Let us pause for a minute and think about why we decided to enter the fashion industry in the first place. Was it to create designs that remain in our sketches? Or was it to see them come to life in the real world and being worn by customers? Surely, it is the latter! We all know what it takes to make this a reality – finding the right manufacturers or cloth factories to produce the garments we design. Every fashion entrepreneur, especially the beginners, knows how daunting this can be.
South Asian countries like China, India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam are the leaders in producing the garments for some of the biggest names in the fashion world. This can be a big advantage for us. While other countries worry about the lead times and shipping costs when ordering from the cloth factories in these nations, we have the locational advantage.
That, however, does not mean we should go and place our order with the first manufacturer we find. It is prudent to do our research and find multiple cloth factories, evaluate them, and only then finalize our partners. We cover the important parameters to keep in mind when finalizing the manufacturer. But, first things first. Where do we find the list of these cloth factories?
· Industry Trade Shows – Nothing beats visiting industry-specific trade shows, interacting with the suppliers, asking questions, and then deciding on partnering with them. Offline trade shows may be the best, but even online ones (in keeping with the times) are a great place to start with.
· Internet Search – The first place we turn to when searching for anything under the sun. Yes, even cloth factories! This method has three constraints, though.
o There are so many entries that it may be difficult to filter the appropriate ones.
o Verifying the authenticity of these entries
o Last but not least, not all cloth factories may have an online presence
· Social Media – Social media is a better way of leveraging the internet to find cloth factories that meet our needs. Be it Instagram accounts or Facebook Groups of other entrepreneurs, recommendations and help are readily available. Also, coming from verified sources, these suggestions are more genuine.
· Business Directories – The old-school yet effective way of finding the list of suppliers for any business. These business directories may have moved online over the years but still remain a valid source of information.
· Personal Recommendations – There are so many other people we interact with – for example, our fabric or accessory suppliers – who in turn work with manufacturers. We can always ask them about their recommendations. This may help us get some of the best suggestions of cloth factories, which can otherwise be difficult to find.
Now that we have the initial list ready, we can dig deeper and identify the ones best suited for our needs. Many factors come into play. It is completely dependent on our specific requirement, what we should look for in cloth factories. However, some points worth considering are
· Manufacturing Niche – What is it we are trying to sell? If we are looking to get into sportswear, we must look for a manufacturer with expertise in making sportswear. Only then should we look at the other parameters.
· Production Capacity – To start with, this may not be the most important factor. But what if our business grows exponentially (wouldn’t we just love that!). Will the manufacturer have the capacity to support our growing business needs? This is also critical because the cloth factories will not be working exclusively for us. So, their production capacity should not become a bottleneck for us.
· Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) – It is impossible to find cloth factories with no MOQ requirements. Make sure to understand the MOQ for the manufacturer as we want to avoid ending up with piles of finished garments simply to meet the MOQ requirement.
· Cost per piece – Another important factor to consider when shortlisting cloth factories. This will determine our product pricing and affect profits directly. So, we need to be extra careful with this parameter and have a clear understanding right from the beginning.
· Working Conditions – With disasters like Rana Plaza having shocked our industry, it becomes our responsibility to ensure we work only with cloth factories that provide good working conditions for their employees. This may need us to physically visit and have periodic audits of the premises, but it is certainly the right thing to do.
· Trial Runs – A good practice is to ask the manufacturer if they can create a sample for our design. This helps in two ways – understanding the quality of the finished product and estimating the actual cost incurred. Following these simple pointers can go a long way in identifying reliable and affordable cloth factories that align with our business needs.
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