10 Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Production Facility for Fashion

For the last few years, I have been consulting with clients who are just beginning in fashion. They usually come to me with a pile of sketches or inspiration photos of garments they want to create and have no idea what journey they are about to embark upon to get from these humble beginnings to a finished product, ready to sell. The process can literally take months. (here is an outline of THAT process… How to Start a Fashion Line Realistically and Ethically)  Although there are many steps that have to be complete before you can go into production, here are the steps to take once the design and prototype process has been completed. Doing this yourself is a big job, but here are some basic questions to ask when shopping for a factory to produce your clothing:

1. Are they a fair wage factory?

Chances are, if it’s in a foreign country they aren’t and won’t answer honestly. Nowadays people are asking more and more questions about where and how it’s made and are judging your line accordingly. People ARE willing to pay more to ensure they aren’t endorsing slavery. (Click this link to find out how many slaves work for you) ETHICAL production is available at an affordable price CAN be found if you contact Organizations like Fashion Hope. They can will assist you worldwide, in finding a production facility that doesn’t involve human trafficking, slavery, forced or child labor. Tell them I sent you or contact me for help with this.


2. Where are they located?

This factor is important for a number of reasons:
– Get shipping estimates to and from the factory, those expenses should be considered as part of your production cost in both directions.
– You will need to ship them patterns, prototypes and materials and they will be shipping you material samples, garment samples and finished products. – — Import fees should also be considered, estimated and added to your bottom line.

3. Can you affordably visit their facility?

I highly recommend you do so. Having a face to face with your factory and touring the facility is an important part of making a smart investment decision and maintaining a profitable relationship. Go with your gut. If anything seems sketchy it’s better to keep looking and write off the trip expenses than to invest thousands of dollars in a production house that doesn’t have their act together, too much could go wrong.

4. Do they have all the right sewing machines to make your garments?

If they have a website make sure they are currently making similar items. It’s unreasonable to expect one factory to sew your entire collection if you’ve got jeans, dresses, t shirts and swimwear. Each of those items uses different sewing machines and fabrics to construct. It’s better to find a factory that specializes in one type of garment for each item in your collection if they differ greatly in how they need to be constructed.

5. Can they send you samples of their work on similar garments?

Ask them to mail (even if you have to pay for them) you similar items and check the quality of their work inside and out.
– Look for dropped stitches or stitch defects that mean their equipment needs to be better maintained or that quality control might be an issue.

Here’s an example of what a stitch defect looks like… it can eventually unravel and cause problems with the construction of your garment, making it open up at the seam.

– Check to make sure the fabric is cut properly and on the grain and is perfectly straight up and down where it needs to be in the garment. If anything is cut crooked it will not drape properly and when you wash it, it will get “wonky”. Here is an example of a cuff that was either cut off the grainline or sewn in a bit crooked. When you wash this item it will go sideways and then not drape properly.

Off Grain Banding

This is an example of the bottom band of a sweatshirt that was either cut off the grain of the knit or was sewn in crooked. See how the knit of the Grey Knit is not straight up and down to the Yellow Knit.

Wash the item(s) if you can to see how it holds up. If they aren’t cutting the pattern out properly it can ruin an entire production run.
I have a friend who had a 3 piece outfit made in China. They cut one piece wrong and it couldn’t be salvaged. The whole outfit had to be scratched for that season even though the other two pieces were fine.   That was about a $5k loss.

6. Can they provide fabric and notions sourced locally or do they have adequate storage for you to send them the fabrics and notions you’ve sourced for production?

Get samples of what they have access to before you have anything made in their fabrics. Get swatches and samples of their fabrics, notions, buttons, garment tags, even elastics.
Send them reference photos or swatches and samples of what fabrics and notions that you want to use and see what they come up with locally. I know one designer who had everything specified to the China factory on her swimwear collection and even sent them a sample of swimwear elastic. When they constructed her swimwear they substituted her swimwear elastic with what was essentially a “rubber band” type of elastic. It caused a fit issue with her collection and was a cheap and substandard elastic. She didn’t even know it had happened until her pattern maker took apart on of her factory made swimsuits on a redesign.

7. How much do they charge for a factory sample?

This price can vary depending on the complexity of the garment.
If it’s a pretty basic pattern block that is common in fashion then it could be $20 or less.
If it’s an original design they should be able to give you a ballpark estimate from a photo or drawing and description by email.
The average price that I’ve found for a factory sample seems to be right around $80. Standard Proceedure is to send them a pattern and prototype and they will send you a factory made garment.

8. What is their average turn around time on an order?

Planning ahead and allowing for all of the standard turn around time is a huge factor if you have seasonal items.

9. What other services do they offer?

Do you need anything else done to your garment that could be done at the factory? This can include screen printing, custom garment tags (vs the cheap plastic looking ones that scream low budget production!!) distressing, adding riveted buttons, zippers and so on can frequently be outsourced locally by the factory.

10. What is their policy on orders that are made wrong or what happens if you don’t get what you reasonably expected?

If you’re saying to your self, “damn, this seems a lot more complicated, expensive and time consuming, than I thought!” You’re right. It is a long and drawn out process, but it can be done. Contact me and I can help you through the process. Managing this yourself, as I said earlier is a big job and can result in huge losses if you don’t ask all the right questions or skip a step in an attempt to get your items made quickly.

Join my Clothing Designer Resources Group on Facebook for more information on how to go to market with your designs.  Continue reading

21 Things I’ve Learned From Assholes in My Life!

There are times in your life when it becomes appropriate to “judge” other people in order to preserve and protect your own well being. It’s called holding people accountable for their own behavior. I’ve found that some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life have come from some of the worst people I’ve ever met. I am grateful for what they taught me about life and would like to thank them for showing me what I don’t want and how I don’t want to be.

1. Just because someone is a blood relative doesn’t mean they can be trusted or deserve to be in your life. Ask yourself this, If they were not related to you, would you still want them around? If the answer is no, dump them. You do have a choice, blood is NOT thicker than water!!

2. When people show you who they are, believe them. Whether its disrespect, jealousy, betrayal, ungratefulness or a host of other dysfunctional qualities, dump and run. People who stand by you, support you and treat you with respect are worthy. Actions speak louder than words. When there is a conflict between what a person says and what they do, call them out. If they can’t come up with a legitimate explanation for being so contrary don’t accept lame excuses for bad behavior.

3. When people say things they later regret in the heat of the moment and beg for forgiveness later, they probably don’t have a very high level of emotional intelligence, can’t control their temper and you’re better off without them. This is a huge red flag of resentment and unforgiveness they just can’t seem to let go of. Say what you mean and mean what you say in every word you speak or don’t say anything at all.

4. People who say you “always do this” or “you never do that” live in extremes, keep score and are not capable of living in the now or letting anything go.

5. People who complain constantly about the circumstances or people in their life, but are not willing to take any action to change things. Everything in life is a choice. You can stay or you can go. Making changes may not always be easy. If your life really sucks try asking questions like “What Would It Take to get out of this situation” and the answer will come!

6. People who blame others for their problems will eventually find fault in you as well. Life is all about choices. Own yours and you have the power to change everything and anything. Ask yourself “What did I choose that created this situation I am in now”

7. People with addictions are typically bad news whether its sex, drugs or alcohol related. Anything that becomes a crutch and can’t be enjoyed in moderation should be a concern. Until that person is willing to change their life they will always be addicted to something. Save yourself!

8. People who cheat, whether they are married or in some other form of committed relationship, yet actively pursue the sex or relationships with others are bad news. If they don’t have the dignity or respect to end the relationship they are in, why do you think they would treat you any differently?

9. People who think it is ok to steal under any circumstance, should not be trusted. Whether its the Robin Hood Syndrome or otherwise, this is a red flag.

10. People who force their will on others in a passive aggressive way “better to ask forgiveness than permission” is again a sign of disrespect and should be considered a boundary issue.

11. When someone tells you something about them self, their beliefs, or goals in life that conflicts with your own morals, values or goals in life, accept them for who they are and honestly evaluate whether or not the reality of that situation is in your best interest. Don’t try to change them. Just be honest with yourself and others. If it’s not something you can live or will later hold against them, let them go. Sometimes you have to pass up something or someone good to make room for someone great.

12. When people accuse you of a certain behavior like cheating, lying, stealing without sufficient evidence, I’ve found that in many cases it is because they are projecting their own bad behavior upon you. If you know you didn’t do that and can’t seem to convince them of otherwise, Run away!

13. If they Love you one minute and Hate you the next with little grey area that is a red flag. These are the ones who can’t seem to get off the roller coaster. Any relationship that goes from one extreme to the next is dysfunctional. Don’t walk on eggshells!

14. Violence or abuse is never acceptable under any circumstance. Do not tolerate it, it will only get worse. This includes verbal abuse. “Just kidding” is not a valid excuse for undermining someone’s self esteem.

15. People who holds a grudge far beyond any reasonable circumstance especially if the offensive act was unintentional or not even your fault. The good news is, this person has probably already eliminated them self from your life!

16. People who get jealous of other peoples success or accomplishments or say mean things about what they must have done to get there. When you can’t be happy for someone else it sends failure your way thru the law of attraction.

17. People who judge others they know nothing about. “That child must be a babysitter brat” , “that woman dressed in designer clothing must have married a millionaire to have all that” wow, since you can tell all that just by looking at someone how about giving me the lotto numbers?

18. People who are selfish are usually self absorbed. They don’t have time to spend with other people, they don’t volunteer for things, they aren’t willing to share an abundance of resources, they don’t realize the more you give, the more you get in return. I’m a huge believer in paying it forward and doing things for other people who you know good and well could never pay you back. Giving your last dollar to someone, who needs it more than you do.

19. If someone makes a living or has a side business doing something illegal it’s probably not a good idea to become associated with them. The more you become involved in their activities the more you risk going to jail yourself. Not a good plan.

20. People who find the need to get even with others by saying or doing something mean, evil or wrong and use the other persons actions to justify what they’ve done are never going to stop. There will be no end to that battle.

21. People who only do things for others with unfair “strings attached” are not acting in your best interest. You shouldn’t have to “pay” for anything beyond its reasonable value. People who like to hold things over your head are score keepers. Bad news.

22. Ever confront someone about some seemingly minor common sense or common courtesy bad behavior that was getting out of hand and needed to be discussed such as “did you eat my lunch?” (when you know there isn’t any other suspect!) and it morphs into World War III complete with them packing up their stuff and returning everything you ever gave them into a neat little pile? Yea, you might be better off without them in your life!! This is a very immature person who over reacts and becomes defensive even though they KNOW they did it and it was wrong?

Life can exceed your expectations as long as you’re not willing to settle for anything less than what you truly deserve.