Supply chain management challenges start at day one and never end.
That’s what Mike Farid, president of Nature USA, a third-generation textile manufacturer based in downtown Los Angeles, told a roomful of Magic attendees Monday at a seminar titled “Made Where? Sourcing Products From U.S. Producers is Easier Than You Think.”
“Even brands or retailers that surpass $1 billion in sales, their single biggest challenge is supply chain management,” he said. “In our business, you see so many brands starting every year and nine out of 10 don’t see their fifth year of existence because there are so many challenges.”
Let’s face it: despite some headlines saying that consumer demand for American-made goods is on the rise, the majority of brands stocked in U.S. stores are still produced overseas. Price plays a big role in that, not to mention the fact that a lot of factories in low-cost countries are vertically integrated.
But as Matthew Burnett, CEO and co-founder of Maker’s Row, an online marketplace connecting American manufacturers with brands looking for stateside production, said, a low price per unit isn’t always a bargain when you factor in the high order minimums required by most overseas manufacturers, as well as the turnaround time.
And while having everything under one roof might be convenient, it’s not always cost efficient. “You’ll have a much easier time negotiating price when you have a diversified supply chain,” Burnett added, explaining to any aspiring designers in the audience, “You have to get out there and get at least two to three quotes from different people. You have to test the market.”
His number one piece of advice: “Do not go to a manufacturer if you don’t know what you want to create. That sounds very basic but I can’t tell you how many designers go to a manufacturer and say ‘I want to do a shirt.’ Ok, well, is it short sleeved? Is it long sleeved? You need to understand how to work with manufacturers as opposed to putting them on the other end where they’re adversaries.”
“Defining what you need is the most important thing,” Farid echoed, reiterating the need to go to at least three manufacturers in order to “make an educated decision and what suits your needs especially.”
“You have to be scrappy and flexible to accomplish what you need,” Jesse Dombrowiak, chief operations office and co-founder of Indie Source, an apparel manufacturer and consultancy based in LA’s fashion district.
With that being said, designers—especially unknowns—shouldn’t focus too closely on price. “Because you’re setting that trajectory for that product. If you go to the cheapest person you might get the cheapest quality,” Burnett added.
But if money is still a major issue, Tony Castillo, director of business development at California Rain Co., a West Coast-based vertical manufacturer that can turns goods around in eight weeks or less, suggested one way designers can cut costs is to create patterns that waste less fabric. “We usually tell people it’s a minimum of 1,000 yards, but if we can cut it in four or five different styles that brings the cost down considerably,” he said.