Vauxhall Fashion Scout Salon
I arrived at VFS a tad disheveled having had spent the day visiting different factories around London in my car; getting lost for the most-part (to be informed at the end of the day by my bro that there was a TomTom under my seat…grrrrrr) and on weathered industrial estates and in old school builders cafes drinking eye-poppingly strong tea from a bottomless mug for 50p.
I had in my mind already confirmed the manufacturers that I was going to use but in recent weeks a gut feeling had risen and prompted me to suss out a few alternative options. It is not as easy as you think to find a decent factory (I will go into this more later) and I began by emailing all of my contacts in the industry to see if any recommendations were thrown forward. I also googled etc and searched the web. I found and arranged meetings with three factories that I thought were suitable and took my samples to each of them in turn. It is of course important to meet the proprietors, to see their standard of work, to talk cost estimates, timings etc. I actually really liked all three and am weighing up the options and seeing more factories next week.
At VFS I bumped into Dean Quinn and Henry Brown (of Felicity Brown) friends of mine from the VFS Exhibition and it was lovely to all catch up, compare notes and share info and stories. I brought Percy Pigs and VFS provided the wine and nibbles. Tick box. Tick Box.
Our speakers for the evening were:
David Jones: Luxury Freelance Fashion Consultant
David Jones worked for Aquascutum for 20 years before being headhunted by Wallis and becoming the Manufacturing Director. David launched his freelance career 12 years later and quickly snapped up clients John Galliano and Matthew Williamson. David has also spent time as the President of the Clothing and Footwear Institute, now the Textiles Institute.
Allan Scott: New Planet Fashions
New Planet Fashions is a London based production service specialising in sampling and small to large production runs. With 10 years in the business, Allan’s clients include Victoria Beckham, Preen, Jonathan Saunders, Hannah Marshall, Erdem, Osman Yousefzada and Roland Mouret.
Anna Brett: Image Studio Production, Managing Director
Image Studio Production is a high end manufacturing studio specialising in patterns, toiles, samples and production with no minimum orders. Winning the Topshop Award for Garment Product Innovation, Anna went onto work with the likes of Peter Pilotto, William Tempest, Vivienne Westwood and Marios Schwab. Image Studio Production also offers a make service for graduate collections.
Emma Davidson: Denza International, Recruitment Consultant and Finance Manager
Emma specialises in business and personal accounting, VAT returns, budgeting for business planning and being able to explain in human language what an account means! Her experience also extends into licensing, production and buying and marketing.
Emma Crosby: London a la Mode, Vauxhall Fashion Scout London Exhibition & Paris Showroom
Responsible for the launch of Miss Sixty and Fornarina to the UK, Emma now manages the buyer relations and sales for pop-up event London a la Mode, offering new designers a selling opportunity before, during and after Fashion Week. Recently Emma became the Sales Manager for our very own VFS London Exhibition and Paris Showroom. Emma specializes in brokering relationships with designers and buyers, forecasting and account management.
This salon had more of a discussion feel to it and all the speakers seemed to bounce off and interact with each other and the designers as opposed to the more formal Q and A format previously seen.
So in the wake of London Fashion Week as previously mentioned the hard work really begins. Getting your sales is one challenge but then conducting the production and manufacturing orchestra is another and it is not for the light hearted. I think the clearest message that came across from the VFS Salon was be organized, be professional, be passionate about your product and above all be polite; respect your manufacturers – they have a wealth of experience. Listen and learn from them.
How to find sampling and production units in the UK?
- Not easy as there are very few forums for this. I am going to start a section on this blog dedicated to sharing details of suppliers, manufacturers etc so if you can add to it please email me and I will put it up so everyone can benefit.
- Word of mouth
- Fashion Capital
How to choose the right production house for you?
- Do you like the owners/ directors etc as you will be working with them a lot?
- Are they good enough standard or too good? Discuss you price points with them and have an idea of what you want to be paying for each style, negotiations are of course possible but if they will manufacture a dress for £65 and you are wholesaling it at £60 you need to look elsewhere obviously.
- Do they have time to fit you in and can they manufacture your collection to meet your deadline?
- Ask to see examples of work they have done before and ask how much they charge for it and the quantities they produced. If they are doing large-scale production cost will of course go down.
- Talk to them about what the next steps would be with them (this really helped me). Most factories will insist on making a sample with them before production goes ahead to sieve out imperfections and assess potential problems before patterns go off to the graders. From these samples they can then give you an exact price for production (they will give you an estimate before sampling).
1. Find a few factories and go visit them with your samples
2. Pick a factory to work with
3. Take your samples in again and go through each piece. You need to treat them like a 2 yr old. Everything needs to be explained. Technical drawings for each style and the different colour-ways they come in with fabric swatches and examples of the trimmings/ buttons/ zips etc. You will then need to go over you sample and discuss the finishing. If your samples are perfect then great but some of mine I want to change slightly. Point out and document types of seams, finishing’s, positionings etc
4. Order all fabrics and trimmings in, in time for production. You don’t want them to be late and for you to miss your slot.
5. Sign off the samples when they are perfect.
6. An exact price will then be set and you will usually pay a deposit at this stage with the balance on delivery.
7. Deliver all fabric/ trimmings etc.
8. Production goes ahead.
9. Spend as much time in the factory monitoring production as you can. Things can go wrong and for the money you will be paying you want everything to be perfect.
We talked PR and making money too but i'm waffling on now so will leave that until the next blog...