(107). Do you have a new UK fashion brand ? Considering whether to use overseas production ? Not sure how to go about it, or whether the advantages outweigh the risks ? Do you want to know the best overseas factories for UK brands ?
Although there can be great advantages in overseas production, we do not usually recommend this approach for new clothing brands, unless you need large scale production, have a great deal of experience, and are working with or through someone who has the relevant knowledge and experience.
While there may be rare exceptions, if you are inexperienced and going it alone, you will probably fail. But if you get it right it can be well worth it.
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Advantages Of Foreign Production.
There are some great advantages of working with foreign factories ;-
1).They can be far cheaper than UK factories. An obvious and massive advantage for any new brand.
2).They will normally provide everything, including fabrics, trims, labels, patterns and grades. This can be a great advantage as long as you are aware of how to limit the possible pitfalls.
3). You dont have to ship stuff to the factory.
4). You have less faffing about finding fabrics, trims and labels etc.
Disadvantages Of Foreign Production.
Unfortunately this is a longer list than for the advantages, but dont let this put you off :-
1). Many foreign factories do not have our “eye” for detail that we have in the UK. While Italian factories can be excellent, Chinese factories can be a struggle.
2). Many factories use inexperienced pattern cutters and graders. This can be disastrous. Not only do they not have our eye for detail, but their sizing may be completely different too.
We would suggest having the patterns and grading made in the UK. Sometimes these can be done by the factory if you are using an experienced UK based pattern cutter/ grader to supply them with the correct information.
3). It may not be cost effective to visit the factory to check the work, so you only discover that the collars have all been put in upside down ( it does happen) when they turn up on your doorstep.
4). It would be very difficult and expensive to return faulty goods – And there may be plenty of them.
5). While the factory can usually supply all the fabrics and trims, you may not be able to check the colours or quality before production.
6). the factory probably wont have a full understanding of English. This can lead to many difficulties.
7). You will definitely need a detailed tech pack. Although really it is always in your interest to provide one anyway.
8). All factories like to make things easy for themselves. If they think you dont know what you are doing they are likely to take short cuts or to fob you off with poor quality work and poor service.
Although this also applies to UK factories, it is far more of a problem with foreign factories.
9). Most off shore factories will have high minimums. This makes it even more important to ensure that you do everything right in order to maximise your success.
10). You would probably not have ownership of the patterns, as they would belong to the factory.
A trial run in the UK first.
We believe that rather than just jump in at the deep end with foreign production, it is better to have a trial run in the UK first. This way you gain experience and ensure that any mistakes you may make are not disastrous.
If you choose to go with us, we should be able to guide you through the process unscathed. We also provide a series of useful startup workshops alongside our consultancy, pattern cutting and sampling services.
We provide a number of two hour workshops for fashion Business Startups. These are invaluable workshops for both complete novices and more experienced fashion people. Workshops include :-
- FASHION BUSINESS START-UP ON A BUDGET
- CREATING A TECH PACK
- MAKING AND GRADING YOUR PATTERN
- QUALITY CONTROL
- MAKE YOUR OWN PATTERN
- START A FASHION BRAND
Working With Foreign Clothing Factories.
For any new UK fashion company, using a foreign factory to manufacture their clothing line can be very tempting. Quality can be good and prices may be far cheaper than UK factory prices.
But we would strongly advise against using offshore production without professional assistance or previous experience. In fact, I would advise against any production without professional help.
Ideally I would suggest cutting your teeth with small production runs in the UK before progressing to the more challenging foreign option.
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We dont really want to put anyone off using offshore production, because in a lot of cases it is by far the best option as it can give you a tremendous advantage over your competitors.
It may in fact be the only way to make a profit. But you need to understand how the system works and who you need to employ within the UK in order to maximise your chances of success.
Like all factories, foreign factories will want to make everything easier for themselves rather than better for you. They want to maximise their profits while minimising their own costs. You must not allow them to dictate the process for their own benefit.
The Factory Pattern.
Firstly, we would strongly suggest that you supply the initial pattern to them. If possible, have your own sample made in the UK first so that you can test the shape and make any necessary changes before sending to them. This will save a lot of time and be safer.
Most of the big UK fashion brands will have their patterns made abroad, but they are working with professional factories employing experienced people at both ends.
Even though still not as good as getting the patterns made in the UK, the savings make it worth while for them. Most foreign factories will not be using highly skilled people. you would only get an idea of their competence when you receive their first sample.
If possible, always supply an existing garment as a starting point for the pattern cutter, along with sketches and instructions if there are differences between the supplied garment and your design.
This help eliminate errors and also acts as a record if there are any disputes. If you are not getting the patterns made in the UK, then the next best thing would be to have a UK pattern cutter or garment tech supply the measurements to the offshore factory.
This relies on the factory pattern cutter having the skills to interpret the measurements correctly. After all, Quasimodo and Marylin Monroe may share the same measurements, but it is how those measurements are applied that is important.
This is something that is understood by good pattern cutters and good tailors alike. It can be difficult to know exactly how much information to give to a factory, especially if you dont know their level of skill.
Giving them too much could restrict them. But if you dont give them enough then the shape may turn out wrong.
The Tech Pack.
With overseas production you really need to supply the factory with a detailed tech pack. This is your blueprint for the garment and needs to have all the relevant information on it regarding fabrics, trims, labels, print placements, stitching etc.
You can take a chance and go without, in which case you would have to hope that the sample is more or less correct so that this can be your guide and the factories guide.
Dont rely on a hundred “by the way”, or “just another thing” emails. The factory need solid information. This type of information just gets confusing and gets lost.
We supply an excellent tech pack design service to assist you.
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The Factory Sample.
It is not uncommon for the first factory sample to be imperfect. This should not be a problem. You just need to rely on the pattern cutter / garment tech to find out what needs to be corrected.
The fabric may have shrunk or stretched, the measurements may have been wrong, the pattern cutter may have made an error, or the machinist may have used different seams.
The purpose of the sample is to check everything before grading and before production.Most styles should be correct by the second sample though.
Make sure you check the sample thoroughly as this is the best you are going to get from the factory. Measure their garment and use these measurements to supply a grading chart for the different sizes.
The sample may not measure exactly as the pattern, but it is the garment measurement that counts. You need to use these measurements to check against the final production.
The Garment Technician.
Garment technicians are an important part of the process. It is just possible to do this job yourself, but only if you are confident of your ability to do so.
A garment technician, or clothing technician will normally come from either a pattern cutting or sample making background. Often they have done both.
An experienced pattern cutter should be able to do the job perfectly well, as it is necessary to know how the pattern works and how to construct the garment.
They also need to know how to measure a garment. This may seem easy, but just see what happens if you give the same garment to several different non professionals to measure.
The Factory Grading.
Next you need to grade the pattern, or supply the factory with measurements so that they can do the grading. This would be significantly cheaper than grading in the UK.
I wouldnt recommend letting them grade to their own measurements, because they will want to do it the easiest way for them. They may not have the knowledge to do it correctly.
Foreign factories often do not understand UK sizing. If you are doing a standard grade in adults clothing, then you are reasonably safe. But if you are grading anything out of the ordinary, like childrenswear or outsize wear then you are taking more of a chance. We can provide you with a professional size chart for your factory.
Factory Size Checks.
Once the grading is done, the factory need to make samples for the different sizes. Ideally they should do a sample in every size, but as long as they have used a uniform grade throughout, this should not be necessary.
If it is absolutely essential that every size is exactly correct, then you may want to have a sample in every size. Otherwise it is fine just to check the smallest and the largest sizes.
Childrenswear may be a little different, if the grading is not uniform. I will generally use a uniform grade throughout even for childrenswear.
Big brands with plenty of money would probably make separate patterns for different size ranges, so they would “re-block” several times for the same style.
I dont think this is necessary, particularly for the smaller business with less money. Childrens sizing is not an exact science and there is a lot of leeway.
There would be little difference between a childrens garment graded uniformly throughout and one using the re-blocking method. as long as the smallest and bigger sizes are OK then all the in between sizes should be OK too.
I would say that one method would not produce a superior result over the other as the sizes should still fit the same percentage of children.This means that you would not need a full range of size samples.
The Factory Production.
If the size samples are OK then you can give the factory the go-ahead to complete the production. If you need to make some adjustments, this will probably be uniform throughout the sizes.
If the changes are small, then as long as you have adjusted the measurements spec, there should be no need for further samples. If the changes are major, then you will have to have new samples made.
Check that all your measurements are correct and let the factory make the production. Once the production has been delivered it is very hard to send it back.
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