You have your lingerie sample ready, or your design complete, the most common problem for new designers is getting their lingerie sewn up and sourcing a lingerie manufacturer. An underwear manufacturer is not the same as a clothing manufacturer, it is more specialised. Although if you are just doing a run with soft separates, some clothing manufacturers will take on your lingerie to sew, it all depends on the factory.
There are quite a few things to consider when sourcing a factory, and a few questions to ask before you make your decision.
Important question to ask a underwear manufacturer when sourcing one, is how long are their lead times. This is how long the factory will take to produce your lingerie. Different factories will have different times, some might be booked up a year in advance. Also sometimes issues in production aren’t found until the last minute which means your lead time has increased and your lingerie production delayed, although most if not all problems should be sorted out before the final run of production. Also if you are going with a factory based in China, remember they shut down for Chinese new year,
WHAT ARE THEIR MINIMUMS
This is the amount of lingerie that you will need to place in one order for one style for the factory to take it on and make it up. Overseas factories tend to have a higher minimum (some as high as 2000 pieces) but a lower cost, whereas your factory nearer home, with have lower minimums but a higher price. You need to work out which one will be more cost effective to you. Remember with higher minimums you will need more fabric, more quality control and higher shipping costs for the space it takes to ship.
LOCATION OF LINGERIE MANUFACTURER
Think where your manufacturer is. The closer the factory is the more control you have to have control, and visit the factory to see workmanship, working conditions and the quality of the garments going through production. That said you can build up a relationship with an overseas lingerie factory and support how they work. The key is to know about the factory that you are going with.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Also before you place an order with a lingerie manufacturer I would be asking or making sure that I understood the following :
Minimums (as discussed previously).
Sampling - who pays for this, is it included in the price, what if you need another sample made - who pays for this? Also if you decided to not go ahead with production who owns the rights to your sampling?
Prices - so important, what do you prices include?? Tech packs? grading? Just manufacturing? Also what are their payment terms? Do they provide credit or will they provide on your second order?
Shipping - What are their terms? Do they pay for shipping? Most lingerie manufacturers will be expecting you to look after shipping of the garments, especially if this involves Tax or import duties.
ABOVE ALL KEEP COMMUNICATING
Be clear on everything before you place an order, you wouldn’t employ someone without talking to them first and the same should be with business, don’t worry if you’re opting for a foreign manufacturer, in my experience when dealing with suppliers or manufacturers they have all spoken fluent English. Forge a relationship with them, and remember each country has it’s own business culture so you may need to adjust your outlook.
Attending trade shows is a good idea as you may get to speak to people directly or start a relationship with a lingerie manufacturer that you may not have if you would have say just emailed them.