Starting your own clothing manufacturing business is a challenging and yet exciting experience. Choosing a specific apparel industry you want to cater to, such as tops or bottoms, can lead to specializing in a specific field and building customer relationships, which will eventually lead to branching out into other apparel categories. By offering your customers competitive pricing and on-time delivery, you will ensure repeat business and continuous manufacturing orders.
Clothing Manufacturer: Independent Contractor
Staff Your Manufacturing Office
Staff your manufacturing office. Once your business entity is established and operational, you will have to determine if you will be manufacturing directly for designers and retailers as an independent contractor factory source or if you will be manufacturing your own private label collection. In both cases, you will have to hire and staff your office with designers, pattern-makers, sewers and cutters.
When manufacturing as an independent contractor, you will need to hire a production coordinator instead of an in-house designer. Your production coordinator reviews your customer's production packages. These packages have important details pertaining to the styles you will be producing. such as garment technical sketches, fabric, trims, threads, color combinations, specifications, sizes and delivery schedules.
Test Your Pattern-Maker and Cutter
Test your pattern-maker and cutter when hiring. Offer a working trial period with pay. This is especially important if you are hiring less experienced personnel. Ask your pattern-maker to draft a first production pattern from your garment technical sketch. Your pattern-maker must have the skill to understand technical sketches, which have pertinent information such as grading and sizing. Check patterns for production grading, notches and seam allowances as well as cutting details.
Check your cutter's skill for pattern placement, knowledge of fabric grain position and the ability to read special pattern-maker production notes.
Test Your Sewers
Test your sewers. Offer a working trial period with pay at the same time you are testing your pattern-makers and cutters. Although most sewers will show samples during their interview, it is best that they sew a prototype sample garment on site so you can check for workmanship and skill level. Reverse the finished garment and review inside construction. Check for even seams, hems and any special treatments.
Pattern-makers, cutters and sewers must have an open line of communication within the three departments and work closely together.
Set Up Your Factory Space
Set up your factory space with industrial sewing machines, serger machines, cutting tables and pressing machines. Although your customers will ship specific fabrics and trims needed to complete their production order, it is best to have certain stock supplies available, such as threads. Your in-house industrial machines and supplies will rely heavily on the type of garment manufacturing you are offering. For example, manufacturers specializing in woven tops will have more sewing machines available than serger machines, which are closely related to knits such as T-shirts.
Develop a Sample Presentation
Develop a factory sample presentation for your customers and draft a pricing structure. Make sure your samples have special sewing features that your factory can offer. Customers will ask for quantity discount pricing during your sample presentation and negotiation. They will look for garment detail work that resembles their collection in make and style.
Know the length of time it takes for your sewers to complete each garment. This will impact your delivery schedule. For example, if your sewer takes three hours to complete a garment, this will be the indicator as to how much it will cost you to produce and how many sewers you will need to fill a specific quantity order.
Clothing Manufacturer: Private Label
Design Your Collection
Design your private label collection. This term is used when referring to in-house collections being produced within a company. Develop your collection and sew first prototype samples for prospective buyers. You can opt to manufacture your designs internally or externally. The term internally is used when referring to design houses that design, develop and produce their line. The term external refers to design houses that outsource their designs to independent manufacturing contractors.
Source Your Fabric
Source your fabric. Whether you manufacture the goods or outsource your manufacturing, you are responsible for selecting production fabrics. If you manufacture within the United States, it is best to locate production fabric within the U.S. as well. For example, since you are responsible for shipping costs to and from the factory, you can opt to ship ground within the U.S. and avoid air freight charges.
Contact U.S. textile mills and ask the sales representative for textile headers, which are free textile sample cuts being manufactured by the mill. Keep your design and production cost in mind when selecting fabric as well as minimum quantity and color purchase requirements set forth by the mill. This is very important to your cash flow and budget. For example, some textile factories require a minimum of 10,000 yards per color, which can impact a small business budget.
Source Your Trims and Notions
Source your production trims and notions. Most trim manufacturers offer free samples during their meetings, as well as their cost sheet. For example, if you are manufacturing a woven buttonfront placket top, make appointments with three to five button-trim manufacturers and compare their styles and pricing structure. An expensive trim can offset your pricing structure for your collection.
Order Labels and Notions
Order care labels, size tags, clothing hangers, price tickets and packing materials. Each customer or retailer will give you their shipping compliance manual. Manufacturers are responsible for following these strict guidelines to avoid returned shipments for not following specific rules.
Mercedes Valladares is the founder of M721Organics and has been an independent designer for over 15 years. Her work experience commenced during college with manufacturers based in New York and Hong Kong. Her education includes LIM College, International Fine Arts College and design certification from the Paris Fashion Institute. She produces eco-crafting videos and writes recycling articles online.