After a year and a half in the research and development phase researching factories, I’ve picked up a few things about selecting the right manufacturer. Here are a few things I’ve learned that will help you navigate the process of choosing the right factory for your brand.
Use technology to read independent reviews online.
Fortunately, Maker’s Row has this feature embedded into the site. You can see at a glance how a particular factory is rated by designers who have worked with them. You can also read their comments – both positive and negative.
Look at the garments the factory has produced for other companies.
Usually, the designers’ names are protected but you should be able to view samples of the work they have done. Be sure the factory is accustomed to working in the style and fabrications you are seeking. For example, if you are a high-end lingerie designer, you would want to partner with a manufacturer who specializes in working with delicate luxury fabrics and fine finishes.
Check minimum production requirements and confirm rates.
Be sure you understand the pricing structures for each phase of production – from pattern making to sample creation. If you are a bespoke or couture designer, you’ll need to seek out a factory with low minimums and consistent, high quality details and finishes. Expect to pay higher rates for this level of service. On the other hand, if you are seeking large quantities of low-cost garments, your needs are quite different.
Speak to the production manager or operations manager.
Do you speak the same language? I’m not necessarily asking that in a literal sense, although that’s important too! Do you feel comfortable with the responses you receive to your well-thought out questions? I specifically asked my factory in advance, Are you open to my visits? Will you work with me, collaboratively to achieve my goals? Will you be available for my questions, etc.? This is very important because some factories will tell you upfront that they will work with you and later regard you as a nuisance. Once you pay a deposit, they may ‘disappear’ (i.e., avoid your calls) for weeks at a time.
Know the maximum lead times for production.
The worst possible scenario is that you promise, in good faith, to deliver garments to your customer by a specific date. You later discover that your project is not a priority and delivery is delayed – this will likely cost you the sale and/or the customer.
Visit the factory.
This actually made my decision for me. I met the Operations Manager in person. He was attentive, professional, kind, and enthusiastic about my project. (I only work with nice, positive people!).
Here are some reasons why visiting is important:
You can view and touch samples of actual work produced in this facility.
- • You can see the quality of the work environment. Is it clean, organized, and efficient?
- • Check out the machinery. Is it appropriate for your project, updated, and in good working condition?
- • Are you able to view the seamstresses, pattern makers and cutters in action? Do they appear happy and content?
- • Is there an organized flow to the process? Or do things appear chaotic and stressed?
- • You can make sure the factory and the product reflect the same level of excellence as your brand.
Depending upon your specific needs, a factory visit can be invaluable. Even though I had to travel to the opposite coast, it was well worth my time and effort to meet my prospective team in person, prior to signing a contract. I’ve learned that the work environment speaks volumes. Your success as an emergent designer is directly related to the quality of the team behind you. Be sure your team reflects your brand and your vision.
With these tips, you now know exactly what to look for when choosing your own factory. Access more than 7,500 American factories right here, right now.