For many people who start fashion brands, you probably have designs and ideas already. You may, if you know how to make clothes, have tried out a few samples yourself, even to the point of selling your items online or at craft markets. But if you have got to a point where you want to expand or you want to go big from the beginning, then you are probably thinking about producing garments or products in a factory. Regardless of how good you might be at making clothes, you will just never be able to run your brand, design and make all of the items you need to get bigger. Personally I don’t think you should be either. You’ll wear yourself out, run out of passion and eventually give up.
The smart move is to get a factory to produce your items. Firstly they have the space and equipment to do everything you need properly and to legal standards, secondly they are skilled professionals who have the experience you don’t and thirdly, it’s just good time management. If something is not your passion or even what you are naturally talented at, then you are not the person to be doing it. You’ll never achieve the very best quality product if you are doing things that you don’t enjoy or can do to the very best standard available. There are so many other things you could be concentrating on for your brand to be successful, that anything you can do to free up your time is well worth it.
But then you get into another realm of inexperience. If you’ve never visited a factory, and how many people can say that they have, how do you know what you’re looking at? Are the products good quality? Is the price correct? Will the buttons fall off in a week?
I get asked a lot of questions around the topic of QC and factory selection that I thought it would be really helpful to go over some of the finer points of selecting a factory.
So you know where to manufacture, you’ve approached some factories, heard their sales pitch, seen the shiny brochure, felt a few garments which were sort of what you wanted but not really what you were looking for, and now it’s crunch time. Which one do you pick?
Here are 4 tips to picking the right factory to get the best product.
1. THE RIGHT FACTORY CHOICE
What are you making? Like designers or brands, factories have specialities. There are special machines for doing certain tasks and not all factories will have access to them. So pick factories that specialise in your product. If you are making jeans then make sure your factory makes jeans and understands denim. If you are doing T-shirts, then you need a factory that understands jersey and so on….
Know your numbers. When you are asking a factory questions, the first thing they will want to know is what quantity of garments you want to make. This will affect the price of each garment and where you are placed on their “importance” list. At the lower end of the scale you will have to round-up to the nearest 100 pieces for factories on the larger side and nearest 20 for small domestic ones. Your number will also narrow down your search as many will not consider orders less than 500 pieces.
It’s important to remember that the number of pieces is per style, not in total for all styles. It will be the total number of garments that you need across all sizes and colours for one design, but it will definitely help you to mention how many styles you might give them so they know how much volume you have in total.
3. DELIVERY TERMS
Next you need to ask about money and delivery terms. Each factory will expect money at different times. Some will be when the products are delivered, but this is not usually applicable to small sized orders. You have to be comfortable with their payment terms. Don’t forget that you can negotiate these, but to do so you need to have clear policies in place and understand the options available at the same time. If you need more information on this, you can discover more about it here Terminology: Delivery Terms [ Terms of Sale ] Explained
4. ASK TO SEE SAMPLES
Now you need to inspect a few garments to focus on quality. If you can possibly get to the factory and check it out completely to see what standards are like and the garments on the production line, then that is far better, but this is not always possible. At the very least you need to see some garments to compare the quality
A factory should be happy to send you some. Make sure you ask for 3 or 4 different items to compare and ask for samples as close to your products as possible. During this part, you should really take some time to inspect them properly. Keep in mind that they will always send you their best stuff and you’ll never see the worst items but there are a few specific things you can check for. I’ve explained it in more detail in a further post which you can read about here QC your Fashion Samples like a Professional Garment Tech but just as a quick list
- Check for the stitching quality. Is it straight? Are the stitches even? If you tug it does it break? [this is more for stretchy fabric]
- Are the sleeves the same length?
- Are the inside seams neat? Do they have bits falling off the fabric or look like they have been sewn over to hide mistakes? Are they secure when you tug the two bits of fabric apart? Are any of them unravelling?
- Do any of the sewn on parts look like they will come off? If you tug at the buttons, do they fall off?
- Look at the hems. Are they neat and tidy? Do they match front and back [design allowing]? If you have a placket or button stand, are they finished neatly?
- If you have a collar or rib trim does it snap back into shape when stretched? Does it look even?
- When you pull at the neck seam or sleeves on stretchy fabric does it actually stretch?
Don’t worry about the fabric quality so much when looking at the samples. The fabric choice is yours as the designer and you will have to approve it when it’s your turn, so the samples you are looking at have been approved by someone for their own needs. You’ll also have to ignore colour and design if you can. Again, these are products that have been created for someone else’s purpose so regardless of what it looks like, you must concentrate on the details
All of these tips will help you compare all of your factories you contact and find the right one for you. Remember that although you need a cheap production price to make a profit your end, you do get what you pay for and the cheapest may not be cost-effective long-term. Also consider that if you are producing lots of different types of garment you may need to find different factories for each one to get the best product you can.
As a last tip, before you enter into anything with a factory, make sure you have put together an agreement that both you and the garment factory sign. It just makes sure that you both keep to the agreement you have arranged. Make sure you cover payment and shipping terms and any other legal issues or order issues that you want to cover such as packaging, labelling and brand copyright.
Thanks so much for reading and I hope you are finding helpful information to build your fashion brand. If you find this post useful, please use the sharing buttons below to spread the word!