" Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn"
Having just gone through a drawn out dispute with an overseas clothing manufacturer, this was a piece I felt had to be shared, information and tips that I wish we had had access to prior to committing ourselves to multiple seasons of non existent collections.
This list has been created from our experience alone, if you yourself have gone through something similar and have tips to add we welcome them.
So you have found a manufacturer who either online or through a trade show looks good, you can visualise moving ahead with them but how do you ensure a successful outcome..
1) Have a clear understanding of their business, processes and time frames, through asking key questions. Questions like..
The more questions asked the better..
2) Find brands that the manufacturers have previously or currently work with; through key questions, searching social feeds and the web and then contact them. Give a little bit of your back story and ask what their experience with the manufacturer was like. Chances are if it wasn't good, people/businesses want to share that with you. We even found people giving tips to us of what to do/not to do if we decided to go ahead with the manufacturer in question.
3) If all looks and sounds good, we would advise you visiting the manufacturers at a factory/trade expo if possible; not only will this strengthen your relationship with the manufacturer but you will also be able to confirm and check the answers to your questions have been answered truthfully.
4) Ask to see all certificates and business licenses and make a copy of all that are applicable. I would recommend to then research/look into these to check they are recognised globally. If you are manufacturing sustainable/organic/eco products check the manufacturers are certified, if they are working with third parties again check and ask for certificates from these third parties.
5) Discuss Ts and Cs and put together a manufacturing agreement. It is important that both yourself and your manufacturer are clear about your quality requirements and delivery expectations. You also want to include the countries laws that will govern the agreement, if you are based in New Zealand then you want this agreement to be able to be upheld here. If you're on a budget we have found Net Lawman contracts fantastic.
6) Clear tech packs are key; you can hire someone to design and fill these for you which can be a good idea for your first time, these can then be used as template for future collections. The more detail the better; remember to include label positions, think about where your swing tags will go, packaging etc
7) Order their minimums for the first round of bulk production, this will give you a better understanding of their processes and creates less risk for yourself. If all goes well you can up your quantities for your following collection with confidence.
7) To reduce your risk even further, I would advise you to seek a pattern maker and samplist locally. Doing this gives you more control, will ensure the patterns and samples end up in your possession and will save time.
We encourage you to do your research; there is a lot out there and setting up strong processes and systems is vital to success.