As an emerging designer, finding the right manufacturer to fit your brand is one of the more challenging aspects of starting out. You have a great idea, but you also need to find a manufacturer that you can partner with to bring the designs to life. And while each manufacturer has their own specialties, many seem to be able to offer you similar choices. So how do you narrow down the choices?
Asking the right questions in the initial meetings with the factories can help you, as a designer, get more accurate estimates but also helps the factory know if their the right fit for you. In order to be ready to speak with a manufacturer, we think there are minimally three things you absolutely must have before speaking with a factory:
1. SKU PLAN
Knowing what you’d like to produce is the first step to finding out the best factory to partner with. A SKU plan is the total number of pieces per category that you’re sampling or producing. For example, for a capsule collection of 10 pieces, the SKU plan may be 5 tops, 3 bottoms and 2 jackets. The number of pieces is up to you, but from a manufacturers perspective, if we’re able to see the full scope of the project, it also helps to see what kind of collection you’re looking to build and how it will fit into our calendar. With all the information upfront, we can give more accurate estimates for lead times as well as costing.
2. TARGET COSTS
We often hear from designers that they will determine their retail and wholesale costs after we price their production. While this is one way to cost your garments, your retail costs may not fall into a sellable price range for your target market. Knowing your target market and building a customer profile is essential to determining how much you’re able to spend on your make costs (fabric, trims, cutting and sewing). Through market research, you can determine the range for your retail prices based on the buying habits of your target market. Once you’re able to figure out these ballpark costs, you will be able to determine how much you’re able to spend on your make costs.
We advise, to all emerging designers, that no one will know more about your brand than you do. If you’re waiting to price your garments based on your production costs, we always suggest doing market research, especially looking into pieces produced domestically, to see where you fit in on the retail landscape.
As a manufacturer, if we know your target costs, we can advise if we’re able to meet them, or will suggest alternative finished or the total production units you will need to make in order to achieve your cost per unit.
3. ESTIMATED DELIVERY DATE
Factories generally operate on a first come, first serve bases but, like any industry, they do have calendars and workflows that they need to follow. It’s important to be upfront about your delivery dates (even if you don’t have them) in order for the factory to estimate where you’re able to fit in their calendar.
Acme Design is a manufacturer based in New York City’s garment district. As product developers, Acme Design offers full services from sourcing, development, pattern-making, sampling, and production. They have launched a design incubator to emerging brands as a vertically integrated solution for designers looking to launch their collections, offering in-house a full package from design development through to production.