Fashion Designer and Content Creator. Daniela leads the social media operations at GAT Fashion Lab
Custom Clothing Manufacturing refers to the production of garments from scratch, meaning bringing a design idea to life.
To provide a better definition, it's important to understand the different types, formats, and services of Clothing Manufacturing available:
- Private Label Manufacturing: Also known as white-label, it's a service where a clothing manufacturer sells pre-designed products ready for customization with the buyer's labels, tags, and packaging. You can learn more about Private Label and its benefits by clicking on this link.
- CMT Manufacturing: This is a garment production service that focuses solely on manufacturing, and in some cases, cutting and manufacturing garments. In this service, most of the process depends on the client rather than the manufacturer. To learn more about CMT, its advantages, and disadvantages, click here.
- Full Package Manufacturing or FPP: Also known as Full Service manufacturing or Full Package Production (FPP), this service covers all processes from trend research and design to production and logistics for collections. For a more detailed understanding of what Full Package Clothing Manufacturing is, you can learn more here.
- Wholesale: This is a wholesale selling service, where a manufacturer produces garments with their own brand and sells them in packages of different units. This service is commonly used by multi-brand store owners looking to stock their businesses with new clothing all the time. You can learn more about this type of Clothing Manufacturing here.
Having a better understanding of the types of Custom Clothing Manufacturing (CCM) and the services they offer, it's important to delve into the operational steps involved in garment manufacturing. Before diving into each of these points, remember that GAT Fashion Lab offers FPP and Private Label services. You can learn more about our offerings, MOQ, and more through the provided links.
1. Requirements Definition: Clothing design is a mix of all design elements, such as color palettes, fabric textures, silhouettes, proportions, patterns, and harmony. Usually, these design ideas are realized through a sketch, a quick drawing, or a reference photograph. Typically, the client provides the design they want.
2. Initial Costing: Costing is a procedure where an estimation is made of how much a garment might cost based on the previously selected design, taking into account fabrics, materials, production, and logistics. It's a quotation that the manufacturer provides to the client to give them an idea of the cost involved in producing the garment.
3. Development: With the approved design and costs, the process moves to the pattern-making phase, which can be analog or digital, depending on the manufacturer hired. Here, the pattern for the selected design is created following the technical specifications in terms of lengths, measurements, armholes, and more. There are various types of pattern-making, which you can learn more about here and how digital pattern-making works.
After having the pattern ready, physical or digital samples are made to ensure that the pattern aligns with the required design. If fit adjustments, armholes, shoulders, and other elements are needed, they are made at this stage. Physical samples can take weeks or even months, so we recommend using 3D samples as they save time and fabric waste. You can read more about them here.
5. Sourcing: Once the sample and patterns are corrected and approved, it's time to find reliable suppliers who meet the requirements. In this stage, manufacturers are provided with:
- Fabrics: Suitable suppliers are selected based on the characteristics of the fabric being sought, depending on its structure, composition, and weight.
- Materials: Materials refer to all the components needed for the design, other than the fabric. This includes everything from threads, buttons, linings, beads, zippers, prints, patches, etc.
- Labels: Garments can have various types of labels, such as size labels, care labels, flag labels, primary labels, and more. You can learn more about label types here.
6. Cutting: Before production starts, a thorough inspection of the fabric is performed to discard any possible defects in terms of weaving, color consistency across the fabric roll, shrinkage, and more. This is checked before moving on to cutting.
After verifying the fabric, it is moved to the cutting area. Here, fabric rolls are laid out on cutting tables, and the number of layers to be cut is determined based on the fabric type, how it's laid out, and the size of the garment to be cut.
Next, the patterns or the cutting lines for production are laid out on the fabric, and finally, the fabric is cut using either manually operated cutting tools or computerized cutting systems.
7.1 Printing, Sublimation Processes: Printing, sublimation, embellishments, screen printing, and other processes are only performed if the client and design require them. For this reason, these processes are usually outsourced to external facilities. You can learn more about how these processes are done here.
7.2 Sewing (Manufacturing): Manufacturing occurs after the cut pieces are grouped by size, color (if applicable), and the predetermined quantities in the cutting area. The pieces are sewn together on a linear assembly line, and the garment is completed as it progresses through different stations on the line. Sewing machine operators receive small stacks or packages of cut pieces and repeatedly sew the same section of the garment, then pass that finished section on to the next operator. For example, the first operator sews the neckline of the garment to the body, and the next operator sews the sleeves to the body, and so on until all the pieces of the garment are properly sewn.
7.3 Quality Control: Outsourcing quality control is common nowadays, which saves companies the trouble of physically inspecting freshly produced garments. This quality control has certain steps that must be followed for a garment to be 100% approved. These include:
- Checking garment measurements (ensuring they align with the approved sample and the client's request).
- Validating that all closures, buttons, clasps, and more function properly (malfunctions can lead to negative customer opinions or even harm). These tests include traction, fatigue, and stretch tests.
- Verifying fabric quality standards.
- Stitch count per inch verification, where the quality inspector uses a meter to check how many stitches per inch are in a specific area of the garment.
- Confirming fabric composition. Palming the fabric can reveal differences in material composition, so fabric composition tests are often conducted.
- Finally, a final report is made on the quality defects and the severity of the lot.
8. Logistics: Logistics can be understood as the preparation chain for merchandise or finished production ready for packaging, transport, and distribution/sale.
After the quality control process, the garments are sorted by reference, size, color (if applicable), and then proceed to be packaged in boxes. After packaging, shipment details are checked, and the packaging is inspected to ensure it is in good condition before being sent to the customer.
As we delve into the context of different production models, it's inevitable to wonder if there are similarities between them or if hiring one service will yield the same result as hiring a different one. However, the answer is no. Full-service manufacturing begins with trend research and covers a broader and more complete field of production with a stronger emphasis on the quality of the processes. In contrast, Custom Clothing begins with the client-provided idea and focuses on sourcing, including fabrics, materials, patterns, etc.
- MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity): MOQ refers to the minimum quantity that a supplier offers to sell in an order. When choosing a CCM, it's important to ensure that their MOQ aligns with the company's needs. If you plan to produce smaller quantities with a low MOQ, make sure it's low. However, manufacturers who have worked with large brands typically have high MOQs, so it's essential to determine the direction based on the assigned MOQ from the start. For more information and tips on MOQ, click here.
- Specialization: Manufacturers tend to specialize in specific categories of the process. Some may focus solely on producing swimwear, while others specialize in streetwear, and so on. Therefore, when making inquiries, be specific about the area in which you plan to focus your production to find a more accurate, experienced, and specialized manufacturer.
- Product: A key point when looking for a CCM is to consider what products they have previously manufactured. A good approach is to request product catalogs or search for them online. For further verification, you could request physical samples to confirm the quality of work, fabric, materials, and more.
- Social Proof and Reviews: In some cases, you may find the ideal manufacturer with no external recommendations. Therefore, it's essential that before making direct contact with the manufacturer, you conduct a search for customer reviews or, if possible, seek recommendations from third parties or people you know to learn about their production experience with that place.
- Delivery Times: Delivery times can often be overlooked with certain manufacturers due to delays. There have been cases of delays lasting weeks, even months, in the delivery of finished productions. Therefore, we recommend that when engaging in conversations with your future manufacturer, inquire about their delivery times or whether the company has experienced such delays in the past.
- Technologies: Last but not least, another valuable aspect to consider is whether the future manufacturer employs technologies that streamline processes, such as digital pattern making, 3D samples, automatic cutting, and more. Using these technologies creates a valuable difference between manufacturers as they reduce costs, waste, and production time, which should be the goal for mass production.
Finding a CCM is easier than you might think, and there are even options you can explore without leaving your home. Here are the top 3 ways to find them:
Trade Shows and Business Fairs: You can attend various industry events such as textile fairs, production expos, and more. These events often include co-working spaces where you can meet potential manufacturers, learn about their companies, production models, and more. This is enriching as you have the opportunity to speak directly with the people responsible for the process and get a closer look at their quality, sourcing, work methods, and more.
Third-Party Referrals: If you don't have the time to attend trade shows and business fairs, another viable option is to ask people you know about the manufacturers and their experience with them. If you receive positive referrals from these people, it's more feasible to find an ideal manufacturer than searching without recommendations.
Online Search: Online directories or Google searches are often helpful in these cases. Google Maps has a section for references, comments, and user ratings of the company in question, which can serve as a guide to avoid making mistakes in the future and rule out companies and manufacturers with poor ratings. Furthermore, online searches yield results based on how selective you are with the keywords in the search engine. Therefore, it's important to consider all the recommendations provided throughout this blog.
At GAT Fashion Lab, we have over 15 years of experience in manufacturing garments in various clothing manufacturing formats, with Full Package Manufacturing being our most solid service. We work with some of the largest retailers in Latin America.
If you want to learn more about how you could work with us, please contact us to address all your questions.
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