Requesting samples should be a super exciting process! It feels like you are making progress and you're super close to receiving something physical! To make this process as pain-free as possible, we recommend following the tips below.
As a general rule remember:
- The more detail and prep work you do the better. There may be a language barrier if you're working with offshore suppliers, so make sure all communication is super clear!
Before you start, think clearly about what you hope to find out PLUS the below things:
- Can the supplier actually make what you want?
- Do they have the correct machines / printing facilities etc?
- Do they want to make your items?
Some suppliers are so backlogged with orders or may not be set up to work with start-ups.
- Does their minimum order quantity (MOQ) match your requirements? They may be able to help, but only if you order 1000pcs...
- Ideally, how much do you plan on retailing your product for, and therefore how much would you like to pay for your product (your 'cost per unit')? Having even at least a rough figure helps at this point.
1. Ensure you send a detailed tech pack! This will be the first thing every supplier asks for. It should include:
- design details including construction details (CADs), the more pictures, sketches, drawings, inspirational brands the better!
- size charts, or at least the sizing you're aiming for (S/M/L or 8-16 for example) plus examples of brands you think fit similar to how you'd like your items to.
- bill of materials (BOM). AKA a big ol' list of every fabric, trim, label, branding item that you want to be on your garment.
2. Do some research on the type of fabrics you want your product in, and request fabric swatches at the same time. It's best to know at least roughly what fabric you want, for example a natural or synthetic, with/out stretch, any special features such as anti-pilling, water-repellant, anti-bacterial....? If you specify details and request swatches at the same time, suppliers should be able to advise if they can easily source this fabric (or not!) which will help make a decision on which supplier to work with.
3. Request all costs upfront! Every supplier works differently, but ensure you ask for details on all of the below potential costs to avoid any surprises later on in the process:
- development fees (including pattern cutting, sourcing, grading)
- sampling fees (is this included, or do they charge 2x the estimated cost price for example)
- an estimated unit cost, based on an order size of 'X'
- print & label set up charges (if you need!)
- is shipping (of samples) included?
If you follow the above three steps, and approach a few different suppliers (cross-costing) you should be able to build up a clear picture on how they will interact with you throughout, what they can offer, and for what price.