This is the start of a 3-part series.
I’m the owner and designer of AZMARA ASEFA, a women’s contemporary brand in L.A. I’ve done custom and short run collections mainly using myself or seamstresses and tailors to execute the designs. The idea of using a factory was something I had considered, and as I grew my business it became necessary.
On October 3, I’ll be participating in the Phoenix Fashion Week Emerging Designer Bootcamp, where I’ll be showing 12 looks – which is a lot of samples for a small business. The program is focused on building relationships with buyers and getting orders – which means that as soon as I found out about taking part, I needed a factory, and fast.
I started with a set of criteria, which gave my search structure and a more defined sense of purpose. What are my non-negotiables? Is there anything I’d be willing to compromise on? What about my budget? This list helped me hone in on exactly what I needed for my product.
- The factory needed to be in Los Angeles. Having a local factory might not be possible depending on your area, but when an issue or miscommunication occurs, I wanted to be able to run to the factory the same day.
- The factory needed to be able to do all the stitching I needed to complete the garment.
- The factory needed to be vertically integrated. I didn’t want to piecemeal the collection. The factory should know my concept and design intent from start to finish. Patterns, samples, and production. The theory is that this is more expensive, but mistakes and miscommunications are expensive too.
- The factory needed to be responsive. If you didn’t answer the phone, that was a huge red flag to me.
- The factory had to produce good work.
- The factory had to have likable people.
- The factory had to have ethical work conditions.
- The factory had to run small batch production.
- The factory had to work with young brands.
- The factory had to care.
I searched through Maker’s Row. I was lucky enough to live in LA, the land of factories. I had options. I also looked through Yelp reviews, and designer friend recommendations. Then, I ran the factories through my criteria. I shortlisted about 7 factories. Next was the phone call.
Oh, the factory phone call! Only 4 factories were responsive. The other 3 maybe didn’t have a phone. Of the 4, one met most of my criteria. Surprise! It was the Maker’s Row suggested factory, USA Sewing!
Setting up the project on Maker’s Row was easy. I uploaded loose hand sketches, flat sketches with more detail, reference images, and words describing the project. The common advice of having as much information as possible and knowing exactly what you want is very true. The less back and forth, the time, the less money! Noah of USA Sewing called me to set up a time to meet, and the initial consultation occurred that week.
Listing my must-haves became a clear pre-factory strategy that provided a lot of much-needed guidance. Are you starting out and thinking of approaching a factory, or do you have your own strategy for approach factories? Feel free to ask me questions!
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