“We are experiencing many issues with our production, can you help us with this? ”
If I had a cent for every time that I heard that sentence I would probably be retired by now.
Most fashion brands (especially if they are new or small), assume that since production is the last part in the process they’ll just worry about it when they get to it, and rather choose to focus mainly on designing and making the perfect samples.
NEWS FLASH - that is the wrong approach.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that samples are not important, they are. It just that they are only one step of the process of making a product.
Although production is the last stage in the process of manufacturing a fashion product, it is the stage that counts the most, and it is an outcome of everything that was done up to that point. Therefore, anything that wasn’t thought of, dealt with or got swept under the rug will surface in production and hit you right between the eyes!
It could be something small and adjustable that will just cost some time and money to fix but it can also be a bigger issue that will jeopardize a whole season, result in losing a major account, diminish your brand reputation or might even cost you the whole business.
Trust me, I’ve seen that happen.
In my 20+ years in the industry, I have developed and manufactured millions of fashion products. In every possible category, price point and quality level.
And yes, production, because of its complexity and the fact that it involves many parts, is bound to have some issues. It’s the nature of the beast.
BUT, if you, as a brand, your design team or your production team make a point to think about your production process while designing and developing the product, you CAN avoid many of the surprises or at the very least eliminate the crucial, deadly ones. Not to mention save on cost!
I call this process - Design With Production In Mind
Many times (especially with bigger brands) the design, development and production departments work independently, the design team design in their own bubble, the development team inherit the designs as is and need to make the samples look good no matter what, and by the time the production team get to it, unless an internal process is set in place chances are that the production department left to deal with the decisions which open the doors for interpretation and for things to go wrong.
This is why you and your design team should think about production from the first moment that you have an idea for your product so everything can be addressed in an early stage rather than dealing with things last minute when the clock is ticking and choices are limited.
I know… for creatives like you, It sounds too practical and not too appealing.
But let me ask you: Do you want to have a successful business or a fun hobby?
Here are 4 core points that every designer/design team should consider every time they are designing a new product:
· Price point – Design for your price point, this is something that usually smaller brands fail to do well. Knowing how much your product should retail for will guide you as you choose design details, materials, embellishments, factories and your supply chain in general. I normally suggest to design with a cost sheet in your hands or at least get your factory involved to tell you what you can or cannot afford to do in your product. This will ensure that your product will be profitable and eliminate surprises in your final production cost.
· Technical - Think how will your product get made, the different steps in the production process and the order of them. This will help to reduce cost and ensure a seamless process. Have your pattern maker think about these steps as well as the fabric consumption as she’s making the pattern. Choose the finishing that would be right for your price point. Choose finishing and materials that your factory can handle or find a factory that specializes in your product category and familiar with your price point. Choose materials that are easy to work with and that can be used across styles, test them for shrinkage and abuse them to see how will they hold to avoid surprises once the product is made. NOTE: In most cases, if you’re struggling to make ONE sample right, chances are it will be a nightmare in production.
· Logistics - Think which country and factories will be right for your product. Fit your designs into the abilities of your existing supply chain or design a supply chain for your specific products. If your company is providing the materials to the sewing factory then coordinate the process as you design your products and think about the shipping time, transportation method and cost. Create a diagram of your supply chain so you can see it all clearly. Look to choose resources that are geographically close to the factory. If your product requires different embellishments that are done in different places (re; dying, printing, embroidery etc.), think how will the product move between these resources seamlessly, and also who does what and when. Try to keep the list of vendors narrow, the more hands and steps you’ll add, the higher the chances for things to go wrong, in this situation less is more. Many times eliminating a small detail can make the process smoother. Design the process not just the product.
· Scalability - Think about how to make thousands of an item - NOT only one! Keep things easy and simple as you design them. Make sure your factories can handle scalability and can handle reorders in a timely manner. Think like a franchise, how can you create a product that can be easily done anywhere by anyone. Build relationship with your vendors and keep using them, this way they will get familiar with your products and your process so your product is consistent and require less hand-holding. Changing vendors regularly will cost you money and slow your process.
Following these above steps and taking the time to design your supply chain as you design your products will improve the efficiency of your business and that will show in your bank account.
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