BUSINESS CHALLENGES EVERY START UP AND EMERGING CLOTHING LABEL FACE
(AND HOW TO FIX THAT)
Disclaimer : The content is solely compiled by the ThinkTank of Billoomi Fashion Pvt. Ltd. after having in-depth discussion with more than 1000 start up and emerging clothing labels. The problem we have identified is based on our own findings and solution we have suggested here is our expert advise which may be further improvised based on your exclusive business need and situation.
Building a successful clothing label is very difficult. During our more than 10+ years of running garment manufacturing factory in India, we have come across several clients throughout the world and have gained priceless observations. Our team has tried to collect best piece of suggestions which generally clothing manufacturers do not share to their clients and due to that the client (you) loose the money at times.
It is like giving back to the community and helping them with sheer objective to grow tother!
Let’s jump into it!
01. Getting Stuck in Manufacturing As Such That No Time Left to Focus on Marketing or Other Business Area?
As a business owner your prime role is to bring sale! You have to ensure your customers are happy. You're focusing on repeat purchase by your customer and every season you're foraying new customer segment or category or geographic location. Sales and marketing is your backbone and if you stuck in manufacturing, you will not have right energy and quality time to focus on your core area.
Grown up brands have dedicated team for sourcing consisting dedicated designers. But as a small start up brand or emerging brand, if you deploy a dedicated team for souring then this will incur extra / unnecessary cost.
As a head of the company, your involvement in manufacturing is needed. But that should be like just giving approvals and taking update. If you're left with roam from pillar to post and one work to another in manufacturing then this is not going to work in long run. You give your concept design and timeline. That's it! Rest is the manufacturer's job to finish the job and take the approvals on everything from you and update you as and when needed.
Many start ups and emerging brands, they hire one factory for sampling, another factory for production, they also get involved or directly purchase the fabric / trims sourcing, in case any printing / embroidery / dyeing or any embellishment work is there in design then they start talking to them as well. They feel that they save money and getting good work. But that is not true. They simply waste their quality time and making their life difficult!
How to Fix it?
You should hire FULL-SERVICE FACTORY where - (01) you give your design details, (02) close the prices and (03) discuss the timeline. Rest the factory itself keep doing every required thing for your project and taking approvals from you as and when needed, and as per agreed timeline they update you back and deliver the "ready-to-sell" final pieces of garment to your door-step.
One very good real life example:
We're a full-service factory and do end to end work other than designing. But some of the clothing label we come in touch and they themselves buy the fabric. They approach directly to suppliers whomsoever they find it cheap and they purchase and deliver the fabric. Buyer thinks that they have saved money by making direct purchase of fabric. But it actually creates lot of problems.
Since buyer has directly purchased the fabric, we can't take responsibility of fabric shrinkage or bleeding or any other problem related to fabric specially when it is purchased from cheap stock-lot supplier. If fabric is purchased by us through our trusted suppliers, we take the responsibility of everything.
Now since buyer has delivered the fabric, our role remain to cut it and sew it. But once the final bulk get delivered to the buyer, customer complaints starts coming. Buyer gets involved back with fabric supplier and manufacturer. Manufacturer says - we're not responsible because fabric is supplied by you. Fabric supplier says "fabric once sold can't be taken back". Finally no solution can be offered and as a result - a start up / emerging label get ruined.
Who is responsible?
Manufacturer says - we take the responsibility of fabric only if we purchase it from our known and trusted supplier. If you yourself purchase the fabric, we will take responsibility of sewing quality only. Not for fabric quality related problems.
Buyer tried to save money. Got too much involved. And see the result.Why can't buyer trust the manufacturer's own suppliers and their expertise? What is the problem to go with the manufacturer if the manufacturer takes the responsibility of fabric?
Let the export (your clothing manufacturer) do their job.
Get involved for sourcing only if - (01) your supplier is not able to source that very specific fabric or trim or (02) you're sure that you're sourcing the fabric or trims from your trusted supplier only and you're getting good cost saving out of that.
02. How to Reduce Overall Costing? And How to Increase Profitability?
No matter what business it is! Reduce the costing is a key challenge and brands always seek the ways how to reduce overall costing in the business so that profitability can be maximised. Start-up clothing labels usually at beginning do not pay much attention on this but for emerging clothing labels it is always a matter of high priority.
We're giving you little known ways how to reduce the costing of manufacturing and since 70% to 80% costing goes into manufacturing out of all expense to run a brand, this is always important to know how can you bring down your manufacturing cost:
Direct to Factory Model : Many brands do not contact to the garment manufacturing factory directly. They approach the factory through their sourcing agent or middleman or commission agent. If you're on of those kind of clothing label owner, please change your model and make direct connection with factory. This will straightaway reduce overall costing. In general, these sourcing agents or middleman or commission agents add almost 30% to 40% their margins and then they further quote to the clothing label. Hence if you directly contact with factory, you can save these costing.
Our company Billoomi Fashion Pvt. Ltd. is a "direct-to-customer" factory and we do not prefer any middleman between our factory and our clients (clothing label owners like you) and this gives lot of price relief to our clients. If our clients prefer an agency between our factory and them, they can but that is only for third party quality inspection. But so far costing is concerned, we prefer direct communication with our clients.
Open a Courier Account : The general practice is there that, your manufacturer gives you FOB or Ex-Factory price and they add shipping charges later saying that, they can arrange the shipping for you. Here you can save few bucks. Do not let your manufacturer arrange the shipping. Rather you open your courier account with DHL and give your account number to your manufacturer so that your manufacturer can book the courier on your account and DHL will bill to you later after delivery of goods. Trust me, this will save your good money. Manufacturer like us who do send big and high volume of shipments frequently can have good negotiated prices with DHL (or any courier company) but this better works for bulk production shipment. But sample shipment having own courier account is always better. We recommend every new clients to kindly open own courier account with DHL (or any other such as UPS / TNT / FEDEX). It's free and will save lot of money for sure!
Check the Price with Other Factory : You might be happy with your current manufacturer. But there is no harm to check the price of manufacturing your designs with other manufacturer. And if price suits you, get one FREE sampling done to check the workmanship. If you have other manufacturer who gives you better price without compromising the quality, you can either switch to new manufacturer or negotiate with your existing manufacturer. Do this practice with at least your bestseller style.
Negotiate for Small Costs : If you're repeating your existing clothing manufacturer, you must negotiate for the cost of sampling of new styles or the cost of size-set samples or waiver of sampling cost against the production cost. This is another good way to reduce the overall costing of your production.
Consult with Expert Clothing Manufacturer : Suppose you're an emerging clothing label and few of your styles are selling best. Since you can not increase the price of your bestseller styles, otherwise it will hamper the sale, you have only option to decrease the production / manufacturing cost of your bestseller. This is the time to check how to bring down the manufacturing cost of your bestseller style and an expert clothing manufacturer like us can help you on this by doing some tweak in style or by changing the fabric which do not change the style overall design and appearance. We come across several emerging as well as established clothing label owners and helping in price reduction without compromising the quality.
Start Small Batch Collection : Start up clothing labels always have their own way to begin and they start small. But emerging clothing labels becomes bullish sometime and start high-volume production and later on find non-sell of large quantity. Hence discuss the timeline for "Repeat Production of Existing Style" with your manufacture and always get small quantity manufactured. Your manufacturer may push you to manufacture large quantity and they may offer you better price for large quantity. But this may be risky and you may block your fund. Hence go with small batch clothing always!
Bang on Best Sellers : Reduce potential risk of failure and bang on best seller. For example, if you one particular style in red color and selling best. Now bang on this style and add more colors in this style as your next batch of production instead of coming up with all new design about which you have no idea whether will it sell well or not. This will minimise the risk and will help you from infusing more money on something unknown. And do this always. Start with small batch of collection and in next batch add variants in bestseller of last batch.
Do Not Start with Own Clothing Label : This may sound crazy from non-other than clothing manufacturer itself! But this is a good piece of advise if you're a start-up with no previous background of garment selling. In this case we advise instead of launching own clothing label, start selling other's clothing label outfits. Once you understand the entire process which are very important such as - how shipping works, how customer responses, how payment gateway works, method of returns / refund, how to approach the customer, how to handle customer complaints etc. Once you understand every small aspect of this business, then start thinking of launching own clothing label and speak with clothing manufacturer.
03. How to Ensure Good Quality of Production for My Clothing Label?
Quality of production is not a luck! It is a practice and if you have hired a good clothing manufacturer, 99% chances that you will get good quality of production only. You noted it right. It's 99% only and not 100%!
There is nothing called "good clothing manufacturer or bad clothing manufacturer." Even good clothing manufacturer may have unhappy customer and a bad clothing manufacturer too survives (exists).
So what to do?
Here're few points you must understand and applying which you can defiantly ensure good quality of production!
Do not change your manufacturer frequently : It takes time to develop the chemistry and required level of bonding between the manufacturer and label. It is always advisable to stick with one manufacturer and do not change it just because some better costing you get from other manufacturer. We at Billoomi Fashion have seen lot of examples where some of our clients have come back to us again who left us after 1st collection with us and upon enquire we come to know that due to better costing we went to other manufacturer but quality was not upto the mark or communication was not as quick and cordial as it should be. Every manufacturer have their own TAT of response time which sometime suits one and sometime not. Same goes with cost.
Besides that, a manufacturer takes pain to source right fabric or trims or invent that unique speciality to match your print or embroidery quality. Now it is not always easy to get the same level of quality or service match. At beginning everything looks rosy but when actual work comes, many a manufacturer makes it wrong!
Hence it is hard to explore good manufacturer and develop right level of compatibility. If you're serious about the quality consistency, we always recommend to stick with one good manufacturer where you have developed the compatibility. We work with several clients at Billoomi who're with us from the day one when they started their clothing label and the hidden secret behind their year-on-year success is that they're working with us since long time. We understand their quality standards / choice and we continue the consistency year after year and season after season. It helps our clients to make their customers happy further.
Consider the expert advise : As a clothing label if you have hundreds of style then the manufacturer works on thousands of style for their several clients similar like you. A manufacturer sometime makes same style again and again as such that they achieve super speciality level and those styles becomes the forte of that manufacturer. For example, we frequently manufacture dresses using Linen, Cotton, Reyon, Modal and so for style detailing are concerned we frequently deal with fabric printing, embroidery, smocking etc. Now be it womenswear or kidswear, as soon we get some tech pack and anything as such comes up which is technically not correct or anything which we consider "not production friendly" we advise our clients right at the beginning which saves lot of time and money.
However we strongly believe that "Customer is the king" and the ownership of design rests with customer. But we do not hesitate if anything wrong we come across and do not go with an attitude "do whatever customer says" whether this is wrong or right! We think that our manufacturing business largely depends on the success of our client's private clothing label; precisely this is about mutual growth and growing together. Hence we always request to "consider the advise what comes from the manufacturer" and be open to do the necessary change so that the final output becomes excellent!
Good things take time : Do you know? After a feedback survey we come to know that almost 60% of new customers who do not go ahead with us after taking the costing; revealed the reason that "your lead time is longer than expected". This is a classic mistake sometime happens by the clothing label owners - they become unreasonable when it comes to give time to your manufacturer.
We strongly recommend never judge a manufacturer just based on time - how short lead-time is! Shorter lead-time is not the guarantee of quality output!
1 week to 3 week is the usual time for sampling. 8 week is the usual time for production - if you choose ready available fabric.12 week is the usual time for production - if you choose custom made fabric where it has to be produced from mill on order. Provides, you give necessary approvals on time.
If your style is in white or black color using fabric like crepe or some similar fabric then additional time may be taken in finishing.
Now you can take an idea about how much reasonable you need to be. If you're looking sooner than this, then the expectation needs be discussed for sure!
No change in between : Production is the blind copy of sample you approve. Hence this is always advisable to take extra time and give due approval on sample. Once you approve the sample, do not make any change in middle of production. Production takes place in a chain system and more like an assembly module where one thing is pushing / influencing another. If you do any change, the final result may not be the same. Hence all change must be done prior to the production or sampling level only.
04. Too Much Time Being Taken in Final Delivery of Shipment by Manufacturer. What to Do?
You have made the payment. Order is placed. Now this is obvious that you should expect the soonest delivery of your shipment. Time taking in final delivery of shipment is one of several problems due to that a tiff arises between clothing label owners and the manufacturer. Let's take a look at this and try to understand in details.
There could be four possible reasons if you face this problem where your shipment is not delivered to you on time :
Your Manufacturer is Slow : Every manufacturer has its own costing and lead time depending upon several factors. Fast does not mean good and slow does not mean bad. At the same time sooner is better! Manufacturer too does want to finish the production quickly so that they can get the balance deposit from the client and they can focus on new order.
There is a standard time for sampling as well as production. If a manufacturer is taking lesser time it means they're fast and taking longer time means they're slow.
At Billoomi Fashion (or at the most of organised factories) usually follow SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and things takes place a step by another step. There is a set and pre-defined timeline for every set of work. There is a fixed calculated man hours of every job. In such environment, the standard timeline is very important and work will finish as per the timeline only.
Hence you can speak to your manufacturer about the timeline prior to order placement and check if the given timeline meets your requirement or not. If not, you can check if the manufacturer can prioritise the work to finish it sooner?
Your Style is Complicated : Design details also affect the timeline. A simple style takes sooner time but if your style is complicated and / or several different work is involved instead of simple cutting and sewing then it may take longer time. At times, style is simple but fabric is very delicate then in finishing it may take longer time.
Few more things to consider - you discussed the timeline is summer season where your style is having screen printing or fabric dyeing work. But now you have placed the order in rainy season with full of moisture in atmosphere. Then it may take extra time in drying of print or dyed fabric.
Your Expectation Time is Fast : There are the possibility that your expected time of delivery is not reasonable. Some time it may require to correct the expected time. The standard timeline for sampling could be 1 to 3 weeks and for production upto 90 days (12 weeks) depending upon various factor. If you're expecting sooner than this, I think there is no harm to correct the expectation.
Technical Problem Takes Place in Your Design : There are several technical problems comes during production which may cause delay. Its interesting to look at few here -
Error in size set sample. Usually manufacturer makes only one sample in one size and takes the bulk order. After receiving the bulk order size set samples are made. Now standard grading rule is followed and all sizes are developed as per grading rule. But it is not necessary that all sizes will be befitting. Hence it is advisable to check all size sample on real human being at the buyer end. Some styles are as such where we need to bring human touch and standard grading rule may not work.
Sampling we did digital printing but bulk on screen. Certainly the result will be different of both screen and digital. Now the challenge is that manufacturer has to match the result. It's difficult and sometime it may not match. With best of our experience at Billoomi Fashion, we do not do this practice. Means, if for bulk we need to go for screen printing then we never attempt the sample in digital printing. At sampling stage we aim to do samething which we have to do for bulk.
Fabric dyeing has another step where problem may arise. Most of the time for sampling we do tray dyeing but for bulk we do mill dyeing. Now depending upon the fabric quality, bulk mill dyed fabric thickness may not be as the sample.
One classic case where everything was fine but bulk fabric took 45 days to get produced in mill but due to some technical error some faulty bulk fabric arrived in factory. Factory QC team rejects the fabric during inspection and mill needs another 45 days to produce the new lot of fabric. You can see, one small mistake of mill who was supposed to produce the fabric on time made the manufacturer culprit and clients (buyer) will face the consequence.
Technical problems are inevitable. As the expert manufacturer, we at Billoomi Fashion do two things - (01) what to do as such that techical problem can not come. (02) what pre-caution we need to take at every critical step?
Some Problem Related to Documentation : Since the inception, we remained 100% export unit and we know the kind of legitimacy and statutory compliance we need to follow to begin the shipment. In order to maintain the trade hygiene, govt. of India comes up with several rules and exporter needs to be prepare the necessary document. Pre-order and post-shipment lot of formalities needs to be done at bank level and several statutory bodies who ensure no malpractice in export. In case an exporter is missing any document or not meeting the set compliance, the shipment may held in custom and the shipment may held up.
This is worthwhile to share that once, one of our buyers went to our competitor with their own reason but due to not fulfilling the export compliance shipment remained lying at our competitor for more than 4 months even after completion of shipment. Since we had good terms, later on our buyer came back to us and asked our help to get that shipment fly.
Hence this needs to be understood that every manufacturer is not the exporter. In order to be an exporter we need to fulfil several guidelines, lot of registration required and we have to report about every single coin we receive as foreign inward remittance.
Some Problem Related to Freight : Missing the flight connection, non-payment of duty at buyers end, delay in transit, wrong address, non-availability of contact person could be another possibility.
05. Too Many Technical Details Are Being Asked by Your Manufacturer?
An experienced doctor detects the problem by symptoms but newbies needs complete diagnosis report before they prescribe any pill. 90% of clothing labels are started by a non-designer background people and as an experienced manufacturer we develop the first sample with least basic information we receive.
The importance of basic details can't be ignored. But at the sametime it should not bother you! The problem increases when you have the passion to begin your brand but your manufacturer bothers you with so many technical details and it sometime spoils your mood too.
What to do?
Hiring an expert clothing manufacturer is the only solution. We have both slow fashion and high fashion brands as ouur cients. We have seen that our clients sometime send basic sketches only or some internet photo marking the correction over it. That's it. We develop the first sample with 90% accuracy and remaining 10% we do at the second round of sample or at the time of size set sample.
However, we have come across a situation where buyer have been asked by the manufacturer about the density of elastic, lign of button and so on.