How to Select the Right Sew Contractors in 7 Steps
In your search for great sew contractors to produce your clothing line, you’ve likely yielded dozens of qualified candidates ready to provide the sewing services you need. But as an emerging designer, deciding which one you’ll use can be intimidating. To help make the process easier, follow this checklist of seven essential steps to selecting the best contract sewer for your project.
1. Send an Introduction Letter to Potential Sew Contractors
The best way to start the interview process with a prospective sewing contractor is for you to give a thorough introduction. Be clear about your expectations and answer the following questions in your proposal letter to contract manufacturers or seamstresses.
Topics to Cover In Your Intro Letter
In your introduction to potential sew contractors, you’ll need to provide a significant amount of information about yourself. Aside from a general overview of you and your clothing brand, you’ll want to include the following in your letter:
- How many garments are in your clothing collection and at what scale you want to produce your collection. If you’re planning on mass production to stock your clothing line in retail stores or online, you’ll need to reach out to contract manufacturers that can handle large-scale industrial sewing projects.
- Where you’re sourcing fabrics for your collection and whether your budget will work for the scale you want to produce.
- What you want your collection to look like. Apparel manufacturing is quite different for activewear versus outerwear, for example. You’ll need to cover this in your introduction letter so your potential cut and sew manufacturers can determine if they’re capable of creating what you want.
- How many variations of styles you’ll want for your project.
- Your expected retail price point for each garment. This helps the contract manufacturer or manufacturing facility understand the budget constraints they have for producing your clothing line.
Once you’ve addressed these important elements, you’ll want to close out the letter with some background on your experience with commercial sewing. For example, if you’re an emerging designer and unfamiliar with this process, let them know that you’re open to suggestions to reduce cost or streamline the process.
Although you don’t want your letter to be impersonal, make sure to include the same information and any questions you may have in every letter you send to potential sewing contractors. This way, when each contractor answers your questions, you’ll be able to easily compare your answers.
Why An Introductory Letter Is Key
Sending an introductory letter before the interview process is incredibly beneficial for three main reasons.
First, as you correspond with your potential contractor, you can get a good idea about whether you’ll 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 sew contractor can truly help you realize your vision, ask questions like, “Is this something you believe you can deliver on? Have you done something similar in the past?” Pay attention 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’re seriously in need of a new lead.
2. Conduct Interviews With Potential Cut and Sew Contractors
After your potential contractors respond to your introduction letter, you can start to get a good idea about who might work well with you. The next step is to schedule interviews with these contract sewing professionals. Choose a time where you can dedicate your undivided attention to discussing the project with the sewing contractor.
The first question you should be asking is how many years of experience they have with apparel manufacturing. This experience can take many forms, whether it be a past career as a seamstress, experience creating custom products for small businesses, or working as part of an industrial sewing team.
Before the Interview, Research the Sewing Contractors
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 bit 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’ll want to ask the exact same questions of all your contractors. This way, you can make clear comparisons among their answers.
After the interview, take time to make notes about your conversation. You want to have written notes because the information 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.
As with any professional interaction, be courteous. Follow up with 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.
3. Visit the Manufacturing Facility
Whether you’re talking with cut and sew contractors down the street or in a far corner of the world, make every effort to visit the factory. Not only is this important to check in on the quality control process of sewing your designs, but it’s also vital to ensure that the people who will be sewing your clothing line are paid fairly and work in a safe environment.
What Equipment Do They Use?
Another important factor when visiting the factory is seeing the tools the seamstresses use. Do they use high-quality industrial sewing machines? These will leave little room for error, making quality control much more possible. For mass production to occur, the manufacturing facility must be a tight ship. Visiting in person is the only way to ensure you’re getting the service you want for your fashion collection.
4. Keep the Line of Communication Open Between You and Your Sewing Contractor
At this point in the apparel manufacturing process, you’ve corresponded through email, spoken on the phone, and met face-to-face with the sewing company that will be manufacturing your clothing line.
If you feel like you and your sewing contractor don’t communicate well, it will challenge the success of your entire project. It’s best to ensure that there’s a clear line of communication between you and the service company that will be manufacturing your garments. Continue to check in at every step and be polite but firm. Don’t be afraid to be too involved and make sure that your contract sewing company feels comfortable enough to ask you questions, too.
5. Have the Contract Manufacturers Create Samples
At this point, you should have forged a relationship with the contract sewing professionals you’d like to work with on your project. A benefit of working with a cut and sew manufacturer is that you have complete control over your product every step of the way. Instead of using a pre-made garment, you’re making your own, which creates plenty of opportunities for unique style and design. However, it also means that initial miscalculations can create future headaches and expenses.
Once you’ve checked (and double-checked) your pattern and measurements, send this information to your prospective cut and sew contractors. Your pattern makers should have perfected your paper patterns to be easily understood by any sewing contractors. Provide instructions or requests as thoroughly and clearly as possible. Doing so will increase the odds that your samples will meet your expectations.
Before you select the sew contractor you prefer, confirm that sample sewing is part of their process. Providing samples is essential to make sure the cut and sew manufacturer provides the quality you want for your clothing line.
6. Test the Heck Out of Your Samples for Quality Control
Once your samples show up, test, test, test! First, examine the seams and any stitching or detail work in your design. Be diligent if you find any flaws because flaws in the sample sewing will become flaws in the finished product.
Pretend to Be the Worst Customer Possible
It might sound strange, but be mean to your samples. No, don’t yell at them or put them in time out. Stretch them, tug on them, and wash them (again and again). After every wash, check the seams and stitching once more. Be merciless in your inspections. Treat the samples exactly as you think the most careless potential customers would treat them.
As you’re testing and examining your samples, keep an eye out for things that might deter consumers from buying your product. Sniff the fabric to make sure the smell isn’t off-putting. Feel the tag and inside seams to make sure 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 end up with repeat customers. Imagine the worst review you could get from a customer of your clothing, and do everything you can to avoid that review from ever becoming a reality.
7. Choose the Best Sewn Product
Your cut and sew contractors should work with you to produce several stages of samples until you have the desired outcome. If you’ve been working in the sample sewing stage with multiple prospective apparel manufacturing contractors or facilities, it’s time to choose the one you want to hire. Once you inform the selected sewing contractor, they’ll likely be thrilled to get started on the production of your clothing line.
After you’ve confirmed your project with your selected contractors, let any other contractors know that you will not be using their services moving forward. Be sure to maintain a respectful and grateful tone — not only is it common courtesy, but 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 and requires large-scale production. This is why you should always keep your notes about what you learned in your interviews with different sew contractors.
At this time, make sure to follow the instructions about what you agreed to do with your samples. 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 them just in case you find yourself shopping for another contract sewing manufacturer in the future.
You’re Now 7 Steps Closer to Choosing the Right Sew Contractor
Following the seven steps outlined here will help you choose the right sew contractor for your project. From sending a detailed introduction letter and paying attention to communication style to visiting the facilities and testing the samples, you can ensure your project is completed according to your timeline, budget, and expectations. Whether you’re producing a small-scale or large-scale clothing line, these guidelines will help you achieve a more streamlined process.
At TEG, our expertise provides high-quality creative services including cut and sew manufacturers, as well as fabric and trim sourcing that you won’t find elsewhere. Our top-of-the-line sourcing managers skillfully guide you through sampling fabric swatches, negotiating minimums and prices, tracking orders, and more.
Whether you’re an emerging or established designer, we’ve helped over 2,000 designers during the last 15+ years bring their visions to life. We’d love to help you, too.
For all inquiries and questions, please call or fill out the below form, and we will respond within 1-2 business days. Thank you!
Los Angeles: 800-916-0910 | San Francisco: 415-324-8779