Seller Support: Tips for Finding a Manufacturer with Alison Lewy

A challenge for anyone starting a small fashion business is finding a good, reliable manufacturer. We met up with Alison Lewy, founder of fashion business accelerator Fashion Angel and author of fashion start-up guide Design Create Sell to learn the top tips for getting your goods to market.  

Alison Lewy, designer and founder of fashion business accelerator Fashion Angel, has released a brand new book, Design Create Sell, the new guide for fashion start-ups, giving an overview of how the fashion industry works and what makes it tick. Below she shares her top tips for one of the most difficult parts of the process - finding a manufacturer.

Every designer needs the skills and support of a reliable manufacturer if they want to scale up their business. Finding these factories can be difficult, so make use of any friends, contacts or professional networks as well as scouring the web to identify the best candidates. Once you have done your research and compiled a list of manufacturers, it is important to assess their suitability to be part of your network of suppliers. This can only be done by visiting their premises and seeing how they work.

To help you in your search for a manufacturer, the UK Fashion and Textile Association has a directory of UK manufacturers called Getting it Made. It is also worth checking in on LinkedIn groups, such as Made in UK, or joing the Fashion Angel Business Club, which provides members with a useful suppliers directory as part of their benefit package.

Find a manufacturer: a 10-point checklist

1. What other designers do they work for and do those designers have the same quality and pricing strategy as you?

2. What type of products and/or materials do they manufacture?

3. Do they have all the machinery you require?

4. Is the factory willing and able to make your quantities by your deadlines?

5. Are the factory’s health and safety, ethical and housekeeping working practices compatible with your business?

6. Can they achieve the quality that your customers expect, within the price that you can afford to pay?

7. Are the premises easy to get to? Will you be able to pop in if there is a problem?

8. Is the owner/manager the sort of person you can create a business relationship with?

9. Have you discussed, and do you understand, the factory’s payment terms? You are unlikely to get credit terms straight away, but if you stick to your part of the bargain and pay promptly then they may offer you credit in the future.

Now that you have compiled a list of potential manufacturers, you have to match the factory to the orders. If your collection is multi-category and includes, for example, jersey, denim and lightweight dresses, then your choice of manufacturer will be determined by their technical capabilities. If, when you visited them, they were making tailored woven jackets, are they going to be able to successfully make chiffon dresses?

The most effective way to select the right factory is on the basis of a sample that they make up of the style in question at a cost that is right for you.
Try to avoid totally relying on any one supplier and source an alternative as a back up.

You can read more on finding a manufacturer and the processes you need to have in place in beforehand in the Design Create Sell book, available to order for £12.99 online in the Fashion Angel Shop and in all good book sellers.

Win a copy of Design Create Sell

But don’t be too hasty – you can be in with the chance of winning a copy of the book by tweeting the following:
“Want to learn how to Design Create Sell with @fashionangel1? Simply RT to be in with the chance of winning the book http://asos.to/UC3Ddm"

The giveaway ends on the 10th December - @ASOSMarketplace will be in touch with the winner via their Twitter page.

If you can’t wait ‘til then and are on the lookout for some quick-fire tips, check our Google+ Hangout with Alison. We talked business tips for fashion start-ups, branding your boutique and more.