I read this article on VogueBusiness.com recently :Fashion Designers Never Meet their Suppliers As someone who has, from very early in their career, gone overseas to see their suppliers, I never realized how many designers don’t. I wanted to know; how many of you have and do you find it changes how you design and what considerations you make? And if you never have traveled overseas, do you ever think about what kind of work the changes you ask for create?
I read that article and I have not traveled to the factories for any of the companies that I have worked for. I have mostly worked for smaller manufacturers and not for luxury or contemporary brands so I’m assuming that there wasn’t any money for designers to travel to the factories. Only the sourcing VP or Production VP would go and then relay information to design managers.
I’ve mostly worked for smaller companies and have done more international travel with those companies than I have with the mid-sized ones. Mostly, I think, because they have offices overseas. Is there ever any discussion from the VPs about how your decisions effect the factories? Before I traveled, my VPs (who traveled) never seemed to have any sort of understanding or cared to pass it on to the lower-level employees. Or maybe they just didn’t care…
The companies I have worked for did not own the factories overseas. Maybe that was why? There would be reps from the factories that would come to our offices to speak with VPs and designers every once in a while. I have worked with factory managers visiting our office and discussed sourcing inquiries/issues. This helped a little, but I always wished I could just go to the factory and see their capabilities so that I could know if I’m barking up the wrong tree with an idea.
To answer your question… discussions about how a designer’s decisions effected the factories mainly surrounded around production issues and price issues. I once worked for a discounter and the customers want everything that they cannot afford!
I work for a vertical company, and traveling to the facilities is critical. It builds relationships, helps the product dev team understand the process. To your point @sacklunch, I absolutely think about how much work changes create. Even little mistakes can make a lot of work. The people overseas work SO hard. I think it’s easy for designers to think of this nameless/faceless machine that just pumps out samples, but it’s so much bigger with so many roles. I wish more companies would offer the opportunity to their teams.
It’s so true, that it’s critical. I also think a lot about how we as an industry perpetuate a lack of value in our on work and the work of our suppliers, because, we all know that we have a very specific and hard-earned skill set; we, often, do not know the reach of our influence. I.e. many of us do not meet the people who are working to create our designs/ see the conditions under which they work/ understand the process top-to-bottom. To @Nini 's “I once worked for a discounter and the customers want everything that they cannot afford!” the industry has created a customer base that does not value our work, and thus the work of the people in our factories actually dying the goods/ sewing the garments. Which, of course, feeds into what sells and what the VPs demand from their teams. It’s an ouroboros. I would like to hear from a VP on if they consider the ramifications of what they’re asking, ever. And if they do, how do they cope with their decisions (assuming they even think that far down the line.)
I’ve worked with a company for 7 years, and it wasn’t until my 6th year at the company did I get to meet the suppliers overseas.
It was so great meeting them and really helps with the relationship between suppliers.
I have traveled to China a few times for work and I think it’s an absolute must. This is where you can meet the people you’ve been emailing for years and see the factories. I think it’s crucial for all designers who work with overseas factories to take at least a week to go over and meet the teams. I had no idea how many steps were taken to get to a final, shipped product once my tech pack was submitted. It really brings more clarity to everything. I also believe sales and buyers need to visit. Then they will see how much is involved when they want to make a “small color change” to a woven item
Absolutely. I think it will be a long time before international travel (20 hours on a plane) is safe, but it’s the best way to create relationships and truly understand the manufacturing process.