So, you've got a killer fashion design, a perfectly complete tech pack, and complete sew-by samples all in line, and you’re ready to have the product made.
The next step? Finding the perfect garment manufacturer to bring your vision to life. If anyone tells you finding a manufacturer is easy - immediately question everything else they’ve told you. Manufacturing is hard, perfecting repetitive work is tricky, and the way manufacturers communicate makes being new & understanding the flow of things even tougher.
Don't worry; I've got your back! Rather than pitching your clothing line to a manufacturer, and hoping they show some interest in the project, asking these six questions will help you land the perfect manufacturer for you.
Most reliable factories pay their stitchers by the piece. This encourages stitchers not to work long hours, but instead, increase their productivity & proficiency. What’s more, is that when stitchers are paid but the piece, there are systems in place to catch who needs to redo work if it doesn’t pass QC.
Yea, I get it. Samples are more expensive than manufacturing, and no one ever asks to do this! AS A MANUFACTURER, I can assure you that the most reliable way to find out if the factory you’ve chosen is going to nail it for you, is by ordering 5 samples of the same thing, and inspecting all of them. Anyone can nail ONE sample, but what if 2 of 5 have issues or inconsistencies, and you planned to order 100 from this manufacturer? Ordering a handful will give you an idea if they truly will deliver once you’ve wired the money.
Manufacturers lie. They upload stock photography of brightly lit clean workspaces and seamstresses waving in the background, like it’s the manufacturing version of The Office. Most good manufacturers can find 5 minutes to hop on a quick call and show you the workspace. Look at who is making your garments, how they’re sitting, what they’re sitting on, how quickly they’re sewing, how well-lit and clean the space is, and ask to speak to one of them. If a seamstress shies away from the conversation, or they’re sitting on some sort of storage stool… move on. This is not the manufacturer for you.
Donnage is simply the industry term for leftover scrap. Many manufacturers send it to a landfill, but with just a little organizing, you can get your donnage returned to you, or sent to recycling. Your manufacturer should offer your scrap back to you. PLEASE consider spending the 20 minutes it takes to make a recycling or upcycling plan.
If the seamstress who made the item is performing QC, that won’t work for you. You need objective eyes that are able to zoom out. Look for a setup that has a dedicated QC team or department tasked with reviewing finished product, pressing, lint rolling, and folding. This is a job that takes HOURS even if it were just for a hundred t-shirts.
If the manufacturer in question makes leggings more than anything, and you’re wanting onesies or button down poplin shirts, MOVE ON. Every garment manufacturer specializes in something - if a manufacturer says they can run just about anything, be weary about work conditions or quality control. Every type of material requires a different hand, and while some of these factories house some immaculate seamstresses, most of the time, the product will not be good if those seamstresses are bouncing back-and-forth between making knits and wovens.