How to start a clothing manufacturing business

“Garment Manufacturing” a startup

You have a flair for sourcing high-end special fabrics, in fact, you have a stack of them in your closet. You are the types who just knows which colour blouse is a good match to that weird colour trouser your friend picked up at a sale! This colour match thing, in fact, is your special talent. Do you stop mid-step in front of a store window just because the silhouette of that dress is just so amazing? You have the leanings to make a good clothier. You have a clothing obsession, which you could channelize to a set up a good commercial enterprise; set up your own clothing manufacturing setup. You probably have been toying with the idea on and off.  I don’t guarantee you will rake in megabucks, but I am also not negating that you could. You could just turn out to be our next local Anna Sui. Most couturiers started in a one-room studio from home, so why not you! Oh all right, couture is a long haul? Well, let’s aim for Semi-couture if you will! Come on, you can do it!

Don’t jump into it till you are a hundred per cent sure that there is a gap you can fill. A lot of businesses start with a strong conviction. So, as you breathe and live your passion for clothes; as you enjoy the textures and fluidity of fabric flow, do you think you could harness the ability for something bigger?

How do you start?

List what special talents you have that could help you build this up. List the financial resources you can draw from. Decide which kind of garments you would rather make, ladies wear, men’s wear or kidswear. Then decide if you want to specialize in formal wear, casual wear, or both.

It’s a good idea to start with a specialization, to divide work into small capsules. Like, let me start with “Yoga wear”, or let me do “women’s evening gowns”. Deciding a special niche sets you apart from the rest of the Jing bang and orients your focus into a particular area. This keeps your costs low and helps you broach the right people without shuttling about like a loose nut. In my opinion, performance wear or “Athleisure apparel” as it is called is an exceptionally good option, to begin with, if you want to enter the casual wear market. With a growing number of people spending their entire day in their Gym wear, there is a growing market for stylish performance clothing.

Also, like any other industry, if you can brandish the eco-friendly card on your product it would make it gain acceptance faster. There are several ways to do it

  • Organic fabrics
  • Vegetable dyes
  • Eco-friendly waste disposal

For more information on this, you may visit www.wrapcompliance.org

Call me a name

Once the basics are through, let’s find a catchy name for your enterprise, or do you want to make it simpler and stick with your own name. Most designers, in fact, prefer to use their own name to represent their brand. If you get famous, it’s a real high believe me!

Get your logo and slogan in place and you are all good to go. You don’t start a brand without registering it, do you?

The multiple Registrations

One thing that could faze you out, is the quantum of paperwork and the red tape involved in getting your enterprise up and running. There are a multitude of registrations with several apparel and clothing bodies to systematize your work.

  • Registration of your company name.
  • Bank account with a bank having a well-oiled forex division
  • Registration with certain apparel related bodies which will help you keep updated with the opportunities viz. The British Fashion Council, the UK fashion and textile association, the association of Suppliers to the British clothing industry (ASBCI) etc.
  • Insurance for your workers and your raw material.

.

The structure of the Industry

Beyond this, we also need to keep in mind that the industry operates on several levels:-

  • Bespoke tailoring: – Where you build a customer base, one customer, at a time, and start out as a small boutique. Most clothing entrepreneurs start that way, till they get their first bulk order and they are suddenly producing stereotypical clothing by the thousands.
  • Bulk manufacture:- Again this could be for
  1. MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity) based export orders from big catalogues, clothing houses, or brands. If you are lucky you could bag one from a couture house needing its couture creations made, or their Pret-a-porter line launched. The bulk orders often offer lower profit margins but compensate for the low pricing through their quantum. Of course, couture houses will always pay better for their requirements, but, hell are they finicky!
  2. Uniforms and specialized clothing for local industry and institutional requirements (hospitals, schools, universities, hotels etc.).
  3. Promotional clothing for industrial, commercial and institutional buyers.

Couture houses are to be targeted only if you can deliver extremely high-quality clothing with a lot of value addition. These garments are usually a pain to make with every measurement set to the last millimetre. Be prepared to alter, re-alter and then some, to meet the quality checkers unending demands.

Talking of quality, most bulk orders are subject to third party checks before dispatch and the approvals and go-ahead may take time. So always factor in a sizeable amount of time in your delivery schedule for this, before you commit any dates. I personally think an “any-thing-can-go-wrong” contingency period of a week maybe also added for good measure.

 

The Show window

The basic essential to start the process is your “Sampling range”. Which, depending on the scale of your proposed operations would range from 10 garments to over 100-150 garments. This is a showcase of your best abilities, the bait you throw at your “Buyers” to get them hooked to placing their orders with your firm.

Invest in a good Size-8 dummy to try out your samples for sizing. Most buyers want to sample in Size-8 (women’s clothing).

The sampling range could be thematic like “The romantic look”, “The power dressers”, vintage and lace, or Christmas clothing, or winter/summer clothing etc. Hire your workforce and bring it to life!

The buyers may be contacted through B2B/ B2C portals, Facebook advertising, Instagram and Twitter advertising or even by setting up an Amazon account. Exhibitions and trade fairs, also, are a great meeting place for buyers and sellers. Go for it, nail that order, Quick!

Don’t forget to lay a price on each of your creations. The key to a faster takeoff would be to keep your costing low to start with. Once the ball is rolling, you will have the opportunity to lay it thicker.

After the order comes in!!!

The drudgery begins! Word of warning…this is one of the trades with the maximum overtime requirements. You probably would be working with your team till wee hours of the morning to meet a deadline. The rose tints fall off pretty quick. Who said this game was glamorous?

Take care to order the packaging material well in advance of the dispatch, lest all your hard ]work is let down by delayed delivery of corrugated carton boxes. Be sure to fine-tune the logistics for the delivery of the product to the customer.

The business footprint

The business has some exclusive stuff that needs to be mastered.

  • Fabric and trims sourcing – Unless you learn to make fast work of this, there is a good chance that you won’t meet that delivery deadline.
  • Know your fabric. Know your fabric. Know your fabric. I cannot stress enough on this. Knowing how your fabric is going to flow/fall in a particular garment is the key to good apparel workmanship. The mechanical strength of various fabrics, their inherent stretch properties, porosity and breathability, fabric texture and surface appeal, fabric blends and fabric performance should form part of your basic knowledge.
  • Slopers/ Patterns to cater for sizing and fit requirements of the buyer. A Pattern Technician is needed for this job. A good pattern technician is the backbone of any apparel house
  • Fashion forecasts for a better fashion range/ sampling range – The buyers have their mood boards which they expect you to keep in mind while sampling for them. Also, the seasons’ forecasts for the colours and silhouettes have to be kept in mind. You may visit wgsn.com for fashion forecasts. Pantone colours are a ready reference to keep on the same colour page with the buyer. Check out www.pantone.com to clear any colour muddles.

Mood Board Pictures courtesy Mr.Fatta. Also visible Pantone reference chips under the green mood board.

Pantone reference cards

  • Fabric finishing for specialized demands eg. Flame-retardant fabrics, crease-proof fabrics, Crinkled or crushed fabrics, environment-friendly fabrics, texturized fabrics etc
  • The trade shows, exhibitions and fashion shows. Turn on the glam! This is the frontal display, the façade that covers the hard work that goes under.
  • Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

are a good resource for ideas. Keep rekindling your brain cells in your free time.

  • The bulk-garment trade is controlled by strict seasonal demands. The work is thin on ground in several months like July, August and December.
  • Most buyers lay heavy discounts on your head if deadlines are not met. You may also be sitting with a cancelled shipment if the buyer is strict.

Keep yourself updated

Keep track of the local exhibitions at www.exhibitions.co.uk. In the initial days, be sure to visit as many trade shows and exhibitions as you can. Meeting people from the industry is a good learning experience. It also gives you a feel of what you are expected to do.

Check out the latest news at www.just-style.com. It is a good resource for the latest updates in the fashion world, along with being a good research database. Subscribe for their free newsletters.

Grab a ticket to the London Fashion week by contacting the British Fashion Council and if you are good enough, and know-how to push your case, they just might promote you as the next, new, upcoming talent!

The one thing you must not forget is to keep your invoicing brisk and up-to-date. This is such busy work that you will be working orders back-to-back and the backlog of invoices will keep building on. It’s a good idea to employ an accountant once your work becomes bigger than you can handle alone. Also, don’t forget to get your Vat registration done on reaching a turnover of £85,000.

At the end I will only say “Deliver quality to keep the orders coming”, “Know your fabric”, and “It’s a lot of hard work, but, isn’t it a small price to pay for the materialisation of your dreams, passions and goals?”.

“Garment Manufacturing” a startup

You have a flair for sourcing high-end special fabrics, in fact, you have a stack of them in your closet. You are the types who just knows which colour blouse is a good match to that weird colour trouser your friend picked up at a sale! This colour match thing, in fact, is your special talent. Do you stop mid-step in front of a store window just because the silhouette of that dress is just so amazing? You have the leanings to make a good clothier. You have a clothing obsession, which you could channelize to a set up a good commercial enterprise; set up your own clothing manufacturing setup. You probably have been toying with the idea on and off.  I don’t guarantee you will rake in megabucks, but I am also not negating that you could. You could just turn out to be our next local Anna Sui. Most couturiers started in a one-room studio from home, so why not you! Oh all right, couture is a long haul? Well, let’s aim for Semi-couture if you will! Come on, you can do it!

Don’t jump into it till you are a hundred per cent sure that there is a gap you can fill. A lot of businesses start with a strong conviction. So, as you breathe and live your passion for clothes; as you enjoy the textures and fluidity of fabric flow, do you think you could harness the ability for something bigger?

How do you start?

List what special talents you have that could help you build this up. List the financial resources you can draw from. Decide which kind of garments you would rather make, ladies wear, men’s wear or kidswear. Then decide if you want to specialize in formal wear, casual wear, or both.

It’s a good idea to start with a specialization, to divide work into small capsules. Like, let me start with “Yoga wear”, or let me do “women’s evening gowns”. Deciding a special niche sets you apart from the rest of the Jing bang and orients your focus into a particular area. This keeps your costs low and helps you broach the right people without shuttling about like a loose nut. In my opinion, performance wear or “Athleisure apparel” as it is called is an exceptionally good option, to begin with, if you want to enter the casual wear market. With a growing number of people spending their entire day in their Gym wear, there is a growing market for stylish performance clothing.

Also, like any other industry, if you can brandish the eco-friendly card on your product it would make it gain acceptance faster. There are several ways to do it

  • Organic fabrics
  • Vegetable dyes
  • Eco-friendly waste disposal

For more information on this, you may visit www.wrapcompliance.org

Call me a name

Once the basics are through, let’s find a catchy name for your enterprise, or do you want to make it simpler and stick with your own name. Most designers, in fact, prefer to use their own name to represent their brand. If you get famous, it’s a real high believe me!

Get your logo and slogan in place and you are all good to go. You don’t start a brand without registering it, do you?

The multiple Registrations

One thing that could faze you out, is the quantum of paperwork and the red tape involved in getting your enterprise up and running. There are a multitude of registrations with several apparel and clothing bodies to systematize your work.

  • Registration of your company name.
  • Bank account with a bank having a well-oiled forex division
  • Registration with certain apparel related bodies which will help you keep updated with the opportunities viz. The British Fashion Council, the UK fashion and textile association, the association of Suppliers to the British clothing industry (ASBCI) etc.
  • Insurance for your workers and your raw material.

The structure of the Industry

Beyond this, we also need to keep in mind that the industry operates on several levels:-

  • Bespoke tailoring: – Where you build a customer base, one customer, at a time, and start out as a small boutique. Most clothing entrepreneurs start that way, till they get their first bulk order and they are suddenly producing stereotypical clothing by the thousands.
  • Bulk manufacture:- Again this could be for
  1. MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity) based export orders from big catalogues, clothing houses, or brands. If you are lucky you could bag one from a couture house needing its couture creations made, or their Pret-a-porter line launched. The bulk orders often offer lower profit margins but compensate for the low pricing through their quantum. Of course, couture houses will always pay better for their requirements, but, hell are they finicky!
  2. Uniforms and specialized clothing for local industry and institutional requirements (hospitals, schools, universities, hotels etc.).
  3. Promotional clothing for industrial, commercial and institutional buyers.

Couture houses are to be targeted only if you can deliver extremely high-quality clothing with a lot of value addition. These garments are usually a pain to make with every measurement set to the last millimetre. Be prepared to alter, re-alter and then some, to meet the quality checkers unending demands.

Talking of quality, most bulk orders are subject to third party checks before dispatch and the approvals and go-ahead may take time. So always factor in a sizeable amount of time in your delivery schedule for this, before you commit any dates. I personally think an “any-thing-can-go-wrong” contingency period of a week maybe also added for good measure.

The Show window

The basic essential to start the process is your “Sampling range”. Which, depending on the scale of your proposed operations would range from 10 garments to over 100-150 garments. This is a showcase of your best abilities, the bait you throw at your “Buyers” to get them hooked to placing their orders with your firm.

Invest in a good Size-8 dummy to try out your samples for sizing. Most buyers want to sample in Size-8 (women’s clothing).

The sapling range could be thematic like “The romantic look”, “The power dressers”, vintage and lace, or Christmas clothing, or winter/summer clothing etc. Hire your workforce and bring it to life!

The buyers may be contacted through B2B/ B2C portals, Facebook advertising, Instagram and Twitter advertising or even by setting up an Amazon account. Exhibitions and trade fairs, also, are a great meeting place for buyers and sellers. Go for it, nail that order, Quick!

Don’t forget to lay a price on each of your creations. The key to a faster takeoff would be to keep your costing low to start with. Once the ball is rolling, you will have the opportunity to lay it thicker.

After the order comes in!!!

The drudgery begins! Word of warning…this is one of the trades with the maximum overtime requirements. You probably would be working with your team till wee hours of the morning to meet a deadline. The rose tints fall off pretty quick. Who said this game was glamorous?

Take care to order the packaging material well in advance of the dispatch, lest all your hard work is let down by delayed delivery of corrugated carton boxes. Be sure to fine-tune the logistics for the delivery of the product to the customer

The business footprint

The business has some exclusive stuff that needs to be mastered.

  • Fabric and trims sourcing – Unless you learn to make fast work of this, there is a good chance that you won’t meet that delivery deadline.
  • Know your fabric. Know your fabric. Know your fabric. I cannot stress enough on this. Knowing how your fabric is going to flow/fall in a particular garment is the key to good apparel workmanship. The mechanical strength of various fabrics, their inherent stretch properties, porosity and breathability, fabric texture and surface appeal, fabric blends and fabric performance should form part of your basic knowledge.
  • Slopers/ Patterns to cater for sizing and fit requirements of the buyer. A Pattern Technician is needed for this job. A good pattern technician is the backbone of any apparel house.
  • Fashion forecasts for a better fashion range/ sampling range – The buyers have their mood boards which they expect you to keep in mind while sampling for them. Also, the seasons’ forecasts for the colours and silhouettes have to be kept in mind. You may visit wgsn.com for fashion forecasts. Pantone colours are a ready reference to keep on the same colour page with the buyer. Check out www.pantone.com to clear any colour muddles.

Mood Board Pictures courtesy Mr.Fatta. Also visible Pantone reference chips under the green mood board.

Pantone reference cards

  • Fabric finishing for specialized demands eg. Flame-retardant fabrics, crease-proof fabrics, Crinkled or crushed fabrics, environment-friendly fabrics, texturized fabrics etc
  • The trade shows, exhibitions and fashion shows. Turn on the glam! This is the frontal display, the façade that covers the hard work that goes under.
  • Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

are a good resource for ideas. Keep rekindling your brain cells in your free time.

  • The bulk-garment trade is controlled by strict seasonal demands. The work is thin on ground in several months like July, August and December.
  • Most buyers lay heavy discounts on your head if deadlines are not met. You may also be sitting with a cancelled shipment if the buyer is strict.

Keep yourself updated

Keep track of the local exhibitions at www.exhibitions.co.uk. In the initial days, be sure to visit as many trade shows and exhibitions as you can. Meeting people from the industry is a good learning experience. It also gives you a feel of what you are expected to do.

Check out the latest news at www.just-style.com. It is a good resource for the latest updates in the fashion world, along with being a good research database. Subscribe for their free newsletters.

Grab a ticket to the London Fashion week by contacting the British Fashion Council and if you are good enough, and know-how to push your case, they just might promote you as the next, new, upcoming talent!

The one thing you must not forget is to keep your invoicing brisk and up-to-date. This is such busy work that you will be working orders back-to-back and the backlog of invoices will keep building on. It’s a good idea to employ an accountant once your work becomes bigger than you can handle alone. Also, don’t forget to get your Vat registration done on reaching a turnover of £85,000.

At the end I will only say “Deliver quality to keep the orders coming”, “Know your fabric”, and “It’s a lot of hard work, but, isn’t it a small price to pay for the materialisation of your dreams, passions and goals?”.

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