1. Introduce yourself
Making a good first impression on a manufacturer is a great way to start your business interaction. Introduce yourself and your brand clearly. Give them enough details to reassure that you are a reliable client and ready to do serious business.
Outline your vision and specialities of your brand. Share as much detail as you can. If you advertise certain unique features that make your garments stand out in the market, mention them to the manufacturers so they are more careful with those details.
Also, tell them about your personal background and experience in the apparel industry. This might reflect in the way manufacturer interacts with you. If you have less experience, they will not assume you know every single tricky detail about the production process and take more time to explain to you the most important aspects of it. Whereas, if you already had some experience with clothes production, the partners will cut to the chase and use more elaborate terminology.
The money talk. If you have an urge to share your financial situation with the manufacturer on your first meeting, try to suppress that feeling. Be professional. You might have had great or not so great experiences in the past, but do not say you are on a tight budget or you doubt manufacturer’s integrity.
2. Production stages
When contacting a manufacturer, you must be clear about the production stage you have already reached. Think of the next steps, what type of services will you need, what services do you expect from your manufacturer? Do not just assume it can meet all your needs. In some cases, manufacturing companies work with subcontractors who will be willing to help you. In other cases, they might be able to refer you to the service providers they know of. However, chances are you will have to do some outsourcing, so be prepared.
3. Find the right manufacturer
When explaining to a manufacturer the type of clothes you want to produce make sure to enquire about their previous experience. Have they done anything similar in the past? Try to uncover as much information as you can. Can they name some of the brands they worked with? Are there any images or links available?
Finding out that the manufacturer of your interest has never done similar orders is not a reason to drop it. Just be advised that they are figuring it out as they go, just like you do.
4. Request a quote
Be very particular when requesting a quote. Request it for a certain number that you have in mind. Asking a quote for 10,000,000 items might raise suspicions and your account will not be seen as a serious business opportunity. Be firm with the numbers. If you are interested in a spread of quantities ask about the terms for higher or lower amounts. They might offer you a special deal for a greater production volume.
5. Adhere to the budget
Set a budget and decide how much deviation you can allow. Then ask the manufacturer if they can meet it. To ensure the overall production price does not sky rocket request a detailed breakdown. Requesting cost per unit might seem as the most straightforward way to approach this. Unfortunately, it is often impossible to calculate before the first sample is produced. In this case ask to break down the cost in groups that include different garment components (e.g. fabrics, trim, accessories, print, labour).
6. Clarify the process
To keep track of the production process, make sure you understand the steps that are involved in working with that particular manufacturer. Make note of the overall timeframe.
7. Production slots
Ask for the lead time and available production slots. Keep in mind that introducing last minute changes might result in missing the reserved slot and severely delay production. Discuss with the manufacturer the cut off date for the last minute changes and ask about the time and financial implications of neglecting it.
8. Stick to the timeline
Create a timeline and confirm the manufacturer can meet the terms. If not, ask what changes can be introduced to the process to finish within the timeframe.
9. Give it all you have
Double check the manufacturers have all the information, materials and resources they need to successfully launch and compete the project. Once you get the confirmation and production starts, keep an eye on the process.
10. Do not hold the samples hostage
Manufacturers require approved samples before they start. Do not plan any photoshoots with your samples if the manufacturer needs them to launch the production. If your sample production company is different from the one that does the bulk manufacturing do not forget to bring them samples in time.
Depending on the payment terms you might want to sign an agreement. If you are paying in advance it is in your best interest to define the terms of production. Protect your business by establishing the deadlines and who is covering the cost in case of defects or other unforeseen events.
12. Uncover the hidden costs
Cost of garment manufacturing may or may not include charges for labelling, packaging, shipment, import or export duties. To avoid disappointment, specify this early in the process.
13. Pay on time
Seal the deal by transferring payment on time.