FIDM Welcomes Alumni Guest Speaker Leisure Lab Founder Daniel Henson
FIDM Instructor Nicole Craig invited Merchandise Product Development Graduate and Leisure Lab Founder Daniel Henson as a guest speaker in her Product Development class (MRCH 2690). Daniel shared his journey in the apparel industry as an entrepreneur. He talked about how he manages his activewear brand while also doing private label manufacturing for other brands at his facility in Downtown Los Angeles.
When the pandemic hit, supply chain issues became apparent and Daniel started manufacturing here in Los Angeles to meet the needs of clients. Domestic production has become very attractive because of supply chain issues. He said 50% of his clients have started to come back from overseas because there are delays in working with overseas manufacturers right now. "You can oversee the process when it's domestic, right in LA. Even if it was New York, it's still right here."
Daniel works with a broad spectrum of clients including influencers launching collections for the first time. He breaks down the process for them and helps them understand the ins and outs of how clothing gets made. If a new client does not have experience or a background in merchandise product development, Daniel advises them to take the full package and he'll work with them every step of the way, from concept to completion.
He walked the students through the apparel manufacturing process. He said you start with a pattern and make the first sample. "The biggest part about getting the pattern right is getting the fit right," he said. Then there is a round of revisions for the pattern, and a final sample is made. Once the final sample is approved, then you go into grading, marking, then production.
“A lot of beginning designers when they see their idea come to life, they start getting more and more ideas and want more and more revisions. One change (such as taking an inch from the hem, for example) can turn into big delays in development. His advice is to narrow down what you want as much as possible before you start the process.
"Come in with swatches, fabric choices, and a sample. Have some specifics on what you're looking for, as much as possible. And consider things like sustainability. Walk into the appointment knowing if it’s important to you. Once you hit development, it's not the time to try to figure it out. Do that before the development stage."
He told the students that he's been a boss for the past three years, and he appreciates when employees ask him questions. He said he likes helping people learn. "Just be an open vessel to absorb all the knowledge," he said.
His advice for new graduates? "Don’t be scared of being unsure. Being in an unsure place, you are open to learning more about yourself. Try to just start somewhere. If it works out, great. If it leads to something, else even better. Or maybe it shows you what you don't want so that leads you to what you do want. Take what you can as a learning experience and apply it to the next step."
In this merchandising course (MRCH 2690), students propose a new private label initiative for an existing brand in a pop-up location after analyzing consumer demand, studying the history of private label, and examining the process of product development.