Business Talk: Wie finde ich den richtigen Hersteller für meine Produkte? Working with Manufacturers.

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The fashion industry relies heavily on informal information networks, so make use of these to find out which manufacturers are best at the products that you want to make.


first step: LOCATING A MANUFACTURER

Business Talk: Wie finde ich den richtigen Hersteller für meine Produkte? Working with Manufacturers.

Ask around amongst other designers that you know in the area: not only will they be able to make recommendations, they will also be able to flag up any manufacturers that they’ve had problems with, so you’ll know to avoid them.

A good place to start is through the organisations listed in our fact-sheet on ‘Getting Advice’. Some of them will have knowledge of the manufacturers based in their region. There is an ‘Online Manufacturers Showcase’ which features on the www.fashion-enter.com site. However, bear in mind that listings such as these come with no guarantee of production quality because they
are self-selected.

Some manufacturers will have their own websites, but don’t rule others out on the basis of not being very websavvy. Many good, well-established businesses rely entirely on word-of-mouth for publicity.
Once you have located a factory, you still need to ask a lot of questions before placing your order. Young designers are often so grateful to have found anyone who will make their order, they overlook some important factors in the production process.

These are some questions you might want to ask:

– What rates are they quoting you? Some manufacturers will try to charge sample rates for small production runs. Don’t be afraid to negotiate on price if you feel that it is not reasonable.

– Investigate payment terms. Do they expect full payment on delivery, within 30 days, up front etc.? Remember that you will need to keep to your part of the arrangement, so don’t agree to payments that you know you will not be able to meet on time.

– What kind of garments do they usually make? Are they for labels that you have seen before and are they of a production quality that you would be happy with?

– Is the manufacturer used to working with small businesses and happy to produce small orders? Small design companies will find it hard to compete for production space if the manufacturer usually only takes large orders for the mass market or large high street retailers.

– Are they able to work with the fabrics that you use? This is very important as some manufacturers struggle to work with ‘difficult’ fabrics such as silk, jersey and other stretch fabrics.

– Are they going to be able to deliver on time? If you don’t give a manufacturer plenty of notice, you risk rushed production, compromised quality and late delivery of your order. Similarly, if you are trying to get your order made at a very busy time in the fashion calendar, you will need to plan the timing carefully. Leave yourself plenty of time to explore your options for production.

– If you can, get quotes from more than one manufacturer before you make a decision – it will give you more leverage for negotiation and give you a good picture of the production options in your area. However, manufacturers usually won’t quote a price until they have made a garment, and they will treat this as a sample, and charge you a sampling price for this.

Business Talk: Wie finde ich den richtigen Hersteller für meine Produkte? Working with Manufacturers.



second step: BEFORE PRODUCTION BEGINS

If at all possible, go and visit the factory. It’s not the most glamorous part of the job, but you’ll get a sense straightaway of how professional the manufacturer is.

– How is the factory organised?

– Do they seem to take care of the products they are working with?

– Do they have the equipment to make your products? This may sound like a strange question, but not all factories keep up to speed with relevant technology. If you need a specific finish or detail on your designs, are they going to be able to do it?

– If your design requires handwork, do the staff have sufficient skills to do this?

– How does the manager deal with any questions and concerns that you have?

If you are happy with the factory, do try to get the manager to sign a contract before work begins. Contracts help maintain a professional attitude on all sides and could prove useful if there are any disputes. If the manufacturer that you are working with doesn’t usually make use of contracts, draw one up yourself, outlining the order size, timing, cost and terms of payment that have been agreed. Again, ask around other designers to see what kinds of contracts they use.

Don’t forget your part in the pre-production process – make sure you have a production-ready sample. One of the biggest problems that manufacturers have with inexperience designers is that they present samples that aren’t production ready. As well as a correct sample and patterns, you need to be able to provide very clear instructions with sketches, etc. where appropriate. Don’t assume that the manufacturer will just be able to ‘work it out’, particularly if the design is complex or unconventional.

Manufacturers and machinists aren’t necessarily very fashion-aware, so be prepared to explain the aesthetic that you are trying to achieve if you sense that they don’t quite get the look you are after. If this is the first time you’ve worked with a particular manufacturer, make sure you visit them and explain your aesthetic. Take your look-books, and show examples of the type of finishing and details you are after. 


It is also essential that your fabrics and trims are delivered on time. Too often, designers place their order with the factory without having checked that everything will be there on time. This can become a real problem if all components are not there on time – you may lose the production slot that was allocated, which could result in late delivery. Also bear in mind that factory managers will often not even start manufacturing an order until all the components are ready. For example, don’t have fabrics delivered to the production unit and then have to wait 2 weeks for zips. They will not appreciate being treated as a storage facility.

What are the arrangements for collection / delivery of the finished garments? Some manufacturers provide delivery services but others may expect you to organize this yourself.
Some designers shy away from the production aspect of their work, but if the production quality isn’t up to scratch, you’ll end up getting left with returns. If you’re not confident that you understand how good production works, try to get some advice from a production manager, or even another designer with good production knowledge.


third step: ONCE PRODUCTION HAS STARTED


Don’t assume that the whole process will be free of glitches. Experienced production managers always recommend that you keep a close eye on production throughout the process. If your studio is located close to the factory use this to your advantage – go and check on production as often as possible. This can be useful for picking up on any problems early on in the process, when they will be easier to rectify.

Try to establish a good relationship with the manufacturer so that you can learn from them. For instance, they might be able to suggest a solution if some aspect of the design is proving
difficult to produce.

Stay professional. Manufacturers sometimes avoid working with young designers because they worry about their ability to pay on time – don’t reinforce this belief by failing to meet your contractual obligations. If you are unfortunate enough to have a dispute with the manufacturer, try to resolve it calmly. Don’t be intimidated by manufacturers: without your orders, they can’t stay in business. They may have more experience, but if you establish an equal relationship from the outset, you’re much more likely to get the quality of production that you want.

Business Talk: Wie finde ich den richtigen Hersteller für meine Produkte? Working with Manufacturers.



last step: AFTER THE ORDER HAS BEEN COMPLETED

You’ll probably just be relieved that you got your order completed on time, but it is useful to reflect on how the production went overall.

– Were you satisfied with the quality of production? If not, you need to raise this with the manufacturer.

There is no reason for you to accept garments that you are not happy with.

– Did you get your timings right? Had you left enough time for the delivery of fabrics and trims? How could you improve on this?

– Would you use the manufacturer again? Would you recommend them to another designer?

– Were there any problems with meeting the payments on time?

If you were happy with the work they did, let the manufacturer know. It could be the start of a mutually beneficial relationship.

IF YOU WERE HAPPY WITH THE WORK THEY DID, LET THE MANUFACTURER KNOW. IT COULD BE THE START OF A MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL RELATIONSHIP.

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