How to approach a fashion manufacturer for your new brand15 December 2020
Networking within the fashion industry can be a daunting process, especially with some of the best manufacturers working with a few select and often larger clients. Presenting yourself as someone a quality manufacturer should and could work with is key to getting a successful and well made product. Remember, first impressions count!
Whether you are looking for garments to be manufactured for your brand, clothing labels, promotional materials or packaging, how you approach manufacturers and suppliers remains the same. Given the current climate, many manufacturers will not be able to see you in person to assist with an enquiry and may rely on email, phone communication or video conferencing.
So, how do you go about the process as a startup and what should you be telling them right off the bat? In this blog post we will be discussing exactly what your manufacturer wants to hear and how you can make every interaction meaningful and a positive investment of your precious time.
You want to start off by talking about who you are and what your brand is about. Clearly explain what you hope to reflect and your aspirations for your brand. Being very clear from the outset will allow the manufacturer to determine whether they are the right fit for you. Are you luxury orientated or looking to make fashion affordable? What is your demographic? These are questions a responsible supplier will ask.
There may be industry terms you are not familiar with, but making it clear that you are a startup or new to the industry will help any supplier guide you through the process and offer tailored and detailed advice.
When writing to a manufacturer, you probably shouldn’t send something that reads along the lines of “ “Hi, do you make t-shirts to order, I need 1000”. While it may appear obvious, this is wasting not just your time but the manufacturer’s time too, and you are unlikely to get a serious response.
You need to be able to answer the first few questions a manufacturer may have clearly, concisely and with technical detail:
- What do you want the manufacturer to make? Go into as much detail to build an image. For example, saying “ A cotton asymmetrical long A- line dress” is better than saying “A dress” or “7 x 4 cm rectangular matt black swing tickets with my logo embossed at the bottom” is better than saying “5000 swing tickets with my logo”
- What is your timeframe? It would be unrealistic to assume that a manufacturer can turn an order in a matter of days, so give yourself and the manufacturer plenty of time to meet any deadlines.
- Do you have a budget? Coming in with a clear idea will give a better indication to the manufacturer what sort of materials or embellishments and finishes they should recommend to you.
This initial email is just as important to you as it is for a manufacturer, it will allow both of you to assess if you are a good fit.
The right manufacturer should have the experience and machinery to work on the type of material your product will be made from, so it is essential hat you do your research and engage with the right type of businesses. A poor quality result is not an option and means you will be paying for a product that you’ll struggle to sell.
Once you have found your manufacturer
While it may be difficult and not financially feasible to ask for a sample from every manufacturer you speak to. Don’t waste time and only request samples from a manufacturer that you feel can confidently deliver.
Discuss cut off timings:
Sometimes things can change, and you need to account for the fact that you may make small tweaks based on a variety of factors. Perhaps a new fashion trend has become popular that you may want to incorporate. Discuss the cut off for a last minute change to avoid any disappointment.
Factories can have many unpredictable challenges and even some of the most organised manufacturers may have some sort of delays. Be aware that while it is not something you should expect, you should factor it into the launch date so that there are no surprises and you can ensure things run smoothly.
It may be helpful to sign an agreement in order to define the terms of the production. Establish your deadlines and work out who will be covering costs in the case of an unforeseen event. This works to protect both yourself and the manufacturer if things don’t turn out quite how you both expect.
The cost of manufacturing may or may not include charges for labelling, packaging, shipment, import or export duties. Clarify these fees early on in the process. Many manufacturers also raise pro-forma invoices prior to shipping, so make certain that you understand what needs to be paid when and ensure that the have the funds in place for a smooth production, delivery and conclusion.
If this is your first time you will probably learn a lot along the way, but it does not have to be a daunting process or a struggle. At Elite Labels, we have an expert team dedicated to helping new brands find their feet in the fashion world. Whether this is your fifth brand or your first, we are able to assist you from the very beginning, in the same way we do for your favourite brands around the world.