How to Pick a Good Cut and Sew Contractor
Your search for a cut and sew contractor has yielded around a dozen qualified candidates. Deciding who you will work with may seem daunting, especially for new designers. That’s why we’ve created a guide on what you should do so that you can choose the best cut and sew contractor for you.
1. Clearly explain yourself and what you need.
The Intro Letter
The best way to start the interview process with a prospective cut and sew contractor is for you to give a thorough introduction. In your introduction, you don’t just want to tell them who you are, you also want to communicate your expectations. Basically, you want to write a short bio about who you are, what you’re making, the number of styles you’d like, your retail price points, your manufacturing price points, and your target number of units per style. This should be about a paragraph long.
Then, you want to communicate any additional needs that you may have. For example, if you’re new to this process and open to suggestions to reduce cost or streamline the process, let your contractor know. Also, if you want to guarantee that you get to keep any patterns or samples that you might pay for in the future, let your contractor know now.
Although you don’t want your letter to be impersonal, you do want to make sure to include the same information and any questions you may have. This way, when each contractor answers your questions, you’ll be able to easily compare your answers.
Sending an introductory letter before the interview process is extremely beneficial for three main reasons. First, as you and your potential contractor converse, you can get a good idea about whether you will be able to communicate well when you’re working on production. Second, your detailed information allows your contractor to run some preliminary numbers to see if they would be a good fit for you.
Third, by communicating exactly what you’re looking for, your contractor can determine whether they provide the services you seek. If you have questions about whether the contractor can truly help you realize your vision, ask questions like “Is this something you believe you can deliver on?” Listen to their response and take note.
Sometimes people accidentally over-promise because they’re excited about a new job. If you feel like this may be the case with one of your potential contractors, make notes about why you feel that way and send an email thanking them for their time. Do not schedule an interview with them.
Likewise, if your prospective contractor indicates that they would not be a good match to work with you, be sure to remove them from your list and thank them for their time. When you thank them, you can ask if they have any cut and sew contractors that they would recommend. However, you should only do this if you are seriously in need of a new lead.
After your potential contractors respond to your introduction letter, you can start to get a good idea about who might work well with you. Schedule interviews with these contractors. Make sure to choose times when you can offer your prospective cut and sew contractor your full attention.
Also, take the time to do a little bit of research about who you’ll be speaking to. It’s easier to communicate with someone when you’ve seen their picture or read a little information about them beforehand. By doing this research, you may also get a good idea about what kind of personality they have. This initial research on your part can help remove some of the awkwardness that sometimes happens when two strangers talk on the phone for the first time.
Have a list of questions ready to go. You will want to ask the exact same questions of all your contractors. This way, you can compare the answers like apples to apples.
After the interview, take time to make notes about your conversation--literally. You want to have written notes because the information that you receive will start to run together in your head. Take the time now to write down what you remember. Note anything interesting that was said and any thoughts or feelings that you had during the interview.
Send a thank you email. Be sure to thank your potential contractor for taking the time to speak with you. If you have additional questions, now is the appropriate time to ask them.
2. Visit the factory
Whether you’re talking with a cut and sew contractor down the street or in a far corner of the world, you should consider visiting the factory. See the factory that will be cutting and sewing your clothing with your own eyes, and talk to the people who will be working on your project.
By spending some face-to-face time at the factory, you will get a good idea of how it works. You’ll also to get to know the people who will be handling the production of your items. When you take the time to meet face-to-face, it frequently makes future communication much easier.
In the short amount of time that you may spend together, you will get a better idea of who these people are and their communication styles. Sometimes, this time together can reduce what would have been a complex explanation of an abstract thought down to a verbal shorthand.
3. Make sure you have clear communication with your contractor.
You’ve corresponded through email, spoken on the phone, and met face-to-face. If you feel like you and your contractor don’t communicate well, this is going to be a challenge to the success of your entire project. Now is the time to eliminate any contractors where communication feels like an obstacle.
4. Have them create prototypes.
Right now, you should have several contractors that you’re thinking about working with. Part of the benefit of working with a cut and sew contractor is that you have complete control over your product. Instead of using a pre-made garment, you’re making your own. This is fantastic and creates lots of opportunity for unique style and design. However, it also means that initial miscalculations can create future headaches and expenses.
Once you have checked (and double checked) your pattern and measurements, send this information to your prospective cut and sew contractors. Make sure any instructions or requests are as thorough and clear as possible. This will decrease the odds that your prototype doesn’t meet your expectations.
5. Test the heck out of your prototypes.
Once your prototypes show up, test the heck out of them! Naturally, you will do things like examine the seams and any stitching or detail work in your design. However, take the time to be kind of mean to the prototype.
Stretch it, tug on it, and wash it. Then, check the seams and stitching again. Be very thorough when you’re looking over the prototype. Treat the prototype exactly as you think your potential customers may treat it. After all, this is a representation of the finished product that you’ll be selling, and you want it to hold up over time and last.
As you’re testing and examining your prototype, you should also keep an eye out for things that might deter consumers from buying your product. Sniff the fabric to make sure that the smell isn’t off-putting. Feel the tag and the inside seams to make sure that they aren’t coarse against delicate skin. If your fabric is dyed, test to see if it will stain your skin or undergarments.
It’s a lot to think about, but you want to be very thorough here. You want this item to be the best it can possibly be so that you can create repeat customers.
6. Choose the best one.
With several prototypes tested, it’s time to choose the best one. When you have decided which contractor to work with, notify the contractor and move forward with production.
Make sure that you treat the contractors that were not selected with the utmost respect. You never know when you may need their help in the future. For example, if you’ve chosen a cut and sew contractor that meets your production needs currently, they may not meet your needs in the future when your product becomes more popular. (This is why you always keep all your notes about what you learned in your interviews with different contractors.)
At this time, make sure to follow the instructions about what you agreed to do with your prototypes. If you agreed to send them back, please do so in a timely manner. If you agreed to keep them, make sure to store them in a safe place so that you can refer back to it just in case you find yourself out shopping for a cut and sew contractor some time in the future.
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