Finding The Right Manufacturer December 04 2014
In my previous blog post, I outlined the pros and cons of manufacturing overseas. In this blog post, I will go into greater detail about finding a manufacturer that is the right fit for your company.
Use 3rd Party Resources
The governments of many countries have set up offices and organizations with the sole purpose of facilitating international trade. Some of these offices will arrange meetings with manufacturers. One such organization is ProColombia, which has offices in Miami, Washington, DC, and New York City. Alibaba, The Federation of International Trade Associations (FITA), and The China National Garment Association (CNGA) are other useful resources. In the USA, Maker's Row, Cotton, Inc. (for textiles), The U.S. Small Business Administration, and The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) are a few of the many resources available to budding fashion entrepreneurs who need a manufacturer. Remember that regardless of who recommends a particular factory, always DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK and be specific about what you need from the manufacturer.
Find A Good Fit
This goes without saying but it is imperative that the manufacturer you choose works with small companies. Also, if your business specializes in men's suits, only work with a manufacturer that specializes in men's suits or has ample experience making men's suits. Ask for a list of companies that the manufacturer has worked with and follow up with those companies. Also, no matter what the manufacturer's representative tells you, it's not easy to cross over into making men's wear if that manufacturer specializes in women's wear and doesn't work with the materials that you will supply it. Also, if you are going to sell general garments (shirts, dresses, pants, sweaters, etc.) stay away from costume manufacturers. Even though they may make women's and men's costumes they will not be a good fit for your company because costumes are sewn and assembled differently.
Ask Fabric Stores, Tailors/Seamstresses, and Textile Mills/Wholesalers
I'm lucky that I live in New York City, which has a thriving Garment District. I found my manufacturer when I walked into a fabric store and discovered that the owner of the store also has a factory in New Jersey. Fabric stores, tailors/seamstresses, and textile mills/wholesalers frequently service designers who most likely work with factories for larger scale productions and they can provide word of mouth recommendations.
This is just a small list of the many resources available for finding the right manufacturer, so happy searching! And I can't stress enough...DO YOUR RESEARCH and BE SPECIFIC about your company's needs before working with a particular manufacturer.