Whether you are a seasoned designer or just starting to develop your brand, finding a manufacturer in the U.S. can be tricky. In the past few decades, the accessibility of American manufacturing has become increasingly more difficult to grasp, and more brands have taken their production offshore. The good news is that this trend is changing. According to the American Apparel & Footwear Association, apparel production in the United States saw an 8.5% jump in 2012 over 2011.
After interviewing several manufacturers, designers and entrepreneurs; these were six of the major insights shared with me about how to manufacture in America:
1.) Get involved in the community
Ask for advice from other designers who have produced in the U.S. The “Made in USA” community is extremely passionate about U.S. production and are always willing to help each other out. You can connect with other designers by attending events, posting in our forum, connecting on social media, or reaching out by email. Connect with designers who have experience with American manufacturing. They will often share their mistakes, things they have learned and what to avoid.
2.) Do your research
Talk to as many manufacturers as you can before deciding who to produce with. See what the price differences are, the quality of their work, what previous customers are saying, etc. Manufacturers are key in bringing your product to life, so consider them one of the key aspects of your business! Their quality of work will directly affect the reputation of your brand.
3.) Don’t settle on price alone
Although price is a huge factor in the manufacturing process, you are going to get what you pay for. If your product has a focus on quality, or durability, or tells a story that required attention to detail, you will have to find a manufacturer who can appreciate that. This means not settling for the first person who responds to your inquiry or the cheapest place to get your products manufactured. Sara from Spooltown says “Don’t shop for the lowest price when you’re looking for a manufacturer – it will likely come with comparable experience and quality, and you will end up paying more in the long run. Instead, seek out a solid, long-term relationship with your manufacturer and come to an agreeable price together. Because that price is the price of sustainable American manufacturing.”
4.) Find a manufacturer who is well versed in U.S. production
It is key to find someone who really understands the pros and cons of manufacturing in America. It is still more expensive to produce here, so your manufacturer should be able to tell you what aspects of your idea are the most time consuming, and be willing to make suggestions or changes that will lower the price without compromising your design. “We’ve heard horror stories about manufacturers that get all the way through the design process only to be told a production price that’s not feasible on any level. The best way to avoid that is to make sure that your manufacturer is versed in U.S. production and can help you design for it,” says Sara.
5.) Stay active in the process
One of the best things about keeping your production stateside is the ability to easily communicate with your manufacturer with little to no time zone difference or language barrier. Whether it is a short drive, train, flight, or phone call away, when an issue arises (and we know they do happen), it’s much easier to get involved and help solve the problem. Having a good relationship with your manufacturer will make the making process run much smoother. “Be available for questions that may arise. The more active you are in the process, the better your garments will be. You can catch mistakes before it is too late. And always keep good notes, be organized, and work hard,” says Ali from Lipstick Prophets.
6.) Have a long term goal
Where do you see your brand in 1 year? In 5 years? Decide if you are looking for someone to help get your company off the ground, or if are you looking for a more long term partnership that will help get your brand to the next level. Keep this in mind when choosing your manufacturer. Write down your goals and find the manufacturers who can facilitate these goals and steer you in the right direction. And don’t hesitate in communicating these goals with your manufacturer. It will only help them in better understanding and meeting your wants and needs!
Do you have any tips for someone looking to manufacture in America? Leave them in the comment section below!