The preparation of the jeans production requires many steps. On the one hand, the right producer must be selected as a partner. On the other hand, all cut and design-relevant patterns must be selected and suitable templates created.
At the Munich Fabric Start in January 2017, one of the largest fairs in Europe, I gathered the necessary contacts to prepare the production of my jeans. Two out of seven halls are dedicated to denim alone, the so-called “Blue Zone”. When I visited the fair once in autumn 2016, I was completely overwhelmed. But this time I had a concrete idea of what I was looking for.
Selection of fabrics
At the fair, various manufacturers exhibit their fabrics and other materials such as buttons, zippers, labels, etc. Denim has a huge selection and manufacturers come from all over the world. But the production of denim is concentrated in certain countries. In Europe, these are mainly Turkey, Italy and Spain. I focused on manufacturers that offer environmentally friendly fabrics.
Based on this criterion, I went from stand to stand, gathered contacts and let me show the fabrics. It is common to get a selection of fabrics in the form of so-called hangers. These are fabric patterns that can be hung up. However, you have to prove that you are a serious buyer. Luckily, I already had my first promotional flyer with me. So I could credibly demonstrate that I intend to produce jeans in larger quantities.
In this way I ordered various fabric samples from different manufacturers, which were sent to me in the following weeks.
Contacts with jeans producers
At the fabric manufacturers, I asked about contacts to jeans producers. The challenge was to find producers who are willing to produce smaller quantities. Because I have to start small and gradually increase the quantities. Most producers have minimum quantities of 1000 pieces and more. However, the fabric manufacturers were very helpful and were able to provide me with various contacts to producers who are willing to produce smaller quantities.
The contacts I received included producers in Turkey, Tunisia, Greece and Italy. I also got contacts to India and Thailand. My plan was to travel to these countries to take an on-site inspection. So I started to plan several trips that would take me to Istanbul, Tunis, Padova, Thessaloniki and Bangkok in the spring of 2017.
Business trips to potential producers
My first trip took me to Tunisia and Turkey. I met the respective contact persons, who received me very friendly and accompanied me. Every conversation was very instructive for me because I first had to learn how the production processes work and what conditions exist. For example, I learned that it is usually the producers who do the purchasing of the basic materials like buttons or labels. As a buyer, I only have to describe my demands in a technical plan and send a cut or a sample. The producer then makes the purchase and brings all materials together in the production.
Later I visited producers in Italy and Greece. Depending on their size, the producers work with more or less industrialized processes. While automated production processes are advantageous for larger quantities, smaller quantities require more manual labor, which has an impact on the unit price. The quality is very different, which affects the price. The question will be what quality can I afford at what price.
Asia or Europe?
I planned my trips so that I first traveled to the closer countries in Europe. For price reasons, I booked the flight to Bangkok early, but at first I only made appointments with European producers. This turned out to be the right approach. I found out that production in Europe is more advantageous for me. On the one hand, it will be necessary to visit the producer on a regular basis, and on the other hand, the price differences are not so great, especially since they are still small quantities.
I also found that communication gets more difficult the farther away the producer is. Maybe cultural differences also play a role. Also, the delivery of the goods takes a lot longer if it has to be sent from Asia. That’s why I dropped the plan to visit Asian producers. I used the trip to Bangkok for another occasion, namely the production of giveaways. I have a friend in Bangkok whose family runs a manufacturing business for bags and the like. They produced business card envelopes made of denim fabric, which I can use as freebies.
Knöpfe, Nieten, Labels usw.
For the production of jeans, various utensils have to be collected that you as a consumer do not even think about. On the one hand, the right buttons, rivets and zippers must be selected. They have a decisive influence on the design. On the other hand, some labels and patches must be designed with the brand name. There are specialized companies that focus only on the production of labels and patches.
Furthermore, there are certain regulatory requirements as to which information must appear on textile labels. In addition to the material identification, suitable washing instructions must be available. Since the symbols for the washing instructions are protected under trademark law, I had to sign a contract with Ginetex, the responsible organization for textile labels.
For the producer, all of these utensils must be accurately labeled and corresponding templates created. As part of a technical plan these details for the garment are collected and described in detail.
Offer process to select the producer
Since I want to sell larger quantities in the long term, I have to pay attention to efficient production right from the start. I therefore aspired to a longer-term partnership with a producer who can provide good quality at reasonable prices. To select the right producer, I asked for several offers.
I invited five different producers in Italy, Greece, Tunisia and Turkey to submit an offer. I had visited each of these producers personally. Both the actual offer and my personal impression counted to select the future supplier. I chose Denimce, a small producer in Istanbul. The professionalism of the people and the quality of their products convinced me. In addition, this manufacturer is certified for compliance with ethical standards.