Behind the Scenes: Designing a New Collection
If you were to ask me what my absolute favourite part of building the PUPSTYLE brand and running the business was, I would have to say the Product Design & Development. Long time followers of our brand and avid PUPSTYLER's can attest that our products are different from anything else on the market, and we don't just mean how they look. Every product is unique - designed from scratch by us (the PUPSTYLE Mama and Papa) down to the very last millimetre. We create the function, decide the measurements, commission the hand-painted or hand-drawn artworks and piece it all together to create a selection of unique products fit for the most spoilt pups in the world and only the best fur-Mums and Dads who love them. So, instead of just sending a new print to a factory and asking them to print it onto their generic pet products, we've got a much longer process that we go through before the products you see today can actually reach your paws.
FIRST STAGE: Design the Function
The function and features of a new collection usually come as a result of customer feedback. We're very customer-centric here at PUPSTYLE and we're always willing to hear new ideas and ways to improve. Besides, we want to be everyone's favourite pet accessories brand, so we've gotta please the pups! As a Dog Mum myself, I know exactly what I want in the accessories my own doggos will be wearing so I already know that every piece needs to be Comfortable, Functional, Safe, look stylish and be Low Impact, both on the earth and that no animals are harmed in the making of our products. If a new product can't achieve all of these values, it won't make it much further than this first step in the process.
Once we've dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's, we draw our design on paper and get to work making our first sample in-house. This will be a very 'rough draft' of the actual product, made out of scrap fabrics we have laying around. This helps us to get the initial sizing right and helps us to figure out any problems we might encounter when making the real product so we've already got a solution ready. We'll make a lot of adjustments to our design at this stage of the process and we don't move on until we think we're 100% happy with how our new product functions.
SECOND STAGE: Prints + Samples
The next step is to create the colours or prints for our design. Again, we reference back to all the patterns and colours our customers have told us they want us to create next. We'll never be far from our Pantone swatch book at this stage of the process, figuring out which main colours we'd like to focus on and how they pair together. Once we've chosen our main colour pairing, we'll go on the search for artists or prints that will match well with our chosen colours. This part is surprisingly difficult because some patterns or prints we choose along with our Pantone book don't accurately show how our colours will print on different fabrics. Often at this point in the process, we'll have a shortlist of colours and prints that we want to trial as we know there will be a few that won't work out how we expect.
THIRD STAGE: Make Samples
The next step of the process is probably one of the most exciting as we get to see our work come together in real life. By now, we would have sent our rough in-house sample to our manufacturer along with our chosen colours and patterns. They will then replicate our sample in the correct materials and in our chosen designs, creating our first real sample of the actual product! Over the few years of doing this process, we've learnt not to have high hopes at this step. After all the months of work before now, many of our products don't make it past this stage and others will take another 10-12 months of changes before it finally gets released. Want proof of our failed attempts?
Here's our best-selling Palm Vibes harness and how it looked after Sample #1, approximately 12 months before we finally got the design right and launched the one you know and love today!
And here's our initial Stripe Squad harness after the first sample phase. Thank goodness we decided to go with the 'KISS' method after this and just "keep it simple, stupid!"
FOURTH STAGE: Get Feedback and Make More Samples
Very rarely do we ever get the design right on the first sample, so we'll share our initial samples with friends and family and our group of dogfluencers who help to represent our wider customer family to get their feedback on what needs to change. These people have helped us to choose the outer fabric for our Modern Dream Beds, the prints for our entire Walking collection and even some fancy features we have then added to the function of our products. A family member was actually the genius behind the idea to make our Adjustable Adventure Leash adjustable - it was just a simple leash before then! And our dogfluencers were the inspiration behind adding snap buttons to all of our Bandanas to make sure they stayed on all day and were still easy to remove.
Alas, sometimes this stage doesn't go so well. Did you know that the majority of our family said they didn't like our Fresh Blooms collection which is now our longest-running best seller?! Yep - thankfully we used our better judgement on this and took the risk and it's still one of your all-time favourites to this day. Probably one of the only times we've ever been able to say 'told you so' to them!
FIFTH STAGE: The Final Product
Now that we've made it this far, our manufacturer is busy making our dream product and we're in the process of planning for the launch. It's very important that we DON'T make our products in-house as not a single home sewing machine is capable of stitching together our materials for strength and safety, especially when a doggo is pulling on one end whilst you're pulling the other. In fact, the majority of commercial sewing machines aren't even able to do this so we use an accredited manufacturer with all the right tools for the job.
From the time we receive all of our products at our doorstep, we need about 4 weeks to get all of our photos, create all the products on our website and get in touch with all of our stockists to let them know that the new collection is ready to have in their gorgeous stores. And then BOOM - we choose a launch day, the crowd goes wild and usually what happens is that so many of you snap the new collection up on the day we launch that makes the last 12 months of developing it so worthwhile (but also makes us realise we didn't make enough in our first drop to last long enough until we had planned on restocking). Whoops!