolios?

All in all, we can say, that like for any other strategic decision, pursuing the development of multiple collections, designed to address a specific target in the market can be beneficial or detrimental to a company, according to its specific goals and objectives. Having said this, we can suggest some reasons why it might be useful for a company to develop a collection portfolio, or why sticking to a single collection might be better for some.

  • Benefits of Collection Portfolios. At the same time offers some strategic opportunities which relate to how a company, by working through several lines can have an opportunity to both maintain a stylistic identity while searching for new concepts and ideas.

  • Issues with Collection Portfolios. This process of line expansion, however, comes at a cost that often involves issues of internal collection consistency, and\or creative overlapping. Collection briefs can be created to manage issues of coherency when creating a collection portfolio, but in many cases, it’s up to the brand’s DNA to have a sufficiently strong heritage and identity to inspire several different stylistic directions.

One sure challenge is related to multiplying the complexity of the process of developing a single line into a variety of lines, with a different design, supply chain, marketing and distribution requirements. In the following paragraph, we’ll look at some of the factors to take into account when approaching collection development.

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2. What Elements Should Inspire the Process of Collection Creation?

When developing a line a designer or a style department will need to take into account three different elements of analysis to make sure that a collection portfolio helps a brand widen its market while maintaining its own heritage.

  • Positioning and Target. This element relates to the price point of the collection, its customer target, and the sales offer. As discussed, if brands would historically pick a market and a price segment to compete in the fashion industry, now we see how, through collection portfolios, a firm will try to compete in each different segment of the market.

  • Stylistic Identity. This element pertains to how a fashion firm needs to maintain its roots while evolving towards new fashion dimensions. According to the firm’s fashion content, some brands will have a more “classic” style and will not have to change as much as an “avant-garde” brand which instead will have to keep its edge by creating new and visionary looks.

  • Collection Structure. The collection structure relates to how a collection is organized in terms of breadth and variety. Usually, the breadth of a collection can relate to the size of a firm, and it can be useful to take into account the breadth and variety of a firm’s collection portfolio when running a competitor’s analysis. (We address the fashion firm’s segmentation criteria in this post)

These first three elements may relate to the design and marketing stages of value chain. However, in fashion distribution logistics play an important role, and consequently, we should also take into account:

  • The presentations and fashion shows associated with each collection. This becomes a complex element to manage in relationship to the fact that different markets manage the Spring\Summer and Fall\Winter Collections at different times of the year. According to the fashion content of the collection, it will be necessary to develop a presentation style that fits the entertainment\aesthetic\educational and escapist needs of your customers. This approach also draws from the brand experience you want to deliver through your brand, as discussed in this post.
  • The model of production and distribution. As discussed in this post a firm will need to adapt its collection portfolio to a variety of manufacturing processes that will fit (usually) one of four models: planned manufacturing, fast delivery, reassortment, fast fashion. With multiple collections, multiple models can be adopted by maintaining the high-craftsmanship processes for haute-couture and keeping industrial manufacturing for lower-tier collections.
  • Occasions of Use. As a collection needs to match the needs of customers, one point of view that needs to be taken into account is “occasions of use”, by understanding what is the problem that our customers need to solve and how our product can help them. This type of customer segmentation is behavioral and the theory which allows us to understand how the “needs analysis” process works is discussed in our post “Why Jobs to Be Done Matters for Your Business”.
  • Target and Segments. Aside from the more complex – and open to interpretation – many other types of segmentation criteria can be identified to relate our products to our target market. In the article entitled “Customer Segmentation in the Fashion Industry,” we discuss several segmentation approaches to identify your buyer, or better yet your buyer persona.

Let’s now move on to another critical element in collection development: timing and shelflife.

3. Collection Timing and Shelf Life

Even if do everything right, each collection will need to be renewed after a season. Thankfully, however, not all collections have the same shelf life. According to what discussed above some collections are going to last longer than other. In order of shelf-life, from the longest to the shortest, here are four collection typologies.

  • Basic. These types of collections have a low fashion content and stay in the market for multiple seasons. Sometimes to express the idea that a collection stays on for more than one season the term carryover is used.
  • Seasonal. These collections are the ones that follow the traditional Fall\Winter and Spring\Summer timeline.
  • Special. These are collections that are designed in the occasion of a particular event, and they are sometimes sold through exclusive distribution, or in limited edition formats. As we discuss in this article sometimes brands use these collections to deliver a sense of perceived scarcity in order to enhance the value and cost of the collection.
  • Capsule Collections. These types of collections are used to focus on a particular theme or to describe the collaboration with an outside designer. In this case, also, distribution and shelf-life are limited by choice, in order to provide a stronger sense of contingency.

Let’s now move on to conclusions, and understand how the concept of collection portfolio can fit into a more general business framework.

4. Conclusions

As we’ve seen in this post, there are many opportunities in going after each and every tier of the customer and competing across the fashion pyramid. At the same time, however, this strategy can be extremely costly and multiply risk as much as forecast revenue. In general terms, however, the collection portfolio brings forward a different concept, which relates to the business models that firms follow. A good design idea is not enough, a firm needs to put the idea at the center of a completely new value chain and in a different relationship with its customers if it wants to draw out its value and potential. 

This concept is not new,  the Business Model Canvas is a tool that was designed to convey this exact idea, that if a core element in a firm changes, then, everything else needs to change too. 

What makes this process particularly challenging in fashion is due to the tight deadlines and cyclical process which need to be flawlessly integrated and delivered in order to bring a collection to market.

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From a Single Collection to a Collection Portfolio Fashion companies are moving away from the creation of a single collection per season and are starting to develop a collection portfolio. Let's see how.
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Sources and Further Research

Thomas Brownlees

Thomas Brownlees

I am an Anglo-Italian business lecturer and consultant based in Florence, Italy. In 2017 I started 440 Industries, an education and training company focused on fashion, music, and technology. Our mission is to help students, entrepreneurs and managers in overcoming the challenges of starting, developing and scaling their business in the creative industries. When there's a will, there's a way!

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