When teaming up with an apparel manufacturer to develop your clothing designs, or to help you build an apparel line, you gain much more than simple product development. These experts shoulder a great deal of responsibility to bring your ideas to life in an ethical manner while following legal and financial guidelines. Without their supporting hand, your clothing line can fall apart before it even begins.
When planning a manufacturing budget, it is important to keep in mind the risks that the manufacturer faces and how those risks can affect your brand. A trusted and professional firm will undoubtedly cost more than a partner who is unconcerned with how your apparel is created. Can you afford to allow your clothing to be produced without careful guidance throughout the entirety of the project?
If you’re not an expert who has already developed relationships with industry leaders and overseas partners – the answer is no.
To perfect the apparel you are aiming for, it will take a knowledgeable and experienced team. They will take on the risks involved in the process while adhering to the cost they quoted, even as problems arise. While professional manufacturers are extremely familiar with the conditions involved in agreeing to a price, there is always some level of risk associated with them.
Consider the following responsibilities that a manufacturer assumes to ensure your apparel makes its debut without delays:
- Cultural Differences – It can be difficult to understand the business practices of a foreign facility if overseas facilities are involved. They may take an assertive and demanding attitude as a sign of disrespect – leading them to lower their priorities or urgency toward your project. Working internationally can also create the possibility for language barriers, resulting in miscommunication. A professional apparel manufacturer will have pre-established lines of communication to ensure your clothing is produced to spec and on time.
- Managing Supplies – Apparel manufacturers know the importance of balancing suppliers and ensuring they have a backup plan in case one of their partners fails to produce. This network of relationships has typically been built over many years of trust and collaboration and will ensure that your apparel is completed in a timely fashion.
- Payments – Oversea payments can be trickier than paying someone in the same country, sometimes leaving funds tied up, and less capital for your project. Experts have the resources and knowledge to pay at the proper times to ensure production isn’t delayed.
Dealing with Manufacturers Who Drag Their Feet
Timelines are a major factor in building a successful brand. Working with subpar manufacturers can seriously cripple your strategy. Trusting anyone to take your vision as seriously as you are, is already difficult, so putting your faith in the hands of someone you barely know, who is thousands of miles away, can be very hard.
Unfortunately, not every overseas manufacturing facility is as dependable as they claim. They may easily brush your project to the side to focus on more lucrative endeavors. This is where hiring an expert apparel manufacturer lessens the risk – they will work with reliable factories whom they have built trust and loyalty to bring your apparel to life.
Will the Factory Be There Tomorrow?
When working with any facility, there is no guarantee that they will be in operation throughout the duration of your contract. However, by choosing a quality manufacturer who places an emphasis on ethical-work conditions, safety, and a clean environment, chances are high that your clothing will be produced without a hitch.
Overseas factories face obstacles that are hard to understand without researching. In fact, according to a report from National Public Radio, China’s Ministry of Environment has reprimanded, fined or even charged officials in over 80,000 factories with criminal offenses, in 2017. Their renewed effort to decrease pollution left an estimated 40% of Chinese factories temporarily closed and scrambling to meet codes to resume production.
By working with an apparel manufacturer who trusts their overseas partner’s standards, your product can avoid being delayed by the country’s changing policies.
Monitor Quality Control
So, you have invested the time and resources into developing the perfect apparel line with designs that you know will inspire the public – It is all for nothing if an overseas facility fails to deliver quality.
An expert will demand strict guidelines regarding the finished product. According to the organization Quality Inspection, apparel importers go by a system deemed as Acceptance Quality Limit (or AKL) to express their expectations to apparel manufacturers.
It is defined as the “quality level that is worst tolerable.” Basically, it signifies the number of allowed defective units in a batch before the product is rejected. Working with a professional who is well versed in quality control will ensure your ideas are taken seriously and the finished product meets your demands. Inspections should be performed during different stages to catch defects early on before the entire order is affected.
It’s important to have a practiced partner in your corner when dealing with overseas facilities as their reputation and relationship is on the line.
The fashion industry and unethical-work conditions have a notorious history. It’s a relationship that is still prevalent in the global industry – the International Labor Rights Forum reports that from 2012-2015, improper implementation of legally required health and safety measures resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,600 garment workers.
Cheap labor comes at a price, it usually directly impacts employees who work for unfair wages to feed their families. If your brand is associated with a facility considered a sweatshop or uses materials deemed unethical – don’t be surprised when consumers reject your apparel. It not only tarnishes your reputation – it’s abusive.
For beginners in the clothing industry, it can be difficult to know where to turn when looking for an ethical partner. Without analyzing labor-inspection reports or physically visiting a facility, seeing their working conditions is nearly impossible. This is another advantage to working with an expert who is experienced in finding a company who can put your design plans in the right hands.
Don’t get caught up in ethical controversy because you were unprepared or misled – your brand may never recover.
Keep Your Ideas Your Own
Unfortunately, the copyright laws in place to protect designers and innovative ideas are incredibly limited. The United States Copyright Office states a “useful article” is secure “only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.”
In layman terms – a specific design may be protected but its shape or style is up for grabs.
It’s crucial you trust your manufacturer to build your designs without sharing the concepts with other clients or competitors. If your idea is stolen, other manufacturers may mass produce it cheaply and rush it to the market before your line can ever make an impact – leaving you viewed as the knockoff.
A professional team will take on the risk of protecting your vision with confidentiality and allow you to take credit for the finished product.
Growing a fashion line certainly isn’t cheap. It is crucial to place your trust in a manufacturer who will handle your budget with the same care you do.
Work with a tried-and-true manufacturer to ensure money is reaching the different moving parts required to develop the clothing you expect. If they don’t encourage you to develop an iron-clad contract, you should be wary of working together.
Your brand can’t get off the ground if a partner is standoffish when it comes to information about your funds.
The Bottom Line
Will you pay more to work with an apparel manufacturer who plays a role in each step of the manufacturing process? Yes – probably.
Is it worth it to ensure your clothing line reaches the market exactly as you envisioned, through ethical operations and with a guiding hand from design to delivery? Yes – no doubt.
About Stars Design Group: Founded by industry experts, Stars Design Group global fashion design and production house that helps clients bring their apparel to market. We consult, design, and facilitate production and delivery.
Understanding that the apparel industry is about evolution and not revolution, we continue to refine the way the industry does business. Embracing the latest 3D design and development software, we help to refine the design and approval process in a digital landscape, paving the way for rapid decisions and execution of programs while reducing mistakes, improving fit, minimizing returns, and increasing profit margins.
With a network of 67 factories in 14 countries worldwide, our relationships are generations deep. Being diverse in our manufacturing locations, we are nimble in an ever-evolving landscape and provide ethically manufactured apparel and accessories.