If you’re looking for a UK manufacturer here are 3 things you need to know before you begin your search for one…
I get a lot of people contacting me at Make it British looking for a manufacturer to make garments or accessories for their brand. Often they are a start-up and have no experience of the fashion industry. They all ask the same question – can you find me a manufacturer to make my products in the UK?
Often they have a long list of different product types that they want to make – hoodies, caps, belts, trousers, backpacks – and would like to find one manufacturer that can make everything. I tell them that finding one manufacturer to make all of it is going to be impossible, and here’s why…
UK manufacturers are specialists in what they do
Let’s get this straight from the start – working with a UK manufacturer is going to be very different to outsourcing to an agent that works with overseas factories. In the case of the latter, you could brief them on all of the different product types in your range and they will go away and make it happen (at a cost). Whereas when you work directly with a UK manufacturer you will most probably need to work with a selection of different factories, depending on the type of products within your range.
For instance, a manufacturer may specialise in outerwear, which means they will only make coats. Or they will be a knitwear factory, in which case you are sorted if you want to make jumpers and cardigans. But even then they make not make childrens knitwear, or will only work with certain types of yarn.
You will also find that manufacturers who are specialists in making high-end products such as silk dresses are able to do so because they have skilled hand-stitchers on their production team, so you wouldn’t go to them if you wanted a pair of jeans made!
What a manufacturer can make is dictated by the machinery that they have
The types of machinery that a manufacturer has will dictate what they are able to make.
Say for instance you wanted to make activewear, you’re going to want a factory that has a coverstitch machine so that they can produce the type of flat seams that won’t rub when a garment is worn.
Similarly if it’s a woven garment with buttonholes you’re making you’ll need a manufacturer with a buttonhole machine. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to ask this question!
The same goes for shoes and accessories – the construction of a trainer requires different machinery to a Goodyear welted brogue. And a small leather workshop may not have the press machine to cut leather in bulk, which is fine if you are only making small quantities but when it comes to volume production you’re going to want something more automated.
When it comes to fabric there are different types of factory too. A weaver will make their fabric on a loom, producing a non-stretchy fabric such as cotton canvas or denim, whereas a warp knitter is the type of mill you’re looking for if you want T-shirt material.
By the way, if you want to find out a little bit more about the different types of machinery so that you sound knowledgable when you visit a manufacturer I’d highly recommend looking on the AE Sewing website. They list all of the different types of machines and tell you what they are used for.
Similarly, DCR Machines is a good place to start if you want to find out more about machinery for the leather industry.
Manufacturers have different MOQs
How many of each style you want to make is also an important consideration. If you’re a start-up and only want to produce a few of each style, you would be far better suited to a smaller manufacturing unit or workshop where they are used to working with low MOQs (Minimum Order Quantities). Even if you did manage to persuade a larger factory to squeeze you in, you may find that when a bigger order comes in from an existing client your work gets pushed to the back of the queue. Not because the manufacturer doesn’t value your business, but because trying to timetable a larger order can be more difficult than a slotting in a smaller one, so will often take precedence.
Similarly, if you want to make 1000 T-shirts there is no point in approaching a small fashion studio with only 2 machinists, because it will take a very long time for them to make a big order quantity. And they are probably not used to working at the speed required to produce high volume orders.