Choosing the right manufacturer for your apparel brand is the most important decision you will make as a brand. It needs to be a partnership with a company that has the same vision, values, and qualities that you are building out in your mission statement. Your manufacturer will need to be able to foster and support your growth, have the ability to scale as your orders increase, and understand what the brand ultimately represents to you and your customers.
Let’s take a look at the traits the ideal manufacturing partner should have.
#1. Transparent and realistic turnaround times
One of the top issues in the fashion industry right now is being able to keep up with the turnaround times of fast fashion without compromising quality. Consumers no longer have the attention span to wait for seasonal or quarterly changes for new product. As a brand owner, you can also not miss out on opportunities because you did not have enough inventory in hand for a trade show or an important meeting with an investor or buyer. While many manufacturers promote their speed-to-market readiness, they do so at the expense of quality.
You will need to choose a partner who has created an agile supply chain through technology in order to keep up with your order demand without compromising the quality of your product. Make sure that your manufacturer is providing you with turnaround times that are accurate and can be used as you speak with buyers, investors, and consumers.
#2. Meeting price points
Pricing will obviously be a driving factor in deciding the right manufacturer to partner with. If you are honest with your factory of where you are looking for your costs to be, they can work with you to determine what changes can be implemented to hit those targets. Your manufacturer and yourself need to be able to work together to meet in the middle on price through increased order volume, design changes, and services that are being used.
#3. The services provided
Speaking of services, it is important to understand what your manufacturer will be able to help you with. Some factories will be solely cut & sew, while others will be vertically-integrated and can assist you across the entire supply chain. You will need to decide where you will need the support from your manufacturer and where you want to be spearheading any action items. You can also partner with white label vendors who can supply you with ready-to-ship items to fill your product line with.
#4. Location and accessibility
The current political climate has caused a drastic change in the way brands are deciding where to produce. Whether it is here in the US or with an overseas partner, you want to be sure that you’ll have full visibility into what is going on with your project. Whether you’re able to physically visit the factory or have the technology in place to track the process in real time, you need to decide on a partner that has the best accessibility for your brand.
#5. Transparency and traceability
In the age of the conscious consumer, your customers are also going to want to be able to track where their product is coming from. You should partner with a manufacturer who is comfortable enough to allow you to disclose that you’re working with them. This will not only build trust between yourself and your customers, but between yourself and the factory, as well. If your customers are trusting your manufacturer enough to continue to purchase the product, you are setting yourself up for long-term success!
It is important to keep all of these factors in mind even as you continue to grow with your manufacturer. Be prepared to experience some rough patches along the way, but make sure your manufacturer is a partner that is focused on improving the process with each iteration to empower your brand to succeed.