Finding the right fashion manufacturer is not as tricky as many believe it to be. Like with any first business meeting, you need to go prepared and armed with clear information about who you are, what your business is about, where you want it to go, and what you need out of this meeting.
People often underestimate the importance of having this information when meeting a fashion manufacturer, and the importance of creating the right first impressions.
So, let’s dispel this myth and be clear on what is needed to turn that first meeting into a success.
Have a clear vision
Meeting a factory manager or owner is, in effect, a business meeting just like any other. The person on the other side also has a business to run and wants to pick the right client to work with – just like you do.
So, go to this meeting with a clear vision of what your business is about. Practice and be ready to ‘set the scene’ in three sentences – literally! The other side needs to know in a few short sentences what your business is about, where you are at with your business and where you are planning to take it. Then, have a more in-depth discussion and answer any questions they may have.
Don’t forget to ask questions too – you too should have a clear idea of where the factory is at business-wise: do they want to grow, or stay as they are. You are making a choice of who to work with as much as they are.
Be clear on what you need the fashion manufacturer to do
Once you have – hopefully – got them interested in your business, you need to make it clear why you are meeting with them and what you need them to do.
A good fashion manufacturer is busy and works to a programme for both sampling and production. Being clear what it is that you need in terms of sampling, sourcing, production, or all three will save time and frustration on both sides.
This clarity between you and your fashion manufacturer will let you know if they can meet your needs or not.
You will also find out if there are parts of what you need that they are not able to do, and the factory can decide if the workload you propose can be accommodated.
Being clear from the outset manages the expectations on both sides, saves time and money, and much disappointment.
Have a clear critical path in mind
In order to have things clear in your mind, you need to work out not only what processes you need as far as sampling, production, etc., but also when you need them.
Be realistic about your requests. Be aware of how long products take to make, especially when you are a new client and the factory does not know your look, your detailing and finishing requirements.
Enquire in advance how they work, how long it takes them to do sampling and production and prepare a realistic critical path that also one that ideally accommodates for the inevitable delays and hiccups.
Do not ask for anything to be rushed; otherwise, you will get a rushed end result, and that most certainly will not be perfect.
Unless ‘not perfect’ is acceptable, prepare for ‘perfect’ by creating a realistic(!) and a workable critical path.
Have your Specs and Tech Packs ready
Once you are ready to pass a sampling or production order, ensure you also have ALL the correct information the fashion manufacturer needs in order to make your product – drawings, Spec Sheets, patterns, etc.
Give the fashion manufacturer the correct measurements and drawings, technical sheets and comment sheets – anything and everything they could possibly need along the way to make your product to the desired level of excellence and to meet your expectations. Ideally, have a meeting with them and go through the documents with them. If an in-person meeting is not possible, ask them to review and get back to you with any questions and areas that perhaps need clarification.
Know your budget
Be clear on your price points. Knowing your final sale prices will allow you to work out backwards what your cost per product should or needs to be.
Having this knowledge is essential and important criteria when selecting a fashion manufacturer to work with. You need to find a factory that can meet your budget, as well as make your product the way you want it.
Being clear on your budget from the outset, discussing it with the factory and ensuring that they can meet it – or making changes in order to make the budget workable – is essential to getting the right result.
A Final word of advice
Have all your meetings and conversations documented in emails right from the beginning. Creating a paper trail of your conversations will come in handy in case there is a dispute and act as a reminder to both parties on what has been agreed.
Here is an article to find the right manufacturer for your niche product.