In our next instalment about starting a clothing line, we’re delving in to manufacturing. The most valuable relationship to a clothing brand, we view the factories that make our garments. Their buy-in to our vision is crucial and that solid partnership results in the best product. We’re lucky to work with some amazing factories across the country, some specialising in specific garment types with their own strengths and expertise to impart in the design process.
Establishing relationships with factories can be a slow process, building a dialogue and understanding of each other’s needs even slower but communication and cooperation is critical in building any relationship. Taking the time to meet and spend in the factory with the owners is vital to building trust and understanding. We are lucky that our manufacturers are all in New Zealand and we can visit them on a weekly basis, keep the communication regular and are involved throughout the production process to ensure our specifications are understood. It’s really satisfying seeing your garments come off the production line as you envisioned them.
To make these connections takes a bit of digging and patience to find the ones that meet your standards and build a good working relationship. Start with online resources and ask around, these sorts of businesses often don’t advertise but lots of them know each other so finding one and making a start will lead to other contacts. I have been working in clothing and manufacturing for about six years, and some of our relationships date that far back, some are new and exciting opening up new opportunities. My nature is to be inquisitive and asking lots of questions has always served me well with ingratiating myself with others and in turn getting opened up to their network.
Manufacturing or labour is also the biggest cost in producing garments as this part of the cost is based on time, if it takes one hour to sew a garment that is what will be charged per unit at their hourly rate. Factories are built on efficiency as all the same set ups are required whether one garment is being made or one thousand, the machines must be set up, threads changed and most importantly the seamstresses must learn the garment. The first one will be slow to make, the tenth one much faster. In large production line factories, each part of the garment making process will be its own stage managed by a single machinist. So they may specialise in sewing waistbands on trousers and will repeat this process continually as it is the most efficient way, then pass the stack of garments on to the next machinist for the following step.
As the New Zealand manufacturing industry operates on a boutique scale the machinists must be all rounders, the scale isn’t there to have an operator for each stage so they must be proficient in the full process and will often be making a garment start to finish. This does make the relationship between the seamstress and the garment more personal.
In our day-to-day operations a lot of time is spent on the road going between these factories checking on their progress and delivering semi complete garments from point A to point B.
We felt it was important and hopefully interesting to open up about the behind the scenes as everything appears beautiful and simple in a store, retail is the end result and one half of our brand, the other is in production and that is all the work that goes in to the clothes before they reach the shop.
We work with factories in Auckland – Avondale, Kelston, Otahuhu, Te Atatu, Hillsborough, Wairau Valley – Morrinsville, Christchurch among others.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about a specific part of our process please let us know and we will do our best to answer.