Starting a Fashion Label: How to Find the Right Manufacturer

What qualifies a manufacturer as the right one for you, and how will you track them down?

One of the most important things you’ll do before starting a fashion label, will be pinpointing the right manufacturer. The right manufacturer for your brand is not necessarily the right production partner for another. Your brand needs someone uniquely suited to your technical needs, someone appropriate for a company of your size, someone reliable, trustworthy and skilled…. There’s much to consider whether you’re looking for purse manufacturers, shoe manufacturers, apparel manufacturers or others.

You also need to be prepared. A lot of people go to manufacturers for production and design, but they’re only there to produce your product. You need to know what you want and have sketches, a tech pack, and assortment planning strategy and more.

Are you ready to meet with potential manufacturers? If so, take a deep dive into our tips for discovering the best match for your current needs.

Use Professional Resources.

There are lots of manufacturing resources for new, established and soon-to-be-launched brands. Look into companies like Maker’s Row (NYC), Stateless (NYC), Stitch Texas (Austin) and Lefty Production Co. (LA). These are companies that either work with small brands and will produce in-house for you or businesses that will connect you to manufacturers that they’ve sourced. What’s cool is you can find assistance for production and design as well as management of production.

But while these are all great resources, keep in mind that it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. So take your time and shop around.

Learn the Proper Steps.

You’ll know a manufacturer is legitimate when they ask for a tech pack, sketches, what the collection looks like, assortment planning…. Pay special attention here if it’s your first brand. Protect yourself and the quality of your relationship to ensure a good final delivery.

Fully understanding the process also reduces the odds of finding a dishonest partner. One brand owner, who eventually became one of our clients, reached out to us after one such situation. She found a manufacturer when she didn’t even have sketches and he stole $60,000. He didn’t discuss assortment planning and didn’t deliver her goods. She got swindled and had to take him to court. Don’t let this be you!

Ask Questions.

Ask the right questions to find out who can help with samples, who could potentially continue to work with you as you scale, et al.

Here are a few to get started…

  • Have you worked with brands my business’ size? Did you work with them while they’ve grown?
  • What are your minimums?
  • How do you handle customer service?

Asking the right questions will make you better informed to make good decisions while saving you time and money.

Attend Trade Shows.

Textile sourcing trade shows aren’t only for finding fabric suppliers. You can also source potential manufacturers. Trade shows like DG Expo specialize in small businesses and shows like Première Vision and Texworld can introduce you to manufacturers around the globe.

Make Sure Orders Come Out at Cost.

You need to know your products’ prices before starting a fashion label. It’s the only way to make sure they come out at cost. Go into production with an idea of what you want to produce and all of their associated price points. And never ask a manufacturer to produce “the best” or “whatever they’re thinking”.

Typically, a manufacturer won’t know how much a design will cost from a sketch or product idea alone. They need to make a sample to get an accurate idea. Sample production can answer many questions, including: How much does it cost to produce? Is it private label? Are the t-shirts screen printed?

Be clear about what you need and the tools necessary to make them happen. A lot factors are contingent on the launch you want, expectations, your bandwidth and more. It’s not just about who gives the best quotes.

Get Help.

Production managers and production consultants are helpful to educate you every step of the way. They can also share recommendations for good manufacturers. Interested? Look up Liz Long of Learn To Make A Product.

We never said it was easy to find the right manufacturer, but it’s definitely feasible. Show up prepared and with realistic expectations to end up with the best results. And since it’s such a complex process, remember that the more you know about what you want to produce, the more your potential manufacturer can tell you. Finally, choose someone you want to work with, someone you trust.

Need support with assortment planning, pricing strategy or brand DNA for your upcoming fashion brand? Our team of strategists can help you develop a startup fashion brand primed for success – from concept to execution. Let’s start with a 30 minute consultation session. Give us a call at 310-957-5264 or email hello@scalingretail.com.

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