In an industry where stakes are often high, your supplier can be a life saviour. It is impossible to meet the growing demands of your customers if you do not have a reliable supplier to handle your production. If you’re learning about how to start a clothing business, it is important to note that your supplier is one of your most significant business partners.
Young fashion labels often neglect the production aspect, which is a huge mistake. Do not focus on getting orders before ensuring that you have the production capabilities to fulfil those orders. Many labels scramble to find a reliable supplier only when orders start to pile up. News can spread fast within the industry. If word gets out that you’ve failed to fulfil orders, it could shake the foundation of your business.
Secure the right supplier during the early stages of your label so that you know how to manage production moving forward. In this post, we help you to understand what the production stage is, and how to find and what to look for in suppliers.
What is production?
You have all the concepts ready for your new brand. You may even have a sample or prototype. Your only problem now is converting this small sample number into a bulk order. This is where your supplier comes in. It is the production arm that will produce your samples on a large scale – in the hundreds or thousands depending on your requirements. Suppliers will have the materials and facilities required to produce a commercial-sized inventory.
Why is it difficult to find suppliers?
As the fashion industry grows, the markets become more saturated and competition stiff. Thus, many brands keep supplier information close to themselves to avoid wavering their position in the market. This makes finding your own supplier more difficult, but not impossible. It only means that you will have to invest a bit more time and legwork to research and find a reliable supplier. And once you find one, you’ll probably not give away the information so easily either.
How to find suppliers?
If you haven’t had much luck hunting for suppliers, here are some things that you can try:
Go Back To Your Past
They say if you have to leave your job, you should always leave on good terms and you are about to learn why. If you’ve worked in fashion companies before, you may have gained plenty of experience in the field to start your own label, but lack the right contacts. In this situation, your previous employers can be a source of help. Get in touch with them. They might be able to refer any of their existing supplier contacts to you (if you had left on a good note, that is).
If you were lucky enough to have studied fashion at a professional institution, you also have your professors to turn to for help. Established fashion schools are often in contact with suppliers for many reasons. Your professors might be kind enough to give you the push you need in this competitive industry if you just ask.
The luxury of living in a digital age is that it is possible to find the answers to our questions in just one click. A simple online search can point you in the right direction and uncover a whole list of suppliers for you. The challenge, however, is to know how to choose the right one. But this is still a good start. Study the websites of suppliers carefully – look at their MOQs, price quotation lists, ratings, testimonials and any other information that helps you to determine their reliability and how suitable their services are for you.
What to look for in suppliers?
As you have learned, it is not easy to find the right supplier. A good supplier has to be reliable and ideally one you can have a long-term working partnership with. A long-term partnership lowers the risk of experiencing errors in production. Equally important are the price, quantity and quality of production.
Communication is very vital in getting the products done right. It’s better to work with a supplier who has a good sense and previous experience of making the products you wish to make so that they can also give you advice on how to improve your products or avoid errors due to design and production limitations.
Suppliers offer discounts on bulk orders as they can pass on economies of scale savings to you. Thus, it is important to find one with market-competitive rates and an MOQ that best suits your business. And ultimately, what will represent your brand is your product. Quality control is extremely important – the supplier’s workmanship has to be of satisfactory standards.
It’s quite a bit of work finding the right supplier, but take comfort in the fact that once you’ve done so, you would have overcome one of the biggest hurdles of starting a clothing line. So put in the work and keep at it and remember to maintain a strong relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties. Keep them happy and they will return the favour and be equally invested to make sure you do well.
You are well on your way to learning the basics of how to start a clothing business. In our upcoming post, we dive deeper into the challenges that come with owning a clothing label.