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An Intro to Fashion Manufacturing

Fashion manufacturing is a major part of the business side of the fashion industry. However, many consumers and beginning designers have no idea just what this entails. They don't understand how or where their clothing is made, or who makes it. As a designer, these are incredibly important things to know when you start looking for a place to take your sketches and turn them into real garments. Here is our intro to fashion manufacturing:

Large-scale manufacturing
When it comes to the design process, you're familiar with brainstorming, finding inspiration and sketching. The next steps involve designing patterns and creating samples to be sure the garment measurements are correct. Then, a production pattern must be made for the people and machines at the manufacturing plant to follow.

Once at the plant, the patterns are graded and marked for different sizes and with sewing notes like notches and dots. The patterns are then spread on the fabric, which is cut to reflect the necessary markings. The textiles are sorted, bundled and sent off to be sewn and assembled into the new garment. The nearly finished item is then pressed and finishing touches like buttons are added and loose threads are removed. A manufacturing plant inspector then checks the garment to be sure it is in the best shape possible and ready to go to stores. Once it has been cleared, the item is packed and shipped to the retail location or person who ordered it. 

Hand manufacturing
Hand manufacturing garments is feasible when you start out, but an increase in orders may soon require you to outsource.You can make your own garments if you want to be the manufacturer of your items. This means that you do everything from creating the pattern to cutting the fabric, sewing the clothing and adding finishing touches. While you can be an excellent source of quality control as you inspect your own work, this method of making clothing is not feasible for lines that are meant to be purchased and worn by many people. It takes a lot of time and effort to create just one article of clothing - you may not have enough time to DIY when you need to fulfill many orders. Your fashion business may start out like this as you create custom items for specific customers, but as your client base grows, you'll find that outsourcing the making of your designs is likely necessary.

Are you ready for manufacturing?
Startup Fashion recommends that burgeoning designers consider five things when figuring out whether they are ready to approach a manufacturer to create their goods:

  • Do you have stores lined up to buy your items? Without these, you may waste a lot of time and money on clothing that no one will buy.
  • Do you really know your target market and what they want? Would they prefer to buy clothing that is pastel or neon? Do they care if their wardrobe is made in the U.S. or elsewhere?
  • Do you know what will sell? Are you sure that taking the leap to manufacturing will have a positive return on investment or ROI ?
  • Have you established goals for your very first run (batch of clothing)? If you don't have a goal (such as for your clothes to be worn by hip-hop artists across the nation), you might not fully understand how to market your art, which can lead to low profits.
  • It's incredibly important to understand what will happen if your goals, financial or otherwise, are not met. Will you have to move because you spent your rent on the manufacturing process, thinking that you'd have a positive return? Is your pride going to take a blow, but you'll figure out a way to move on? You can plan and guess what will happen once you've manufactured your pieces for the world to enjoy, but there is no sure thing. It's necessary to imagine both good and bad endings while deciding if you're ready to seek out a manufacturer.

Keep these things in mind when you are wondering if you're ready to talk with a manufacturer. This way you will be prepared with an understanding of the process and the risks involved.