I’ve been designing Tabii Just for about a year and half. When I first launched my line, finding a factory was one of my biggest concerns. I currently work with two manufacturing facilities. It took time and research before deciding on these two. I was initially referred to a factory in the Garment District. I visited that facility and it was an epic mess. There were fabric and clothes everywhere. The factory owner literally had to clear a spot on her desk and a chair for us to work. I had done some research and her prices were the lowest, which is why I had decided to test her out with one top. Two weeks past our deadline, she handed me a completely different version of what I had asked for.
Now that I’ve settled on two factories, I’m glad I considered a variety of factories in addition to price before I settled on them. Strive for a relationship with your factory that functions as a long-term partnership that you can rely on.
1) Eye for Deadlines
Deadlines are one of the most important aspects of running a fashion line, or any product line. As a brand, you want to deliver your clothing to stores on time. If the factory you work with does not adhere religiously to deadlines, chances are they will think your deadlines are suggestions and your work will be completed late. Look out for how frenetic the factory’s workspace is. Running late with work every now and again is okay, but if they are constantly disorganized and missing deadlines, they are probably biting off more than they can chew. This type of environment can produce errors in your final product. When you ask for a date of completion, you should feel at least 90% confident that the clothes will be delivered on time.
2) Clear Communication
Communication must be clear in order for your product to be produced correctly. Communication isn’t just verbal – it also includes written and email. Ensure that you agree on a mode of communication with your chosen factory. Make sure they understand your pattern, tech pack, and other instructions. Be willing to tweak your language to suit theirs. I recently made a pleated pattern the way I’ve always done. I took the pattern into one of my factories and they remade the pattern according to their own style of doing pleats. I now use only that pattern for my pleats when I’m working with that factory. When you leave an order with a factory, always ensure that they completely understand what you want. Make it clear to them that you are available by phone or email to answer any questions that arise, no matter how minor, before they cut into the fabric. When they do come to you with questions, be sure to respond in a timely fashion. Efficient factories don’t like to leave piles of unfinished work laying around.
3) Respect for Others
When I first started out, I saw no problem with a factory putting my order ahead of others that had been in line longer than mine. The problem with that? Very soon, they were offering favorable treatment to other orders, and my line was being pushed back, which created missed deadlines for me. Keep an eye on how your factory treats other customers. Watch how they store and treat other brands’ fabrics and tech packs. If they are organized and respectful with the work of others, chances are they will be with your work as well. Be sure to also observe how they treat clothing post-production.
The Bottom Line
Picking a factory to work with is one of the most important decisions in building your brand. If your clothes aren’t constructed well and on time, that’s the beginning of the end of your brand’s value. Take your time picking. It’s always best to meet someone on referral but sometimes you don’t have that option. Always do your research, and ultimately, trust your gut.
Find your factory partner
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This article was originally published on June 19, 2014 and has been modified slightly since then.