Finding the right manufacturers that will support your business and bottom line isn’t as simple as hopping on a flight to India and walking around until you find one. In fact, it can seem like somewhat of a black box, even though it’s one of the first things to think about as you’re building a fashion brand. Instead, use these strategies to find the manufacturer you need.
Instead of doing a Google search for silk manufacturers to get thousands of results, network instead. Start talking to other owners of independent fashion brands- it’s an amazing way to find out about new manufacturers you might not have heard of before. In fact, some of these manufacturers deal so much with scale and large-scale production that they may not even have been ready to handle your small scale fashion startup business or a business that is already starting to grow but still requires low minimums.
When you start to talk to different networks and you start building those friendship groups with independent fashion brands, you’ll find all these little doors of different manufacturers start to open up. And because they’re referrals and not just cold emails from what are honestly usually pretty bad looking websites, there’s a better chance you’ll get people who are going to be more empathetic to your needs, who work with fashion startup brands and will hopefully be around for you to scale and grow up – a key consideration for any founder building a fashion brand.
Companies like Maker’s Row have built their businesses on having aggregated lists of manufacturers. Maker’s Row specializes in USA production and domestic manufacturing for building a fashion brand. However, you’ll find that different companies have aggregated different lists of manufacturers. While it’s great to have this condensed destination of all the places you might want to hit up, keep in mind that they’re not all necessarily vetted.
Simply having a website or paying a membership fee can gain you access to some of these different companies, and you want to make sure you’re coming at them with the right questions, making sure they’re actually going to be able to do what you need for your fashion startup. Please don’t rely on these companies to just pick any one of them off of their lists. Use them like the next best step if you’re having difficulty with networking or other avenues. When you’re building a fashion brand, always proceed with manufacturing partners with care. In fact, this applies to growth stage and enterprise businesses too.
Lastly, one of my favorite places to find manufacturing and sourcing options is the trade show. There are a few trade shows specializing in gathering global manufacturers that focus on particular kinds of product and certain kinds of techniques. When you think about brands that have come up with this, such as Texworld, MAGIC Sourcing- or even Première Vision in Paris, these organizations have done a good job of sourcing and finding the right manufacturers and sourcing agents to present you with a very narrowed down, niche group.
These are pay-for-play environments, so all of the people participating are paying a fee for their trade show booths. Yes, they may be somewhat well known or have some business, however, they are not 100% vetted. It’s still up to you to make sure these manufacturers are able to do what you need when you need it, and that they’re able to provide your deliverables on time. Also make sure their pricing is appropriate for your needs.
Make sure you know that just because they’re saying, “Yes, we do manufacturing for these bigger labels and bigger brands,” it doesn’t mean that’s where that brand is getting all of their manufacturing done. In fact, as you might learn as you grow your business, different manufacturers are probably going to make different elements or garments for you. Be careful. Don’t get persuaded easily. Do your due diligence, talk to the right referrals, and get potential manufacturers to write things down. Get their timelines, price points, etc.
Read our in-depth blog post on how to maximize your time while sourcing at trade shows. We also have an amazing download for you, a cheat sheet on how to maximize your time at those trade shows and what to look for in manufacturers.
When your business (fashion startup, growth stage or enterprise) is ready for some strategic consulting, Scaling Retail team at firstname.lastname@example.org.