Designing and manufacturing clothes is an involved process. In addition to finding the perfect market fit for your fashion line, delivering quality apparel should be the top priority for every aspiring brand. Your debut collection is critical since it’s your first impression to consumers and industry connections alike, so it’s important to represent yourself accurately!
The quality of your fashion line depends on a variety of factors, and partnering with a clothing manufacturer that meets and exceeds your needs while supporting your end goals is critical. We’ve helped hundreds of brands launch their lines, and we’ve identified the most-valued qualities in a clothing supplier. So here are our top 3 tips on how to choose the right manufacturer for your clothing line:
The reliability of your supplier will significantly impact your production process. Consider all the moving parts in a supply chain that have to work together to get materials and production in the same place to produce your apparel line; there are a million ways that a little hiccup can butterfly-effect its way through a network that’s overcomplicated and inefficient, so your goal will be to evaluate clothing manufacturers for a streamlined operation. Most often this will look like:
- Established partnerships for sourcing materials, so they can quote accurately from experience and source reliably
- Operating domestically, so less likely to be affected by overseas shipping and customs
- High levels of technical expertise and industry experience–unreliable suppliers tend to buckle fast under bad reputations, so if a supplier has been in business and thriving for a significant amount of time, it’s likely a good mark in their favor that brands continue to trust their work.
2| Identify current or previous brands that they`ve worked with
The fastest way to see if a clothing manufacturer measures up is to figure out what they think success looks like. Look for brands they’ve worked with, or ask them to provide examples (sales data, growth, etc). Better yet, ask to see samples of their clothing, so that you can assess the quality for yourself.
While most manufacturers won’t divulge too much about specific clients, don’t be afraid to ask general questions about timelines, budget, or materials in order to understand what it took to put out similar quality to what you’re expecting from them. This is especially valuable if you bring your own reference samples to ask about! It’s perfectly reasonable to hold up a piece of existing clothing as your benchmark, to compare against their samples. A good manufacturer knows their business well enough to talk about data.
3| Know the main types of clothing production models
There’s a lot of variation between what brands are looking to have made and what clothing manufacturers are capable of. It’s important to know your options and expectations, and to evaluate a manufacturer based on how well they fit your needs.
Are you coming into this with mostly complete concepts, technical details, materials, and patterns and mainly searching for a manufacturer to turn out your design at scale, or do you have the big picture ready but require a full-service operation to source fabric, design or adapt a pattern, and work out details to meet your vision? Most ventures fall into one of these categories, and there are specific terms you should bring up with a manufacturer based on where you fall:
-Cut, Make, Trim (CMT)
This production model is primarily built to serve established brands and industry professionals who know exactly what they want. CMT manufacturers will take your existing patterns, materials, and production targets, and deliver quality finished products made to spec. This is the preferred model for brands with existing product lines. It allows you to scale your operation and outsource some of the production without a difference in quality or material.
–Full Package Production (FPP)
This production model provides a fuller range of services for startups and new designers seeking to get started in the industry. FPP manufacturers often assist with pattern making, material sourcing, and technical drafting on top of product production–if you’re just starting out and aren’t sure how to approach any of these details for large scale production, seek out manufacturers that offer full package services. You’ll get the full benefit of industry knowledge they can offer, and your products will be stronger for their guidance.
Whichever package you go for, working well together guarantees an excellent professional relationship that will come in handy in achieving your business goals. You can learn a lot about a clothing manufacturer from FAQs, but if it’s ever unclear what level of support they offer, now you know what to ask about!
Choosing a reliable clothing manufacturer is a vital decision for your venture. They are among your most essential partners and the key to taking quality apparel to market. So you should always take your time, do proper research, and avoid making a rushed decision or opting for a cheap option just for the sake of a lower price point. Consumers respond to well-made clothes, and that starts at production! Indie Source works with all levels of experienced entrepreneurs, and we’re always excited to see what new ideas you bring to the table. Check out our Kick-Off Meeting offer for new brands interested in partnering with us to develop their next line!