Zintro experts discuss the fashion industry manufacturing

By Maureen Aylward

We posed questions to our Zintro experts about the use of small batch manufacturing in the fashion industry. We asked the experts to outline what products fit into this category and where small batch manufacturing is happening around the globe.

Sonica Kapur, an expert in fashion design, says that small batch manufacturing is on the rise, particularly in the ethical fashion sector. “As sustainability, eco-fashion and fair trade become more than buzz words in the industry, we are seeing a wave of ethically and socially responsible companies that use the triple bottom line as an intrinsic part of their business model,” says Kapur. “Many such companies partner with small artisan and craft groups around the world to manufacture small batches of high quality artisanal products inspired by international craft traditions while providing fair wages and helping the development of impoverished communities. This in turn is supported by the fact that more and more customers are responsive to products that serve a cause or a higher purpose.”

Kapur says that not only are fair trade apparel and fashion accessories being made in small batches by fair trade start ups, several established brands and retailers, such as Anthropologie and Nicole Miller, are introducing small batch artisanal fair trade products as a way to diversify their product lines and improve company image.
“With growing consumer awareness about notorious sweat shops and child labor in apparel factories round the world, the trend to ethically source products from artisan communities in conjunction with rural NGO’s in countries such as India, Thailand, Guatemala , Peru, and Vietnam is certainly here to stay. And working with artisan communities instead of large factories necessitates small batch production,” she says.

Rekha Krishnamurthi, a creative designer and project manager, says that as a small US based designer, finding a manufacturer that will produce in small batches is always a challenge. “I have found a few manufacturers who will produce small quantities, but even their minimums are around 50 to 100 pieces. This is too large of a quantity for me to tie up in inventory at this stage,” she says. “These manufacturers produce beautiful fabric, so instead I’ve arranged to buy small quantities of their fabric and set up my own small batch production with a few local seamstresses in the NYC area. It is a great opportunity for a seamstress who has a passion for sewing, wants to make a little extra cash on the side while being able to work in a flexible schedule and from her own home. Once I achieve larger volume orders then I will engage these manufactures for larger scale production.” Krishnamurthi is in process of launching a new home line called Divine that focuses on pillow covers, window panels, and throws.

Boaz David, a fashion consultant, says that due to the economic situation the last couple of years there is an increase in small production, the main reason is cash flow. “This happens mostly in the contemporary and designer markets that are beginning to  produce smaller batches. These two markets are generally higher price point so they can afford it financially, and it helps them maintain high quality of products,” he says.
“No company, regardless of industry, wants to hold inventory. This money can be used for more important daily operations, and, therefore, manufacturers want to produce only the quantity that is needed, even if it costs more per unit.”

David says that as a result, even factories in China will accommodate smaller batches. “But the problem becomes the shipping cost, especially in places like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh,” he says. “As a product development and production consultant who specializes in working with start-ups and young designers, one of the main recommendations I give is to produce to order, no inventory. I also recommend to produce domestically in order to shorten production time, which helps with cash flow.”

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