Development is both complicated and simple. Mastering an unruly process with a lot of moving parts requires an easily understood (simple) approach that is focused, organized and flexible.
What are the design challenges that need to be solved? What's the process? How are modifications documented and followed up with? These are just a few questions that should be asked and answered at the outset of your project. You should have clearly defined deliverables that are relevant to you and what you're trying to achieve.
"This is industry standard" is typically arrogant jargon for "please don't question my approach"... dismissive bullshit from someone going through the motions that'll leave you with a mess of problems for someone else to fix.
That's not to say there aren't standards to follow. But, that's a starting point on your road to discovery of the best possible solutions for your product, not an excuse to do the bare minimum.
A one-size fits all, or, disorganized approach, unfortunately, is typical of what's being offered in the market. We see it every day. We inherit those projects all the time. Whomever is doing your development, even more than production, should be someone you can relate to, who understands what you're trying to achieve and is contributing to your project and furthering your goals.
Development done right™ isn't about making a pattern or fit sample. Those are deliverables within a larger mission. The point is to create a platform, on a style-by-style basis, for you to succeed. This is the process by which you discover the best way forward, given the nature of your product, your selling prices, cost targets, quantity and desired quality.
Development done right™ is meant to anticipate, given these parameters, potential production challenges. It's about discovering how to improve your chances of success, making decisions that will help you avoid problems while producing great product. If you wait until production to stumble into these things it's just costly. Time and money fly out the window. Quality development anticipates and plans for this.
Your deliverables should include approved fit samples and a fully vetted production-ready development package, a valuable asset for your business, that you own. You are ready to manufacture and have an asset moving forward that can be utilized as you expand your collection.
There was a time, like so many others in the apparel business, that we suffered though what one might describe as the nightmares of apparel manufacturing.
These were expensive, time consuming and stressful experiences. At the point that we'd had enough we decided to make some changes, taking small steps that we thought, no doubt, would lead to big improvements.
In short, we went from outsourcing all production work to a collection of individual contractors to building and operating our own factory. This was a deep dive into what it really takes to make great product.
We started small, adding a few in-house sewers to supplement our outsourced sewing contractors, just in case they fell behind or had quality issues. The idea was that we'd pick up the slack or fix their production mistakes or quality issues, of which there were many. We thought these were normal things that comes with the territory. Apparel production is just hard and stressful. Our mission was to be able to react to these things so they didn't cause larger problems down the road. What we discovered was that these assumptions were just wrong!
With intense oversight of this entire in-house process it became obvious we found a better way. Our mission transformed from fixing problems to making sure they didn't happen in the first place! We quickly re-tooled the operation and built a factory from the ground up. This article isn't an exhaustive examination of what this required and our experiences along the way, but an overview of what we learned and how it helped us and, more important, how this helped our clients. It turned out that our collective experience and training were perfectly suited for this journey. We stumbled into the sweet spot of applying our respective skillsets and passion towards mastering a set of challenges worthy of intense pursuit.
We went from outsourcing everything... marking and grading, cutting, sewing, quality control and finishing to doing everything in-house. We learned lessons along the way and developed best practices for taking an apparel design, or an idea, through full-cycle product development and full-package production. We learned the hard way, through studying the common problems that make traditional apparel production so difficult, leading to missed deadlines, poor quality and overall, a series of headaches for the brand manager or apparel designer.
We studied workflow, lean manufacturing and sewing efficiencies. We tinkered with assembly methods and trained a fantastic staff of dedicated craftsman. They developed an eye for quality and an ability to spot production problems before they happened. We scrutinized every step in the production process and developed quality control methods second to none.
Our workflow is transparent and visible to you, the client. The platform we've developed and the services we offer allow you to focus on what's important. We build your product while you build your business.
We can say with certainty that we would only be scratching the surface of what's possible with product development and apparel manufacturing if we didn't chart this course. If we didn't pay our dues it just wouldn't be the same. There is no substitute for the hard earned experience we've accumulated. The depth of our understanding can't be compared to supposed experts with fancy resumes working for flashy companies. They probably have great experience, in some areas of the apparel business. But, unless you've truly walked the path, there's no substitute. We've been in the trenches, from top to bottom.
We've done the hard work of mastering the art of making excellent product so you don't have to. Years of hard-earned experience are available to you, on-demand, without the sacrifice. We offer this to you in a well designed package of services so that you can focus on what's important... building your business.
Yes, they exist. Take a look around. Is the place dirty, crowded, disorganized? Look at where the employees are taking meals. Chances are it's a folding table in the middle of the factory. If there's not a dedicated space for employees to take a break, it's a sweatshop. If drinking water isn't provided, it's a sweatshop. If you venture into the restroom and quickly turn around, it's a sweatshop.
Is the pricing they are offering significantly lower than the competition? If so, they are probably offering these prices on the backs of their employees. There's no magic to apparel production. It's hard work, a lot of moving parts and it requires a massive amount of organization. Sure, there are the rare instances of the company that can offer lower pricing as a result of successful implementation of lean manufacturing or an otherwise superior workflow, but, if the place doesn't appear organized, efficient and advanced, then it's not.
There's no one definition of what constitutes a sweatshop. You'll have to be the judge. But if it looks the part, it probably is.