Going Local: Selecting a Manufacturer As A Start-Up

Selecting a manufacturing partner can be a heady time but this is what I learned about the process as a start-up entrepreneur entering the fashion industry.

Over the past few years, I created my first design and held a soft launch with my first post-surgical bra and then designed a full collection of undergarments.  During this process I met with dozens of Intimate Apparel manufacturers throughout the U.S. – some produced active or swim wear, intimates, other lingerie, and undergarments. What was most intriguing was the process each held.

From invention to utility patents, trademark, branding, operations, management, production and distribution to samples, MOQs, timeline requirements do’s and don’ts basically.  Some companies would offer services such as pattern making, design, cut and sew, packaging, inventory and so on.  The deliverables differed from state to state and business to business but in the end, what was most important to me was quality assurance over price, timeline, and terms.  I got educated quick as I met with many companies over a specific period of time.  Some claimed to be manufacturers and I realized they were simply fashion consultants or front-ends to manufacturers.

First I was searching for ‘BIG’ scale manufacturers since breast cancer is such a huge marketplace and I didn’t want to change up after I got going.  What I realized as a start-up was that the smaller companies were a better fit.  They were more genuine and interested in doing business with me rather than the larger companies, and I also preferred to work locally rather than launch overseas out the gate!

I felt it so important to ‘touch and feel’ your product throughout the development stages to ensure the quality of each garment every step along the way with design. So I may have paid a higher price to do that working in my backyard of New York City and I have no regrets. It has allowed me to think local, learn from merchants and to develop new relations.

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brand working with factory

 I have learned about trims, sourcing, and pattern making companies from multiple designers, consultants, advisors, production houses and retailers alike to name a few new types of business partners. We agree on end dates by both parties in order to move forward with our projects and I always put the terms in writing.  I take the lead with that and present the agreements.  I found this industry to be very forgiving and not used to putting things in writing – interesting, but coming from media and high-tech, I know it’s important to protect our assets and IP (intellectual property).

Sure mistakes can happen while in production but that’s why I like the ‘Go Local’ theme for me.  As a media-preneur, I’ve supported small businesses for a number of years in media.  So I understand what it means to support small businesses even in the fashion industry.  Being close by to home to address any emerging trend, issue or request for a product, even if I am outside of an hour away to source my product and deliver it in person makes sense to me.  I believe it is much better to communicate face-to-face than working with a company out-of-state like I had initially begun to assess with a Seattle-based company, for example.

With my initial samples and production run orders, I can provide invaluable feedback to the production teams to ensure my product turns out the way I designed and envisioned it.  I also lined up multiple manufacturers because I have learned you can be put on the back burner as a start-up.  In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  I got smarter as I went along and lined up multiple business partners and am now prepared to divide up the business as I choose to based on the manufacturer’s area of expertise and workloads.  If I choose to go overseas someday as I expand and grow, I’m up for the challenge and opportunity but for now, it’s all about ‘Made in the USA’ and ‘Made in New York City’, my backyard!  Now doesn’t that sound good America?!

CRISSCROSS Intimates manufacturs post-surgical bras, panties, pouches, men’s vests and offers other accessories such as matching leggings, tote, scarf, and other complimentary apparel and educational resources for breast cancer survivors. Shop CRISSCROSS today and as I say, “Don’t let cancer get the BREAST of you!”

All the breast,

You can learn more about Jean Criss and CRISSCROSS Intimates here and preview the line – so take a look!


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