When you’re starting a clothing line, working with manufacturers is a big part of the job — and a confusing one, especially if you’re new to production.
Planning to work with overseas companies?
The process can get even more complicated.
Fortunately, you can head off many potential problems with a great manufacturing agreement.
1 - Lay Out Deliverables Clearly
The easiest way to create a great manufacturing agreement is to get clear on what you need.
How many units do you need the company to produce?
What day do you need them to be delivered?
Your agreement should explain these factors in clear, simple language. That way, there’s no confusion about quantities and deadlines.
If you plan to work with a manufacturer for more than one production run, it’s a good idea to address future deliveries.
What kind of turnaround time do you require for orders of specific quantities?
Including this information, and getting the company to agree to it, can help head off delays down the road.
2 - Get Specific With Quality
When you receive a shipment of goods, it’s not uncommon to have a few with defects or imperfections.
If you’re not careful, however, your manufacturer might start letting too many mistakes slip by.
To combat this, it’s important to include quality requirements in your agreement.
Usually, this means that the production company is required to inspect each item and guarantee that it meets a set of standards that you provide.
When you’re just figuring out how to start your own clothing line, it can be difficult to know exactly how to measure quality. Some potential markers include:
Measurements: Each garment should match the measurements of your sample pieces. This is crucial for consistent sizing. Keep in mind that there will be some level of variation between items, though it should be small. Your job is to tell your manufacturer how much deviation there can be for each measurement; this is called tolerance. You’ll also need to provide a list of specific measurements for each size of each garment.
Quality Tests: At the factory, an inspector can perform a variety of tests to verify the quality of each piece. Depending on what you’re producing, this might include tests for the strength of seams, color transfer, and elastic recovery.
3 - Include Material Specifications
When you’re working with a manufacturer, they’re usually responsible for sourcing materials to make your products.
This is especially true when you’re going overseas since foreign factories can get cheaper materials.
To prevent manufacturers from using lower-quality materials, it’s important to include specifications in your agreement.
You might specify things like thread count, acceptable suppliers, color tolerance, or fabric type.
This ensures that your clothing doesn’t arrive made from low-quality material.
4 - Set Payment Terms
One of the most important parts of a manufacturing agreement is the payment agreement.
This section should explain how and when you will pay.
Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to tie payment to delivery and quality.
For example, you might agree to pay only when the goods have arrived on time and if they meet the agreed-upon quality standards.
You should also explain how you will pay if the company need to invoice you, and any penalties you’ll pay for late payment.
Likewise, it’s helpful to list the penalties the manufacturer pays if it doesn’t deliver on time, or if the order is incorrect.
Sewport CEO Boris Hodakel commented that in doing so, you protect both parties.
5 - Include Working Condition Requirements
When you're working with overseas companies, the issue of working conditions may arise.
If customers discover that you're using a factory that treats its workers poorly, they may be hesitant to buy from you.
To head off this problem, you can include rules for working conditions.
The exact conditions you choose depend on the location of your factory; chances are, many foreign manufacturers won't be able to meet American standards.
Instead, look at the local standards and make sure your factory is meeting or exceeding them.
You might agree on worker hours and minimum pay rates. If the employer provides housing, consider asking for a limit on the people per apartment.
Other things to consider include factory temperatures, mandatory breaks, and lower age limits.
When you're getting a line off the ground, working with a manufacturer is inevitable.
Whether you're staying Stateside or going overseas, it's crucial to put together a manufacturing agreement that protects you, the factory, and the workers.
Sample Manufacturing Agreement
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