All successful fashion designers know that the quality of their garments is a vital element of the brand’s success.
It goes without saying if your customers are not happy with the fit or make of clothing your brand will be facing a high level of returns and complaints. It will severely affect your brand growth and success. But, despite understanding the importance of thorough quality control, many fashion brand owners make some killer mistakes that can be easily avoided.
Below I compiled a list of the 7 most common mistakes and will show you how to avoid them to ensure the steady growth of your fashion brand.
1. No brand’s quality standards have been set in place.
Your quality control criteria are not clear to the manufacturer. Most likely they will not take your brand seriously and pay adequate attention to the quality of your product.
Tip: Create your branded quality standards from the start. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate document; keep it simple for a start.
Example: Think about what is the most important thing to your brand in t=regards to quality and fit and how would you deal with it if these standards are breached by your manufacturer. If you have a robust Manufacturing Agreement in place a one-page document with a few bullet points will be enough. If you need help with drafting a manufacturing agreement, we have a template available within our Toolkit for you to purchase.
2. Incoherent tech pack
Incoherent tech packs where information is missing or mismatched on its pages increase the chances of manufactures getting confused and making mistakes that will cause delays and loss of revenue.
Tip: always double-check the tech pack for errors. Make sure that there is no mismatch on the tech pack.
Example: Bill of material reads that there is an 18 cm lightweight invisible zip at the centre back seam of the garment. Yet, the Callouts Sheet indicates 22 cm medium weight invisible zip at the side seam.
3. Outdated tech pack
With the style constantly changing, failing to review your tech pack on time could frustrate your manufacturer, damaging relationships and burning a hole in your pocket.
Tip: review a tech pack after each fitting session, raw materials change etc. It will be helpful to have a person responsible for it within your team. Avoid giving a manufacturer an excuse to stall with your production or charge you extra money for the delay.
Example: During the fitting, the designer decided to reduce the width of the waistband. The pattern was amended accordingly but no updates were made to the tech pack leaving a manufacturer confused and frustrated.
4. No dedicated factory contact
I’ve noticed it happens quite often when the team starts growing and the responsibilities are indicated. Manufacturers might find it hard to reach someone to find answers to the questions they might have and can proceed with incorrectly made orders or put your order on hold if the problem is not resolved on time.
Tip: Have a dedicated person who is responsible either for the factory or tech pack content. Make sure the contact details of that person are clearly indicated on the tech pack and all the documentation you sent to the factory. Moreover, have out of hours contact details for emergencies or someone who can help during the absence.
Example: It’s a real-life example that we recently had at our London high-end manufacturing studio. Whilst cutting a production of evening dresses, we realized that the colour of the fabric was changing as we were progressing down the fabric roll. The colour shading wasn’t very prominent within a garment but if the garments are hanging one next to each other on the shop floor, the colour difference would have been striking. At the high-end level of garment production details like that are crucial. Therefore, we flagged out the problem to the brand’s production manager and asked to confirm whether they’d like to proceed with the current order or adjust the allocation across different stores. Neither our email nor phone calls were left unanswered for over 24 hours. The Ex-factory date was rapidly approaching with no response. We had to proceed with the order to not lose vital time and miss the deadline. Unfortunately, the striking difference in colour caused issues with the store buyers.
5. Errors on purchase orders
Everyone makes mistakes but mistakes on your purchase can turn into endless disputes, delays and be costly for your business.
Tip: Keep purchase orders simple to keep the processing simple and streamlined. Nevertheless, have all the necessary information up to date and clearly displayed. We provide a set of purchase order templates in our manufacturing toolkit that are simple and effectively cover all the important details.
Example: Purchase order is missing ex-factory date. The factory doesn’t feel legal pressure to deliver on time and decides to dispatch the order at the convenient time for them whilst in the meantime the wholesale buyer threatens to cancel a delayed order and other clients are very unhappy. The brand owner puts a great deal of pressure on the manufacturer to speed up the production, reluctantly the manufacturer agrees but this takes him over the capacity. To get it out the factory is forced to speed up by cutting corners and turning a blind eye on the quality control.
6. Not having a handover meeting and proper meeting notes
Misunderstandings can happen when it comes to simple matters, no wonder it can explode and turn into a conflict between a clothing manufacturer and a designer, pattern cutter and the factory. At times a tiny mistake can bring large losses and lawsuits.
Tip: It’s super important to have thorough communication with your clothing manufacturer and where possible to have face-to-face handovers of your production orders. Followed by thorough meeting and fitting notes that can be found in our fashion designer toolkit.
Example: A production sample was approved, subject to comments. One of the comments was incorrect print placement, yet the brand’s tech team failed to make appropriate comments and confirm that the factory is aware of the issues. The factory assumed that the sample was fine and went ahead cutting and making the production of thousands of garments with the print placement upside down. The brand was forced to take and pay for the subpar product due to its negligence.
7. Not knowing your suppliers
Last but not least is how well you know your factory, their strengths and weaknesses? Do you have a good relationship established with them that they will have your back when you really need their support pushing your business forward?
Tip: respect your supplier and use every opportunity to build a relationship. Take one step further and start documenting issues you have along the way whilst working with the factory. Not all the factories are the same and knowing their strength will help you not only improve the quality of your products but also save yourself from stress and overwhelm.
Example: Factory A provides cheaper prices than Factory B. However, after working with both factories for a couple of seasons the brand owner realised that despite lower prices factory A is constantly late with the deliveries that is damaging to his relationship with the clients and already manifested in higher shipping charges. Despite Factory B being more expensive the total cost of the similar production turned to be not higher at all: the factory saved money by flagging out a few issues with the raw materials and fit on time. After working for two seasons with both factories, the brand director decided to allocate all the production orders with factory B. Even though on the surface the prices are higher yet the thorough approach and great communication will be more cost-effective in the longer run. Here I’m going to be a bit controversial and warn you against working with just one supplier in our next blog post.
And for good luck a bonus point 🙂
8. Trying to do more than you can handle
Given how challenging and notoriously difficult production can be, it’s not surprising that many designers are struggling to keep on top of it. Raw materials deliveries, Quality control, product development, finance, sales and marketing need time, effort and knowledge.
Tip: look closely at your activities and see what you can be more cost-effective to outsource. Usually, it’s technical skills that designers are lacking. Especially at the beginning of your journey, a reliable factory that is invested in your brand growth will allow you to focus on your fashion label growth and development. If you are looking for a reliable supplier to help you with small to medium production runs and product development for the high-end evening and bridal wear, contact our London studio via email firstname.lastname@example.org
This list can go on and on. It takes time and experience to establish robust systems and frameworks to control the quality and fit of your garments. While designers grapple with the production issues they are losing time and money, taking away their focus from the one thing they should worry about: brand growth.
With the intention to help small to medium established brands and fashion startups tackle this problem we created The Fashion Designer Toolkit. The Fashion Designer Toolkit is a set of tested and proven templates that you will need to manage your production processes and control quality.
To deliver a fully comprehensive solution for your business we added monthly Q&A sessions to support you even further. Get access now.