As a designer you cannot create your label without going through the process of production. Set aside the fun part (the designing part of course!) and think seriously about production. You can have a concept, a design, a brand, but ultimately your success is based on one thing: the product itself. In this two part article I am going to help you go through the process of finding a manufacturer for your product.
Before you start negotiating with a producer (and if you need help with that, check out my article on the basic 7 step negotiation process), the first question is: who? Who will be able to produce your product line?
Remember that if you are new to the industry then you don’t have any established partnership, and you won’t be able to place an order that will prioritize you in the eyes of the producer. Be aware of this before establishing delivery commitments to your retail partners. The first impression always lasts. If you cannot follow your initial commitment, continuing your business activity will be even tougher.
So let’s come back at the initial question. Who will be able to produce your goods? How will you find your production partner?
You can get access to different resources depending on where you are in your business cycle. Are you a startup business or are you more established and in growth stage? As it is in many other industries, in fashion you’ll have an advantage if you can already leverage your existing relationships.
You might not know this, but you probably already have some relationships in the industry, so let’s see how you can find and leverage these.
If you’ve worked for another fashion company, some of your former producers may be willing to work with you, or at least make a referral. Try to remember your contacts by always keeping in touch, they will be able to guide you.
If you already are in discussions with a potential retailer for distributing your products (and of course, depending at what stage in the negotiation process you are with them), don’t hesitate to ask about their experience, about their preferred partners. They might be able to give you some names and even introduce you to them.
If you are a student or alumni of a fashion school, ask your professors and tutors to see what resources could be available to you. They may also have industry connections that you can leverage.
Friends and Colleagues:
We never know…
You can do a basic Google research. From there, you might get some names and with contacting these facilities your can even try to get some quotes, in order to check the accuracy of your production budget estimation and also to adjust it. You can also check online repertories of textile manufacturers. Panjiva.com is one example, and if you ware in US check out MakersRow database for local manufacturers. But there are many other textile manufacturers listings and review sites online, just start google-ing!
From my experience, most of the start ups I have worked with first use the internet to find their partners. It is actually the most effective way to get information and contacts when you are entering the fashion world without any connections. From there, you’ll have to adapt your tactic based on the direction your business is taking.
In part 2 of this article I will go over the 4 main points you have to remember when choosing your manufacturing partner.
This article was written by Alexandra, fashion consultant. Follow her on Twitter @Stylindublin