New Product Development Process in Textile and Apparel Industry

New product development (NPD) is an important stage of garment manufacturing. Good design is a key factor throughout the fashion industry and is essential in maintaining the leading position Europe holds in global clothing manufacturing.

In today’s market it is necessary to adapt quickly to global requirements as there are no predominant fashion trends which change from season to season. Fashion trends are now defined more by young people around the world than by seasonal collections produced by major fashion houses. The trend has clearly shifted towards increasing the number of collections. It is therefore only a matter of time before continuous collections will be created. The role of the fashion designer and his/her creativity therefore takes on a new significance, since continuous change requires creative potential which can be quickly transformed into making clothing available on the high street.

The fashion industry must provide products which customers want. The role of garment marketing is important here. The word ‘marketing’ denotes an entire business philosophy which seeks to match a business’ resources and the design, manufacture, sales and advertising of its products with the needs of the market. It depends on empathy with the views of existing or potential customers. Fashion marketing is the application of this business philosophy, centered on the buyer or potential buyer of clothes, as well as on the products themselves, in order to realize long-term company goals, including return on investment.

A schematic representation of this philosophy can be seen in below:

business idea

New Product Development:
New product development is one of the most risky and critical strategies in any competitive industry. The starting point of product development is determined by a company’s strategic direction, which is a component of overall company policy. Product development is defined as the design and engineering of products, serviceable for the target consumer, which are marketable, manufacturable, and profitable. The integrated efforts of a multifunctional unit within a business must be employed towards developing such a product and achieving these outcomes.

A new product may be classified into several different categories. In simple terms, new products may be:

  • New-to-the-world products: These are innovations. These new products are the first of their kind and create an entirely new marque. This category represents only 10% of all new products.
  • New category entries: These are new products or lines which are not classified as new-to-the-world and take the company into a new category. A new category is an imitation of an existing product and provides an entry into new markets. Around 20% of all new products fit into this category.
  • Additions to product lines: This category contains items which are new to the company but which fit within an existing product line. This is one of the larger new product categories, representing more than 25% of all new products.
  • Product improvements: These are existing products which have been improved (practically, every product on the market today has been improved) and may be replacements of existing products. They provide enhanced performance or a greater perceived value over the old product and make up 25% of all new products.
  • Repositioning: These are products targeted toward a new usage or application. The category accounts for around 7% of all new products.
  • Cost reductions: These are designed to replace existing products at a lower cost.

Companies may implement several actions and strategies to effectively build and sustain competitiveness in the global textile and clothing industry. One strategy is to implement a key new product development function, as well as characterizing the role of design in new product development.

New Product Development Functions:
Developing new products is a complex process. It consists of interdisciplinary activity requiring contributions from most areas of the company. Some key new product development functions are in below:

1. Marketing: Marketing is relevant to all stages of the development process of a new product, from planning, through screening and testing, to the launch.

2. Design: The design function also plays a pivotal role in defining a physical form of the product which will satisfy customers’ needs. Design function includes mechanical, electrical, software and industrial design, aesthetics, ergonomics, and user interfaces. Industrial design has become a key factor in differentiating products from their competitors through the provision of a coherent identity or higher levels of perceived value. Engineering design plays a critical role in the development of products in the manufacturing industry. It solves technical problems by the most efficient use of available technologies and by integrating product development with the requirements of effective production.

3. Manufacturing: Manufacturing is responsible for the creation and operation of systems for new products. Manufacturing capability may be a technical success factor and relates to the internal or external capacity of a company to manufacture higher quality products to meet customer demands.

4. Finance: Finance is also a key function in the success of new product development.

The Role of Design in New Product Development:
The role of design varies within the development process of a new product. The evolutions of the role of design are

As follows:

  • Nineteenth century: Design as business oriented. During the 1800s design was integral within broader business and manufacturing techniques.
  • 1920s–1950s: Design as a specialized form. During the 1920s, design grew in importance and was driven by customer affluence and the demand for stylish, aesthetic products.
  • 1960s–1970s: Design as profession. After the Second World War, design became a profession and was viewed as a vital part of economic reconstruction. This was reflected in the development of professional associations such as the British Council for Industrial Design and the Japanese Industrial Designers Association.
  • 1980s: Design as brand. During the ‘Designer Decade’ of the eighties, design was widely promoted by the media and business worlds. Brands were frequently associated with design and designer labels.
  • 1990s: Design as a sub-process of new product development. Design was perceived as an expensive activity and was brought back in-house instead of using large multidisciplinary design consultancies. Design was no longer perceived as a separate, self-contained process. Research efforts focused on defining and specifying those distinct activities and skills associated with design which was conceptualized as one of many separated functions within the whole innovation process.
  • Early 2000: Design as product development process leader. Harsh competition has led to an increased emphasis on creativity and innovation as a crucial dimension in recent business strategy. As a result, it has been suggested that designers are now undertaking a leadership role in the product development process.

There are three roles played by design in the development process of new products:

  • In the first role, design is explored as a functional specialism.
  • The second role develops design as part of a multifunctional team, and
  • The third presents it as a process leader.

Product design is increasingly recognized as an important source of sustainable competitive advantage. Taking environmental effects into consideration, this creation of design outlines the progression from initial product design goals through the use of so-called design levers and environmental influences (global, local culture), to the developed product and finally, to behavioral and psychological consumer responses.

Design has become an important tool in the development of dominant brands with lasting advantages. From the viewpoint of the consumer, a successful brand often offers a guarantee of quality and value, which in turn encourages consumer loyalty. At the international level, successful brands must appeal to consumers from a wide range of cultural, religious, language, and ethnic backgrounds.

Criteria for Evaluating Garments:
Market research provides a means of understanding consumer purchasing decisions and anticipating consumer behavior. During the product development process, it focuses on identifying opportunities for product innovation and on understanding the evaluation criteria used by consumers in making a purchase decision. They indicate which criteria are relevant for the wearers of clothing and consumer requirements.

Criteria for evaluating garments
Fig: Ranked and categorized universal evaluative criteria

To develop successful products, a clothing company must understand the evaluation criteria used by the consumer in making a purchase decision. Consumer-created products provide information about the clothing development process and are also capable of significantly influencing the manner in which clothing is developed. They require development based on individual components and features rather than as a complete style. The proliferation of fashion products in recent decades has given greater importance to the multidimensional role of fashion. It plays a complex role for the consumer, revolving around the dynamics of status expression, identity and socio-cultural milieu.

New Product Development Process (Idea generation to commercialization):
New product development is the process of generating concept, designing, creating, producing, introducing and delivering new products and services to consumers, or improving on the old product.

New product development strategies and processes for textile, fashion and apparel companies are different. Processes may be vary according to the companies complexities and simplicities; values and visions; market share, and entrance of each company etc.. But the purpose of this process is same.

To create the next product in a company’s product line, a design team goes through product development process steps. Starting with a product idea, the team moves through several stages to generate all the details and documents needed to get the product built. A new product development process goes through the same steps, however, as this product has not been developed by the team before, new risks and uncertainties are introduced and often additional information is documented and shared with manufacturing. The flow of typical product development process in apparel industry is provided in figure, this remains common for all categories of product development. In apparel industry, once, the market potential, customer requirements like, color, silhouette, fabric and design aspects are evaluated by the fashion forecasting process, the conceptual design is developed by the designer in paper as a 2D form. Once the designs are finalized, the designers and merchandiser will sit together to finalize the specifications and technical aspects of the garment. Here, they will use their knowledge from their previous experience with their market and product.

The product development process in apparel industry generally happens in three different levels,

i) New product by buyer: Once the forecasting process is completed in all sectors like, customer, product design, market requirement, etc., the first steps of silhouette development and fabric selection are approached in different ways by different designers and companies. Many companies base their lines around fabric and print designs. Their designers start by selecting fabrics and then create silhouettes for those fabrics. These designers are fabric driven. Other designers are silhouette-driven designs and product specifications are developed by the buyer and all the necessary information will be provided to the manufacturing merchandiser to develop the product prototype.

ii) New product by manufacturer: The manufacturing organisation’s design team along with merchandiser use to develop new products for their buyer. The product development is the business policy of the organisation which includes the development of the new designs and styles within the organisation. This process provides more business to the organisation, by showing pro-activeness in design development process by knowing the needs and wants of the customers/buyers and it helps in impressing the clients. Production merchandiser must update the buyer time to time about the product development done by organisation.

The buyer visiting the factory is one of the key activities, where merchandiser can develop some positive opinion on the company by showing their facility and designer teams. This motivates the buyer to give the design development to the organisation instead of doing themselves. Whenever buyer visits the organisation, new colour, prints, embroidery patterns and desk loom developments need to be presented to them by production merchandiser. Merchandiser should influence the buyer to select the designs from presentation presented. A very good presentation and convincing ability of production merchandiser bring more business to the organisation.

iii) Product development by external agencies / Studios: In this case, the external agencies perform the product development process based on their expertise and research data they have. Buyers or manufacturers will source the designs concepts and specifications from these agencies with respect to the season and needs.

Factors Influencing the NPD Process:
Some factors directly influence the new product development process. These are mainly influenced by three ways like

  1. Organizational structure and culture,
  2. Leadership, and
  3. Team building.

1. Organizational structure and culture:

  • Fast cycle capability
  • Autonorny
  • Planning and coordination

2. Leadership:

  • Level of improvement
  • Clarity and vision
  • Project management
  • Tolerance for trial and error
  • Individual initiative

3. Team building:

  • Reduced infer depart mental conflict
  • Social cohesion
  • Frequently and directionality of communication

NPD Strategies:
New product development (NPD) strategies are helps for improving working speed, efficiency and quality of product or services in textile and apparel industry. Some most important NPD strategies are in below;

  • Product development maps
  • Aggregate project plans
  • Project return maps
  • Purchasing expertise in process

New Product Development Process and Stages:
Here I will show the process sequence and stages of NPD for textile and apparel industry.

NPD (New product development)

Idea generation

Idea screening

Concept development and testing

Business analysis

Prototype development

Test marketing

Final product development


New product development stages
Fig: New product development stages

Now I will shortly discuss about these NPD process:

1. Idea generation:
Idea generation is the first stage of NPD process. Before starting a new production, every textile, apparel and fashion industry generate different kind of ideas for getting a successful new product.

The necessity for new product development within the textile and apparel industry may arise due to many and varied reasons. These reasons are

  • Changes in technology
  • Demand by consumers for new or improved products
  • New products introduced into the market by the competition
  • Perception of a need in the market by a company
  • Product innovation drive
  • Trends and seasonal requirements and changes.

2. Idea screening:
In this stage all the new product concepts or ideas are considered here. Before selecting the best idea company should evaluate manufacturing process, technology, marketing capabilities and also evaluate how the new idea fits with the company’s vision and strategic objectives. Some other criteria they must follow for selecting new idea, these are;

  • Benefit to consumer,
  • Competitors’ market share,
  • Design and development time,
  • Estimated cost of production,
  • Expected return-on-investment,
  • Feasibility of idea,
  • Technological requirements.
  • Time to market and man-power and

3. Concept development and testing:
This NPD stages tests consumers’ understanding of the product and creates way for further improvement on the product. In this stage, find out the consumers response to the product, through some way of marketing research. Companies also collect the consumer’s opinion on how the product will fare in compare to alternative products in the market, market demand, possible pricing ideas, and also give the attention to latest design details, patent registrations, design registrations, other intellectual property and legal technicalities.

For fashion design business, products will probably present on a fashion shows, private showing to buyers and stockiest and to the Press. For all the business, now internet is making it easier to gather consumer data.

4. Business and marketing analysis:
In this stage the new product idea is analyzed for its design, marketing, manufacturing and finance. Further evaluates the ideas on the basis of quantitative factors, such as profits, Return-on-investment (ROI), and sales volume. Every department is work together to get a perfect product with a target profit.

For developing a unique identity for the new product, the design department creates designs in keeping with the brand identity of the company’s products. The marketing department builds the connection between the company and consumers. By the market research marketing team discover consumer needs and perceptions of the product(s), plan consumer test, plan possible pricing of product, and launch-to-market and set different promotional idea for the product. Marketing is also tasked with monitoring the success of the new product after distribution.

The manufacturing department follows the total production of the new product. Manufacturing team also determine what is needed for production, how and where to source raw materials, availability of machinery, motivation, and man-power resource needs of the production. Finally, the finance department set a perfect budget plan for all the activities that are involved in the product development process.

5. Prototype development:
In this stage, turns an idea on paper into a product that is confirmable and producible. Prototype development is the first stage where new product costs increase rapidly. Here the idea is converted into a visual product. Many companies follow Quality Function Deployment (QFD) to develop prototype. QFD is the specific consumer requirements such as product versatility, durability, and low maintenance with specific product characteristics. At this stage company try to maintain the customer value perspective requires the new product to satisfy customer needs and meet desired quality levels at specified production costs.

6. Test marketing:
These prototype products are present in the market for marketing test. If the result or feedback is positive then start bulk production otherwise pulled back and re-conceptualized or discarded.

7. Final product development:
After analyzing the prototype development stage, all the modifications are completed here. And actual bulk production is stated.

8. Commercialization:
Commercialization is the final stage of NPD. In this stage launching the new product and monitoring the all activities about marketing. It is important at this stage that the supply chain management for the company and new product. Consumer adoption rates, timing decisions for introduction, and coordinating efforts with production, advertising, distribution, awareness campaigns, and marketing should be considered here.

Critical Success Factors of NPD:
Factors that are necessary and guarantee commercial success are termed as critical success factors (CSF): it is imperative to reflect on how one can benefit from each and how one can translate each into an operational aspect of the NPD process.

Critical Success Factors(CSF), metrics and tools and techniques for NPD:
For each stage of the NPD process, the factors are essential for success. Metrics can be used to measure the performance of those factors. Finally tools and techniques are implementing the metrics. As a preliminary proposed framework or table, I believe that any complex NPD project that follows this framework will have an increased chance at success.

Frame of Critical Success Factors (CSF), metrics and tools and techniques for NPD:

Critical Success Factors


  1. Design of clothing manufacturing processes- Jelka Geršak
  2. Apparel Merchandising by R. Rathinamoorthy and R. Surjit
  3. New Product Development in Textiles: Innovation and Production  Edited by Lena Horne

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