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The Ethics of the Garment Factory: A Primer

One of the biggest stigmas that has dogged the clothing industry – and continues to do so – is the plight of the international garment worker. Indeed, there have been scores of reports and documentaries conducted from news outlets the world over that highlights how rough the conditions at a garment factory can get. These conditions are succinctly summarized by the catch-all phrase “sweat shop,” and it has given rise to the notion that the world of the garment factory is somewhat lawless and immune to various practices and procedures that would otherwise keep them in order.

 

However, such mindset ignores the fact more and more garment factories around the world are moving forward to implementing ethical trading practices at a perpetually growing rate, complete with granting worker’s rights which include legal benefits.

A Look at Ethical Trading

 

Ethical trading as it exists in the garment factory worker environment is dictated by what is known as the Ethical Trading Initiative, also known as ETI. This particular initiative is a critical alliance of companies, trade unions, and voluntary organizations armed with the singular goal of improving the lives of poor and vulnerable workers from around the world, including those who toil within the garment factory business.

 

The term ethical trade means that the retailers, brands, and their suppliers of goods such as garments work together and take responsibility for improving the working conditions of the very people that create the products that are sold worldwide. Most of the workers that this mindset touches are employed by supplier companies all throughout the globe, but with a special concentration in poor countries where the employee protection laws that would otherwise be in place in other parts of the globe are either inadequate or outright ignored.

 

The companies that adhere to the precepts of ethical trade adopt a code of labor practice. This particular code comes with the expectations that the garment factory that they do business with also adhere to this code. The code itself addresses several major issues that have been known to infamously plague these workers, such as:

  • Work hours
  • Health concerns
  • Safety concerns
  • Wages
  • The right to join free trade unions

The benefit of working with garment factories in Turkey is that they fall under and abide by EU law. What this means is that, unlike places such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, you won’t find any child labour. Furthermore, Turkish garment factories boast some of the best working conditions in the world. It is one of Fashion Design Solutions’s top priorities to ensure any factory or distributor we work with follows ethical trading rules and is audited regularly… we do not support unethical practices!

 

The Purpose of Ethical Trade

 

In essence, the inherent purpose ethical trade is to provide a streamlined way in which companies that want to do business with supply chains can tackle uneasy issues in a unified way. This sort of unionized alliance will provide multiple resources that will allow for an easier means to deal with a supplier who, for example, ignores the notion of a living wage or routinely deploys children in the workplace.

 

Ultimately, the purpose of ethical trade is to bring about positive change for the workers whose rights have routinely been ignored. These rights, ranging from improvements in health and safety to the reduction of child labor and excessive overtime, are in place to create a fairer labor environment. On a larger scale, these rights seek to allow companies that use these garment factories as a means of supply the ability to conduct business with these entities without fear of unearthing unpleasant working conditions that may otherwise run counter to their own company ethics.

 

Ethical Trade and Ethical Consumerism

 

Perhaps the biggest impetus behind ethical trade from a business standpoint is to lessen the impact of ethical consumerism that may be brought about in the wake of a company unwittingly working with an unscrupulous supplier that does not promote ethical work environments.

 

In essence, the term ethical consumerism (also known as ethical consumption, moral purchasing, or green consumerism) is a type of consumer-based activism that is primarily based on a concept known as pound voting. This term is defined more or less as the process in which consumers give approval to a company through their own purchasing power. If a consumer does not like the practices of a particular company, they will not buy a product associated with that company. This act of indirect activism extends peripherally in the garment world; if a company does business with a supplier that is shown to conduct unethical business practices, the consumer may cease to do business with the company until the association with the company that is deemed to be unethical is severed. While this concept of activism may not be widespread enough to cause the downfall of a major corporation, it can have a negative impact on a smaller company’s bottom line. As a result of this, it is essential that any smaller sized company take a good, long look at a supply company and see what their actual policies are, lest they potentially pay a hefty price.

 

A Long Way to Go

 

Despite the inroads that ethical trade organizations have made in getting garment factories to conform to more morally favorable conditions in the workplace, it must be noted that conditions for many workers in this industry the world over remain startlingly poor. Researchers have determined that some principles that are fundamental to the rest of globe, such as a worker’s rights to join a trade union and negotiate as a cohesive collective, are still not addressed sufficiently. The research has also derived that several areas that can be linked to a worker’s rights, such as the right to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination, are not being met. Furthermore, there are still reports of workers not receiving wages that are sufficient enough to keep up with the increased price points of essentials for modern living, such as food and fuel.

 

As such, it is clear that the ethical trade movement still has plenty of steps that must be taken in order to eradicate the scourge of an unfair and unscrupulous work environment. That said, there have been plenty of signs that the initiatives that have been put forth by organizations that seek to remove unethical conditions in the workplace have been making a significant impact in the garment factory industry; so much so, one could remain hopeful in their goal of eradicating these unethical practices for good.

What to look out for when looking for a clothing factory

The act of finding a good clothing factory to assemble your clothes is one of the more critical steps that you can take. The ability to make a quality product is an important metric to measure a clothing factory, of course, but there is so much more to the process of finding the right one than merely discovering that they make a pretty good shirt or dress. They have to be efficient with their production. They have to have the reputation as being a trusted business partner. And above all else, they must operate under the guise of being an ethical company with a reputation for treating their employees fairly and equitably.

 

Because of this, finding a clothing factory that will fit your needs can be a tough challenge if you want to find one that matches your needs ideally. And while there are not any real shortcuts as to how this can be accomplished, there are a few guidelines that are in place that should be able to make the process of finding a factory to fit your needs much more streamlined.

 

Getting to Know Them

 

The most important thing that you can do when researching for a proper factory is to dive as deep as you possibly can into the company’s reputation and practices. In order to do this, you cannot merely take whatever is stated on their website at face value. Obviously, whatever is on their home page or the “About Us” section of the page is going to sound great and flowery, and there could very well be some truth to whatever they are saying. However, it would be a grave mistake to just base your search on that metric alone.

 

Instead, you can use the Internet to dig into some research regarding the company’s true reputation, and not just the reputation that they try and paint on their website. Some of the ways in which you can do this include:

 

  • Visit product review sites – There are a host of professional websites that are devoted to breaking down the pluses and minuses of a company or a product in a manner that is factual and objective. These reviews will give you a general understanding on the factory’s strengths and weaknesses as a whole.
  • Visit customer-driven review sites – It is true that everyone has an opinion, and no more is this evident than the various review sites that are solely driven by consumer opinion. These sites will feature the occasional review that has to be looked at as over-the-top or exaggerated – remember, everyone has an opinion, even the ones that aren’t the best informed – but taken together, you should have a general idea as to how the clothing factory operates from the perspective of customers that have actually used their services, including ones that have used them extensively.
  • Ask around – If you are in the clothing business, chances are you know other people that are in the clothing business. As such, it would behoove you to talk to them to see if they have any record of working with a particular company, and if so, what their experience was like. If they did, they will be able to give you an honest opinion that can be broken down on a level that you may be able to understand implicitly.
  • Follow up on testimonies – When you do visit the company’s website, and if they have various testimonies plastered on the page lauding the company for their services, don’t just take their printed comments at face value. Follow up with them to see what compelled them to make the statements, and how their experience truly compared to the experience that is implied through the website’s verbiage. If there is a major discrepancy between what is written and what is said, that should give you an idea on how forthright the company actually is.

Dropping By

 

In addition to surfing the web and talking with fellow people in the industry, you can take your research to the ultimate level by taking a visit to the actual clothing factory. This can prove to be the most difficult step in the research process – if you are an upstart or small business, you may not have the financial means needed in order to pay a visit to a company if it happens to be halfway across the globe. However, if you can swing it, there is truly no better way to get a feel for how a company truly operates, from their overall business practices to the way in which they treat their employees. Seeing operational tactics and working conditions up close and personal may make the difference between you going with a company and looking elsewhere.

 

Fashion Design Solutions

 

You may be able to forge a key partnership with a local supplier such as Fashion Design Solutions; one that not only has access to quality clothes, but understands the market that you are in on a more intimate level than a company that is thousands of miles away. It is critical that you make sure that you do plenty of research before you pull the trigger on finding the company that is right for you. It will take a good chunk of time if you do things properly; however, the time that it takes at the beginning of the stage has the potential to save you a lot of business-related grief down the road.

The Art of Finding the Right Clothing Manufacturers

We’re all undoubtedly familiar with the phrase “clothes make the man.” But what about the people that make the clothes? If you are a business owner that is looking to sell clothes to the masses, finding clothing manufacturers that you can trust from a business and a quality perspective is an essential part of finding success within the industry. Of course, if you don’t have a whole lot of experience, this could be easier said than done. As anyone in the industry can tell you, the world of clothing manufacturers can be a rather unscrupulous place, as it is rife with various businesses cobbling together poorly constructed goods as well as scammers looking to rip people off. It may be enough to intimidate the newbie into thinking twice about opening up a shop that sells clothes.

 

However, finding the right clothing manufacturer is not all doom and gloom. The road to finding a good, trustworthy company that will provide you with quality clothing – and ultimately, a rock steady business relationship between you and your customers – is a path that can easily be walked upon. It just takes an adherence to a few basic rules.

 

Steps to Take When Finding a Clothing Manufacturer

 

The first step that you must take is something that, in a way, occurs before you even begin to sift through clothing manufacturers to find the items that fit your needs. Everything you do must be done with a great measure of diligence, which is brought about putting together a specific strategy and sticking to it from start to finish. Keep in mind that the clothes that you purchase from a clothing manufacturer are going to affect your business and its profitability in the long run. Not having a well thought out battle plan at the ready – or even worse, wavering from that plan once you get the ball rolling on things – could have a profoundly negative impact on the bottom line of your business.

 

Of course, there are a few key elements that must be in play regardless of what strategy you decide to deploy. For example, you need to clearly define who your clientele is going to be, and how the clothes that you purchase from a clothing manufacturer are going to reach out to that clientele. If you own a little boutique store on the coast and are surrounded by surfers and beach-going families, you are probably not going to be all that successful selling flannels and work boots. Conversely, you aren’t going to sell a whole lot of beachwear all year round if you live in a mountainous range or if you live in a place that has definitive seasons.

 

Another important task is to get yourself completely assured of the clothing manufacturer’s reputation. This is a critical step for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it would behoove you to make sure that the company that you are working with is not in the habit of acting unscrupulous or shady. Secondly, working with a clothing manufacturer that has a poor reputation may make some of your more industry-savvy customers a little gun shy in doing business with you. Both reasons could end up making your business less profitable.

 

In order to ensure that you are working with a clothing manufacturer is on the up and up, you need to do a little more than just check their website. The company page is undoubtedly going to tell you what they want you to know, so you need to do a little digging. This can be accomplished by performing the following tasks:

  • Check what other people are saying – There are plenty of other websites that are out there that will go beyond what the manufacturers’ website is saying. Because of this, you should go elsewhere online and check various reviews that may have been written about the company and its standards and practices.
  • Follow up on website accolades – If the company has testimonies listed somewhere on their site, follow up with the people and companies that gave such web-based praise and dive a little deeper into what those words actually mean.
  • Pay a visit to the factory where the goods are being made – If at all possible, you should try and visit the factory where the clothes are being made. Getting a distinctive visual as to how the clothes are constructed will go a long way into helping you decide how ethical and forthright the company truly is on a business level and on an employer level.

 

Other Important Tips

 

Another thing that you may want to consider as you try to find a clothing manufacturer that works for you is to find a few local companies that you may be able to feature in your store. Keeping things local is a big selling point in plenty of other business ventures, so it stands to reason that a similar motif would play very well in the world of clothing design. A local manufacturer may have a solid pulse on the likes and dislikes of your potential clientele even before you stock their stores with their wares, so featuring them in your store could enable you to reach out to your surrounding area in a more personalized manner; something that may not be as readily possible if you look beyond local borders.

 

But perhaps the biggest thing you can do on your quest to finding the right clothing manufacturer for your store is to reside yourself to the fact that it won’t be easy. Yes, you could strike gold immediately and find the perfect manufacturer, but these types of scenarios are few and far between. The actual work involved is uncomplicated on the surface, but the likely probability of you needing to research several companies in order to find just the right one is a process that can be time-consuming. However, if you manage to remain patient throughout the process, you will most likely find the clothing manufacturer that speaks to the soul of your business, and ultimately, your customers.

Introduction To The Fast Paced Life Of The Fashion Production Cycle

The least fashionable aspects of the fashion industry are, not surprisingly, production and manufacturing, i.e., the fashion production cycle. This is something you must understand in full before you even consider starting your own brand. To understand this concept, let’s start at the very beginning.

 

Why Is It Called Fast Fashion?

 

Once upon a time, the fashion production cycle — which includes the designing, manufacturing and distribution of clothes — used to take three stable months. As globalization and competition skyrocketed, these three months slowly but surely dropped to just two weeks.

 

This drastic change occurred because the world became more connected. Think of how it used to take weeks for people to communicate with one another across state lines. These days, you can instantly chat with anybody from anywhere in the world. Because of this connectivity, fashion too is now expected to move at a fast pace.

 

This of course means that exciting, new designs reach consumers much quicker than ever before. Unfortunately, this also means that you must work that much harder to survive in this tough industry!

 

What Exactly Is Fashion Production?

 

Fashion production describes the lengthy process by which basic design concepts are transformed from simple notepad sketches and designs into tangible products that can be worn by consumers. The process usually starts with designs of multiple colours, size and patterns, but ends in goods produced by manufacturers and then distributed to customers.

 

As you can tell, production plays a huge role toward the success or failure of a fashion brand. Why? Think about it. You can design a great garment, but if it doesn’t get produced right (or if it doesn’t get produced at all), then your business will inevitably fail. This is why a quality manufacturer is a must.

 

With that said, the greatest challenge you will face as a fashion start-up is the challenge of locating a reliable ‘source of production’, i.e., a manufacturer. This is one of those situations in life where you should not and cannot procrastinate, lest you wind up inundated with orders that you cannot even fill.

 

It’s true that the industry is brimming with manufacturers and suppliers, but these manufacturers and supplies are not equal by any means. Plus, the best manufacturers are usually kept hidden by fashion elites who don’t want everybody else zeroing in on their premium sources.

 

It should be partially clear, what with all this competition in the industry, why production is such a pain.

 

What Are The Steps Involved In Fashion Production?

There are quite a few steps in the fashion production cycle, including planning, sketching, designing, sample making, development, manufacturing and distribution:

  • Planning: The cycle starts with extensive research and planning. Target demographics must be identified. Goals must be drawn out. And an official business plan must be mustered. All of this is ESSENTIAL.
  • Sketching: After planning come the sketching of the garment, be it a t-shirt, a dress, a pair of pants or whatnot. Details (think patterns) are ignored during this portion of the cycle. The focus instead is on the shape of the product.
  • Designing: After several sketches have been made, designers review each sketch and then convene to pick out the best. Those that pass to the next stage are then adorned with details like patterns.
  • Sample Making: The completed design is then turned into a sample. The way it works is that the patterns are stitched on inferior fabrics so that the designers can better analyze the fit and design to ensure it’s to their liking.
  • Repeat Sketching, Design, Sample Making: The first three steps are part of an iteration that repeats itself until the designers are completely satisfied. It usually takes several iterations before a final design is achieved.
  • Development: This part of the cycle can come before sketching, designing and sample making. It basically refers to the locating of quality suppliers and/or manufacturers, and the establishing of initial business relationships.
  • Manufacturing: Next comes manufacturing, the process wherein your solid designs are brought to life by factories. These factories possess all the fabrics, trims and raw materials needed to make your garments.
  • Distribution: Last but not least is distribution. This comprehensive step involves the selling of your goods (which you have now received from the manufacturer), the packing of your goods and the delivery of your goods.

Throughout the whole process, you must work with a plethora of different players, including pattern makers, sample makers, other designers, manufacturers and of course clients. Keep in mind also that the summaries provided are exactly that — summaries. Each of the above sections contains a plethora of smaller tasks. Altogether, they make up the fashion production cycle.

Why Is It A Good Idea To Hire An Experienced Production Manager?

 

Considering the immense complexity of the fashion production cycle, it might be in your best interests (especially if you are just starting out) to find a supply partner, such as Fashion Design Solutions, who are not only experienced in the whole production cycle, but are also usually familiar with one to two (if not more) high-quality manufacturers and suppliers.

 

Should I Be Afraid?

 

A certain degree of fear is always good. It helps protect us from potential harm. So yes, you should possess a certain degree of realistic fear. Fashion production is not simple or easy. It’s a very complex process that can take years (if not decades) to master to in full. The thing to keep in mind is that it’s a process that’s traversed by innumerable quantities of fashion designers and production managers every single day. So if they can do it, there is no reason on Earth that you shouldn’t be able to do it as well!