[Note: this post was written before I opened my sewing factory] Between the phone, email and the forum, I’ve had six requests for finding a clothing manufacturer sewing contractor before 2:00 PM. I guess interest is a good sign. A bad sign was that none of them were prepared for this step. A crazy as it seems, one can tell inside of 30 seconds. In the interests of resolving this problem, I’ll reiterate specific advice on the most critical strategy you can use to find a clothing manufacturer sewing contractor. Sprinkled through out this entry are links to critical entries you must also read.
Cold calling or emailing somebody to get the name of manufacturer contractor is rarely going to work so it’s better to try another approach. The best way to find a clothing manufacturer sewing contractor is by doing things the way one is expected to go about doing things in the industry. It is only when you try to do things your own way or to take short cuts that you run into trouble.
Bar none, the best way to find a clothing manufacturer sewing contractor is through a pattern maker. You have to have patterns before you hire a manufacturer contractor so don’t put the cart before the horse. I know a lot of people are thinking they don’t need a pattern maker because the factory will do that, or they’re using a retail pattern or they made their own and think this is well enough. It is possible you don’t need one but probably not. For what it’s worth, I’ve run into 2 designers in 33 years who didn’t need a pattern maker. You could be the third, who knows? Rather than belabor the point, continue reading to find out why your case may not be the exception.
Part of the value of a pattern maker is their relationships. In the trade, there is the expectation that pattern makers will refer you to the party downstream from them. If they don’t provide a referral, it can mean a few things but none of them are good (further down). Pattern makers are expected to make referrals because we are in the best position to know which manufacturers contractors are any good. If there’s a problem with our pattern, the pattern is returned for correction. Too many problems with our patterns and a manufacturer contractor won’t take our work. Likewise, if something isn’t sewn well and there are too many problems with a given provider, we have to find someone else. The point that cannot be minimally stated is that a pattern maker vouches for you with another party with whom you have no standing.
In short, calling or emailing for a referral should be the last resort because you only need to do that if you haven’t hired a pattern maker. If you are new and didn’t know you needed to do that, it is best to slow down before you make some expensive mistakes and read a good book- I recommend mine (obviously). The reason you need a referral to find a good manufacturer contractor (also) is because if I send someone who is not ready to my manufacturer contractor colleague, he or she is going to start questioning my judgement. If I do that too many times, they won’t do any more work for my customers. Meaning, if I lose those relationships, no one will hire me because I won’t be able to give them referrals anymore. This is a roundabout explanation of why I need my manufacturer sewing contractor colleagues more than I need the goodwill of someone who is not a customer who has emailed or called me for a referral. Long story short, anyone who gets phone calls asking for names is immediately on guard. You’re having to call someone because you need to back up a few steps and shouldn’t be moving forward just yet.
Switching gears -the reasons a pattern maker can’t or won’t make a referral boil down to relationship or work problems. Being able to refer you is such a critical issue in the trade that you should discuss this before you hire anyone. Here are the main reasons a pattern maker may not be able to make referrals:
1. New pattern makers haven’t worked with any manufacturer contractors to have developed any relationships. This is okay as long as they tell you. On the forum we love helping new pattern makers to develop their careers.
2. A designer who also makes patterns is the most worrisome choice. Sure, I know that many have lovely samples and raving accolades on their web site but never hire a designer, that’s not their strong suit. They can’t make any referrals to any manufacturers contractors who will sew their patterns because they don’t really work in the industry. I can say that because industry designers will tell you they don’t make patterns. And sure, the party may have training and a bit of experience with other small companies like yours but their patterns are rarely production quality and that’s what you need to go into production.
3. Every city has local “experts” who may work at a fabric store or a tailoring or alterations shop. They’re often very good stitchers but their pattern work can be dicey if they don’t have solid factory experience. They can’t make referrals because they don’t know any manufacturer contractors. These people are an excellent resource to help you develop a concept but factor the costs of needing to have the patterns remade into your budget.
4. It is possible you have a great pattern maker but they don’t have relationships with manufacturer contractors who do the kind of work you need. The tacit expectation that pattern makers are supposed to make referrals is why a pattern maker will avoid certain kinds of pattern work if they can’t refer you when their part of the work is done. For example, until we opened our own factory, I didn’t make many knit patterns because I don’t have any stable knit cut and sews to send the work to.
5. The last problem is usually you. When you call a pattern maker to see if they can refer you after they do their portion of the work, they will often hedge (if they’re any good) or be ambiguous. They will hedge because they don’t have the low down until they’ve worked with you. Do you pay on time? Are you informed? Are you a pain in the patootie? Are your expectations rational? They will only refer you after they’ve worked with you. The point is, in the process of interviewing them, make sure they have relationships with colleagues who have and will sew their patterns.
A bit off topic but it bears mentioning that good pattern makers rarely if ever get a kick back or percentage of your job from the manufacturer contractor. We need to stay on their good side because we need this relationship. Not just for today or tomorrow but for years.
Relationships: We need our relationships with colleagues more than we need any given person who calls or writes us. Our value comes from providing quality referrals to our customers and colleagues over the long haul. You also need to develop relationships with colleagues.
Education: Hire a pattern maker first, then worry about a manufacturer contractor. [By the way, that “clothing manufacturer” is always struck out is a big hint and it matters a lot. This study finds that textile and apparel firms that misrepresent their identity, suffer financially. Companies that do represent themselves correctly hire more employees, have higher sales, more production space and a higher credit score.] Otherwise you’re in for a lot of grief and will get nothing but the run around. I strongly urge you to join the forum; there is nothing that comes close to it on the internet and we do lots of referrals and troubleshooting there.