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How to Find a Clothing Manufacturer for the First Time

How do you find a manufacturer for your clothing line?

…especially as a new brand without many industry contacts?

In today’s episode of Factory45 TV (!), I’m sharing 5 tips to finding a clothing manufacturer for the first time.

My best tip — that I haven’t shared before — is saved for #4 so make sure you watch all the way to the end.

It’s never too soon to start making a list of potential production partners that you can contact when you’re ready.

This video will help you begin (or continue) your search. Enjoy!

 

 


clothing manufacturer

This is a guest post from Brianna Kilcullen, the founder of Anact and a student of my Kickstarter course, The Crowdfunding Factory.

Today she’s sharing three things she’s learned about creating a Kickstarter campaign for anyone else who is considering it as a launch strategy. 

Here’s Brianna… 

I’ll begin by saying, I’ve never done a crowdfunding campaign before. Like ever. Knowing that I needed to create one to kickstart my business, I was on the hunt for a good resource that could help guide me along the way.

When I found out that Shannon ran one of the most successfully funded Kickstarter fashion projects at the time and had built an online course based on best practices, recommendations and preferred resources — I knew I had to take it. 

It was quick, simple and incredibly applicable. Thinking through the entire crowdfunding process before beginning helped prepare me for the highs and the lows and be proactive instead of reactive.  

Here are my top three takeaways: 

#1. CONSISTENCY. 

One of the biggest takeaways from The Crowdfunding Factory is that consistency is one of the most important parts of starting a business. More so than making a single ultra creative post or product. 

It can take seven interactions with a brand before a person decides to take action with a product or service. So I knew that in order for my business to be successful, I needed to make sure my content was being seen. 

I snagged up every social media account, and then I picked specific social media platforms that my target market frequented to maximize the return on investment aka my time and energy!  Anact is now on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my personal accounts.  

Consistency also means that I needed to be posting frequently. So Anact went from posting about once a day to posting 3 times a day (for now).  PS: Social Sprout has become my go to for scheduling synchronized social media posts.

Three times a day seems a bit extreme; however, our backers will come from all different time zones and we believe it was important to make posts that could be seen from various time zones until our Kickstarter launches. Once we launch, we will post less, but we will now make sure we post on a schedule so that we are always consistent. 

kickstarter

#2. RE-SHARE. 80% of your time should be spent promoting content you’ve already made.

Adding onto the consistency train, promoting your content should be a high priority. We learned not to spend all our time creating new content (blurbs for posts, pictures, etc.) and realized that we needed to share and share and share and share our current content so that more people can see it and so our time spent creating that content doesn’t go to waste. 

To help with that, we started paying Instagram and Facebook to promote our posts so that it reached our target audience easier. We also encouraged our friends, family, and fans to share our content.  #freeinfluencers

Prior to launching Anact, I wasn’t even active on social media. I have to say that I have been really amazed at the opportunity it holds in promoting your business and connecting with amazing people all over the world. 

#3. SPREAD THE WORD.

If you’re a startup founder like me, you are most likely spending most of your time on the product creation process. We all saw what happened with FYRE Festival — a hyped up marketing campaign with a bad product is no bueno.

So once you have perfected your product, you’ll need to navigate the press circuit and promote all of your hard work so you can share with the world! Shannon’s guidance and personal press contact list was instrumental in understanding how to navigate this aspect of startup life.  

Terms such as “editorial calendar” and “press pitch” have become ingrained in my vocabulary as we prepare for our Kickstarter launch.  

There are many more insights and takeaways that I have gained, but the common theme in each takeaway has been that it has created confidence in myself and the crowdfunding process and for that – I am incredibly grateful! 

-Brianna
Founder, Anact

Anact is short for “an act”. The simple act of creating impact. My simple act was developing a hemp-based towel that is good for all people and the planet. 

When you buy a towel, you’re already taking action and making a difference.  We hope you take it a step further and each time you use the Anact towels you’re inspired to take simple acts to create impact too.


crowdfunding cta

If I polled an audience of startup fashion designers and asked them the number one business task they dread the most, I bet I could guess what most of them would say.

It’s not Google Analytics…

Or calculating costs… 

Or managing a budget…

(Although I’m sure those are high on the list.)

The number one thing that most fashion entrepreneurs resist is:

Blogging.

I’m not talking about blogging as in being a “fashion blogger” and sharing your #ootd and styled outfits.

I’m talking about blogging as a strategic marketing tactic to attract an audience and create potential customers for your brand. 

In other words, blogging as a means to sell your products.

I’ve done a lot of research on this and all of the experts agree,

Blogging is not going anywhere.

It is still an incredibly powerful tool to grow your brand presence, drive traffic to your landing page or online store and convert website visitors into paying customers.

If you’re not leveraging it for your business, then you’re doing yourself a disservice and that’s what I want to help you with today.

So, what in the world are you supposed to write about?

Let me first say that a blog post does not have to be written. 

There are multiple mediums for blogging today, including audio and video, so if you don’t consider yourself a “good writer” you’re not off the hook!

The content you produce depends on which stage of business you’re in. For our purposes, I’m going to apply this to those of you who don’t have anything to sell yet.

Because yes, you should be marketing and building an audience before you have anything to sell. (But you already knew that, right?)

When brainstorming content ideas, the “winning topics” should fall under one of two categories:

  1. A personal post about you, your story, why you’re starting your brand and a behind the scenes look at building your business. It should be written in a way that connects with your ideal target customer (i.e. reader).
  2. An educational, entertaining or inspirational post that provides valuable content for your ideal target customer (i.e. reader).

That’s it — one of those two things.

The goal is for every blog post to either 1.) connect or 2.) provide value — in an ideal world, it does both.

Now, here’s the key to blogging:

Consistency.

Once a week, on the same day, you want to publish a new blog post and send it out to your email list and social media following.

The easiest way to make sure you’re consistent in this is to brainstorm content ideas in advance and to devise a system.

You can stay organized by creating an editorial calendar and a workflow spreadsheet.

The editorial calendar ensures that you have blog post topics lined up weeks in advance.

The workflow spreadsheet ensures that you know exactly what you need to do to optimize your new blog post every week.

If you’re still reading, then you’ve earned this… 

You can access my Editorial Calendar template here and my Workflow Spreadsheet here.

Simply copy and paste the contents and put them into your own Google Drive spreadsheet.

Finally, and most importantly, how does blogging work to create customers?

By getting readers to sign up to your email list.

This is the number one goal for every piece of marketing content you create when you don’t have products to sell yet.

By growing your email list, you’re ensuring that when you do have something to sell you’ll have an audience to sell it to.

So, will you publish a blog post next week?

 


sustainable fashion advice

“Oh, man. I was going about this all wrong…” she said to me, looking like the ‘face palm’ emoji.

“No wonder no one was emailing me back.”

This is an all-too-common feeling for new designers who are just starting out in the overwhelming world of fabric sourcing.

You know that whatever you’re doing isn’t working, but you don’t exactly know why.

Maybe your inquiry email is unclear. 

Maybe you’re not asking for the right thing… in the right way.

Maybe the supplier simply overlooked your email.

Whatever the reason, I do know this:

The vast majority of new designers are making four very common fabric sourcing mistakes.

And in this week’s video, I’m going to tell you what they are so you can avoid them.

If you’re not making the progress you need to source fabric and materials for your fashion brand, then I hope this video will help you on your search.

In the comments below the video, let me know which of the four mistakes you might be making and we can talk it through more.

To your success,

 


If you’re a designer or fashion startup searching for fabric, then you’ve likely heard of TexWorld USA

TexWorld is one of the leading fabric trade shows and every July it comes to New York City for three days of supplier exhibition, education and networking.

If you live in the Greater New York or New England areas, I highly recommend attending. 

While the show is a bit overwhelming, and the supplier MOQs can be high, there is no better way to see thousands of fabrics at your fingertips.

It’s also an opportunity to hear from leading industry experts on a wide variety of topics — at no cost to you.

That’s right, attendance to the trade show is absolutely free.

If you can join us, here are some of the events you won’t want to miss:

MONDAY, 7/22

Fashionsustain

The entire first day of the show is dedicated to the future of sustainability in the fashion industry.


TUESDAY, 7/23 @ 11:30am

From Launch to Growth: How to Gain Traction and Surpass Goals in Your Fashion Business

Hosted by Nicole Giordano of StartUp Fashion, this “Textile Talk” on the showroom floor will discuss how to grow beyond launch by creating brand personality, building customer relationships, and overcoming obstacles to better market your business and reach your goals.

@ 2:30pm

Starting a Sustainable Fashion Brand from Scratch: A Conversation with Factory45

Join me for a chat with two brands that have launched through Factory45. Mary Bemis, founder of Reprise Activewear, and Tiffany Shown, founder of Fair Seas Supply Co., will share how they launched their brands without investors or thousands of dollars sitting in the bank.

texworld

WEDNESDAY, 7/24 @ 11:30am

Upcycling: Exploring Options in Today’s Landscape and How Brands and Individuals Can Make a Difference

This panel boasts some of the leading names in the circular economy of fashion, including Nicole Bassett of the Renewal Workshop and Rachel Kibbe of Helpsy. This is a chance to hear about different aspects of upcycling and what options and opportunities are available to both brands & individuals to be better stewards of reducing our environmental impact.


The full schedule for the educational program is here.

And if you’re wondering if the show is worth attending or how to navigate the time you spend with exhibitors, I wrote a guide to fabric sourcing at a trade show here.

Hope to see you on July 23rd!


When I launched the Factory45 accelerator program in 2014 I couldn’t have dreamed that we would eventually create an online marketplace, selling some of the brands that have launched through the program.

In creating Market45, an ethical fashion marketplace, my goal is to showcase the small, independent brands that are moving the fashion industry forward in a more conscious way.

The Market45 SS19 Lookbook is a way to celebrate that.

Each page showcases nine brands that have graduated from Factory45 and are selling on Market45. Their collective goal is to lessen their environmental impact, educate shoppers and provide better clothing choices to consumers.

As you flip through the pages, I invite you to get to know the products as well as the female founders behind them.

If you see something you know you’ll wear for years to come, you can find everything on Market45.co and get 10 percent off your purchase.

So, without further ado, click on the cover page below to meet the brands of the Market45 Spring/Summer Lookbook!LOOKBOOK


Market45

Will a Kickstarter campaign work for your fashion brand?

This is one of the most common questions holding people back from using crowdfunding to launch their brand.

Whether you have one signature product or a full 10-piece collection, today I’m going to show you that it’s absolutely possible to raise money for your brand no matter how many products you have.

With the help of crowdfunding, these four Factory45’ers successfully launched their brands through Kickstarter:

kickstarter

1 PRODUCT

The World’s Most Comfortable Blazer by Trace Fashion

Founder Kristin Salat launched her Kickstarter campaign based on one signature piece, the Kimono Blazer. Similarly to how I launched the Versalette in 2011, this approach lives and breathes one product that’s presented in a variety of colors.

If you look at the rewards column of Kristin’s campaign, you’ll see that she was able to create multiple rewards even though she was only selling one piece.

She raised $32,949 in pre-orders to fund the first production run of Trace Fashion.

kickstarter

2 PRODUCTS

The First Leggings Inspired to Dress Up or Dress Down by Parallel Connection

Mother-daughter co-founders Allie and Carol Levy took it a step further by creating a Kickstarter around two products. They designed two styles of leggings that were only slightly different from each other — a classic legging and a slim pant legging.

By offering two different styles, they were able to appeal to a wider audience of women including those who wouldn’t typically buy leggings. Additionally, Carol and Allie made a conscious decision to offer a larger than normal size range from XXS to XXL, as well as multiple prints.

They raised $19,518 in pre-orders to fund the first production run of Parallel Connection.

kickstarter

6 PRODUCTS

The Ethical Women’s Capsule that Redefines Loungewear by Nine56 Studio

The capsule collection is the most popular approach I’ve seen from the entrepreneurs I work with. Whereas the two campaigns above offered multiple colorways, founder Meg Rohs launched her capsule collection with only two colors — black and white.

Because of fabric minimums, some brands choose to limit the color options so that they can offer more products and styles.

Meg raised $15,510 in pre-orders to fund the first production run of Nine56 Studio.

kickstarter

10 PRODUCTS

Naturally Dyed & Size Inclusive Lingerie by Unity Outfitters

And then there’s the 10+ product approach that is the least popular campaign choice, but definitely still possible. Founder Katina Gad is a trained seamstress so she was able to create all of her samples and patterns without outsourcing and paying the upfront cost.

She pre-sold a range of products, styles and colorways, while also offering a size-inclusive range for all body types. Because naturally-dyed lingerie is more niche, it was important that Katina expand her offering to reach as many women as possible.

She raised $8,626 in pre-orders to fund the first production run of Unity Outfitters.


So there you have it, crowdfunding can work for one signature piece and it can also work for a full collection.

Although I only shared examples of womenswear brands, it’s important to note that there are plenty of men and childrenswear brands that successfully launched on Kickstarter.

If you’re ready to raise money for your fashion brand, enrollment my self-study course The Crowdfunding Factory is now open here.

This is the course that teaches you the complete strategy to create a fully-funded Kickstarter campaign.

If you’re considering joining Factory45 next May but don’t want to wait to get started, this self-study course is a great way to get ahead.

It’s open for one week only.

Click here to enroll.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


crowdfunding cta

What do you get when you pair two style-obsessed women with a shared passion for sustainability?

You get a womenswear brand with bold colors, custom-designed prints and fashion-forward silhouettes.

Meet Left Edit, essentials that make an impression.

You may recognize Kestrel Jenkins as a longtime sustainable fashion advocate and the voice behind the Conscious Chatter podcast.

Teaming up with Holly Stavnes, formerly the founder of accessories brand Hera By Day, the duo has created a responsibly-manufactured and sustainably-sourced fashion brand for women.

At the end of last year, Holly and Kestrel successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign to pre-sell their first collection of five dresses.

In 30 days, they raised over $20,000 to fund their first production run.

Left Edit 1

The five dresses were designed, prototyped and tested to ensure ease of movement, versatility, longevity, quality and community — putting responsible manufacturing at the forefront.

The fabrics are lower-impact than conventional fabrics, including Tencel linen, 100% Tencel and Cupro, and they boast bold colors and bright prints in an industry that’s already thriving in the basics and neutrals department.

Over two years ago, I met Kestrel and Holly for drinks in San Diego where they first presented the idea of Left Edit to me.

Shortly after, they joined the Factory45 program and spent over a year establishing a brand presence on Instagram, growing a following, designing and redesigning their first collection, sourcing fabric, meeting with factories, and more.

Leading up to their Kickstarter campaign, Holly and Kestrel seamlessly “teased out” the brand reveal so that by the time they launched, there was an eager fan-base of customers waiting to pre-order.

As they gear up to ship their first batch of garments this spring, the five debut dresses are still available for pre-sale on the Left Edit website here. (I pre-ordered The Eve : )  

You can also follow along and connect with Left Edit on Instagram: @leftedit

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Market45

For the past three nights, I haven’t been able to fall asleep.

(Sleeping is one of my best talents, so this is highly unusual.)

And as I’m laying there, I end up doing the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to be doing when you can’t fall asleep:

I start scrolling through Instagram.

(I know, I know… I’m only human!)

But last night, as I was scrolling, I started to pay attention to which captions I clicked to read.

And I realized something…

There is one very crucial skill that I see many new fashion brands lacking.

And that’s the ability to write compelling sales copy.

If you’re not familiar with the term “copy” it refers to any text you write to represent your brand.

In other words, your emails to your list, subject lines, blog titles, any “call to action,” Instagram captions, blog posts, the “About” page of your website, the product descriptions on your shop pages, your social media bios, etc.

To be honest, if you asked me why some fashion brands are successful and others aren’t, I would boil it down to two main marketing components:

#1 Great product photography

#2 Great sales copy

And it’s #2 that I want to talk about today, because I think this skill is detrimentally overlooked by startup fashion brands.

To be able to sell *anything* online, you need to be a strong writer.

Before you throw your hands up in the air and tell me, “It’s just something you’ve never been good at!” hear me out:

I’m not talking about the type of writing you learned in high school English class.

The writing skills that are required for the internet are far more attainable than learning how to construct a 42-page essay analyzing Jane Eyre.

(Bleh, aren’t you glad those days are over?)

To write compelling sales copy, it simply requires you to write how you talk.

Back in high school, Mrs. Sullivan would have called this “the vernacular.”

That’s where I want you to start.

I want you to write in a way that’s conversational.

And as with anything you practice over and over, you’re going to get incrementally better at it.

Even if you think you “can’t write.”

But here’s what I would not recommend:

Hiring someone to write your copy for you.

(Unless you have endless amounts of money that you can pay this person for as long as your brand exists… and who really has that?)

Copywriting is a “teach a woman to fish” type of situation.

You really and truly do not want to rely on someone else to be the voice of your brand when you’re just starting out.

Sure, if you reach $1M in revenue, then go ahead and hire a marketing team — but in the beginning, your brand is relying on you to hone your chops at writing.

There are courses out there to teach you how to improve (CopyHour is run by my friend Derek and Marie Forleo has a program called The Copy Cure.)

There is also plenty of free content if you google, “How to become a better copywriter.”

But the bottom line is this:

You need to be able to effectively communicate what your brand has to offer.

That requires you to be clear, genuine, persuasive and most of all, compelling.

Because if you aren’t, then you’re going to train your followers (i.e. potential customers!) that your words aren’t worth reading.

And if your words aren’t worth reading, then how will they know that your products are worth wearing?

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


This is the final part of a six-month photography series, featuring sustainable fashion products on Instagram. You can see July’s products here, August’s products here, September’s products here, October’s products here and November’s products here.

December has come and gone… but with the holiday break, I didn’t get a chance to share the sixth (and final!) part of my Instagram project with Boston photographer Joyelle West.

All of the brands below are past Factory45’ers. Two of them are available to shop on Market45 now and one of them is coming to the site next month!

This has been such a fun project to take on for the past six months. It ended up being an awesome way to promote Market45 brands and a great way to push me out of my comfort zone : )

I’m currently working on some different content for Instagram (that won’t involve me in front of the camera!) and I’m very excited to share it with you in the coming months. If you’re not already following Factory45 on Instagram you can do so here.

Now, keep reading for December’s featured sustainable fashion products:

NOVEL SUPPLY CO. | CABIN CREW

Founded by Factory45’er Kaya Dorey, Novel Supply Co. is a lifestyle brand for the urban adventurer. Designed with the West Coast lifestyle in mind, the collection of crewneck sweatshirts, muscle tanks and t-shirts are ethically made in Canada from hemp and organic cotton.

The Cabin Crew (pictured above) is made of the coziest hemp fleece and printed with non-toxic dyes. I’ve been living in it all winter and it’s as warm as it looks.

You can shop the Cabin Crew and other apparel for the urban adventurer here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase


HARLY JAE | FLORES BLOUSE

Harly Jae is another Canadian brand that was created in Vancouver, B.C. Factory45’er Laïla Bédard-Potvin designs feminine and vintage-inspired garments that aim to be simple without being basic.

Inspired by her father who passed away when Laïla was 11, Harly Jae has set out to shake up the fashion industry and create its own path.

You can shop other feminine and vintage-inspired designs from Harly Jae here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


REPRISE | LACE-UP LEGGINGS

Founded by Factory45’er Mary Bemis, Reprise is a line of plant-based activewear that’s addressing the widespread use of synthetics in workout clothing.

Every time you wash synthetic fabrics, typically used for activewear, it sheds thousands of microplastics into the water, eventually ending up in the ocean.

Reprise uses fabric made out of eucalyptus trees, eliminating the micro-plastics problem and giving you a much “cleaner” workout.

You can shop the lace-up leggings and other plant-based activewear here (and you’ll find Reprise on Market45 soon!)


To see the rest of December’s featured products (like Vesta and Mamachic), come on over to Instagram by clicking here.

And don’t forget, you can now shop other sustainable and ethical fashion brands on Market45 here!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

 

 

P.S. When you use the discount code MARKET45 I receive a 5% referral commission. I only promote products and brands that I personally wear and believe in.


Market45