How to Choose Your Fashion Manufacturing Methods

spacer 1The apparel industry has seen an evolution in production methods from hand-sewing to assembly-line techniques. There are different manufacturing methods that cater to brands’ different needs, such as small batch production, made to order, on demand manufacturing, and bespoke apparel manufacturing.

So let’s dive into these so you can have a clear picture of your options and then choose the best on for your needs.

Small Batch Production

Small batch production refers to manufacturing a limited quantity of apparel or accessories, usually less than 100 units.

This method is what is most often chosen by small independent fashion brands and designers who do not have the resources to produce large quantities of apparel.

Small batch production offers designers the opportunity to test the market with a new product while avoiding excessive costs and too much inventory. It also allows for more flexibility and faster response to changing trends, which is helpful.

Made to Order

Made to order production involves producing garments only after an order has been placed.  Made to order production is also a sustainable approach as it reduces waste and the need for inventory.

The process usually involves a pre-sales technique. Where the brand markets a collection, pre-selling styles until a certain date, and then closing orders for a little while the orders are sewn and shipped.

Made to order is not the same as custom made, as the styles are already designed and the sizes and fit are based on the brand’s size chart. However, some brands will offer small alterations to made-to-order such as a shorter hem.

Depending on your setup, made to order production can be more time-consuming and costly than other methods, as each garment is made individually.

On Demand Manufacturing

On-demand manufacturing refers to the production of items as they are ordered. It allows for a wide range of customization options, from choosing the fabric and color to adding personalized designs and text.

On demand manufacturing eliminates the need for large inventories and reduces waste. Since items are only produced as they are ordered, there is no excess inventory that needs to be disposed of or discounted.

But keep in mind that it can be challenging to find on-demand factories for producing fashion. There have been a few that have popped up over the years but have closed because they couldn’t make the business model work. This method is often used by online retailers who have their own factories or print-on-demand businesses that specialize in custom printed apparel.

Bespoke Apparel Manufacturing

Bespoke apparel manufacturing is a method of production that involves creating custom garments to meet the customer’s specific requirements. This method is often used by luxury brands and designers that offer personalized designs, fits, and finishes who aim to provide a personalized experience for their customers. Bespoke apparel  involves taking measurements and creating a unique pattern for each customer. The garment is then produced based on this pattern, ensuring a perfect fit.

This is a highly personalized and exclusive approach to production. Each garment is crafted to the customer’s precise specifications, from the choice of fabric to the design details. As a result, bespoke apparel manufacturing requires highly skilled craftspeople, who are experts in cutting, stitching, and finishing.

Bespoke apparel manufacturing offers customers the opportunity to own a truly unique and personalized garment that meets their needs and preferences. However, this method can be more time-consuming and expensive than other methods, as each garment is made individually, often by hand.

The apparel industry offers various production methods that cater to different needs and preferences, from small batch production to bespoke apparel manufacturing.

Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice of method depends on factors such as cost, speed, level of customization, and personalization.

Deciding which method is right for you depends on various factors such as the size of your business, the type of product you are producing, and your target market.

Let’s discuss how to decide which method of apparel manufacturing is right for you.

Think About Your Product

The type of product you are producing is an important factor to consider when choosing an apparel manufacturing method. Certain methods are better suited for specific types of products.

If you are launching t-shirts, do they have to be cut and sew or can you purchase blanks and focus on custom printing? If you’re launching pieces that are “special”, it is easier to create a pre-sales campaign to so you can do made to order. Whereas a line of basics are harder to sell via a pre-sales campaign and might but better off as small batch.

Evaluate Your Target Market

Your target market plays a significant role in selecting the best apparel manufacturing method for your business. Understanding the preferences and purchasing behaviors of your target audience will help you make informed decisions.

Who is you customer, where and how to do they shop now, and what kind of experience do they like to have when they shop? Meaning, do they like to shop in person? Then on-demand won’t work as you will want to sell to stores and/or host in-person popups.

Consider Cost and Time

Cost and time are significant considerations when choosing an apparel manufacturing method. How much money do you need for upfront costs and how much do you have? Can you afford to run a small batch production or are you limited to on-demand? Do you have the money to hire people for bespoke manufacturing?

And don’t forget to consider time. This ties back to your customer — are they willing to wait?

Regardless of which method you choose,  work with a manufacturer that has experience producing garments similar to yours and understands your goals and needs.

Nicole Giordano

Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online resource and community supporting for independent designers around the world with building their businesses. A deep love for the craft of fashion paired with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION, where she helps independent designers and makers screw the traditional fashion business rules, create their own paths, and build businesses they truly love. More than anything else, she’s in the business of encouragement and works every day to remind makers and designers that they have something special to offer the world and that they can, in fact, do this thing!

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