3 Challenges For A Fashion Brand Manufacturing Through Covid
Written By Vincent Decléty
Covid-19 has been, and still is, hard on communities around the world, and particularly so in India. For over a year now, fashion brands and manufacturers alike have had to adapt to the COVID crisis and the challenges that arose with it.
As a sustainable fashion factory based in South India, Knitwin Fashion had to adapt to the challenges of manufacturing through the pandemic. We worked hand in hand with our brand partners to make the most out of a bad situation.
Here are some of the challenges that arose for our brand partners and tips on how to address them.
Challenge #1 Working around lockdowns.
Orders slowed down in early 2020 as the whole world was under lockdown. Things are different this year. Most western countries, where orders mostly originate, are slowly returning to normal. But India isn’t.
Brands are returning to a more normal production schedule. They have deadlines; photoshoots to organize, clients to deliver, sales targets to meet and their own financial obligations.
Now is the time for you to truly communicate and test out the relationship you have built with your supplier!
We know very well that brands which we have worked with for years depend on us to deliver their samples and their productions. Switching to another factory last minute is sometimes just highly impractical or just not possible at all.
Adhering to a strict production calendar when your manufacturer doesn’t know if he will be allowed to remain open is just not possible. Keep that in mind when dealing with suppliers in country still being heavily hit with Covid. However, somehow, deadlines must be met, so you and your manufacturer need to get creative!
Tip: At Knitwin we discussed with all our brand partners, understood their imperatives and planned accordingly. I suggest you do the same. In doubt, ask for a meeting and re-iterate your deadlines for the next year. Ask about any conflicts your manufacturer may foresee.
A couple of strategies stood out from our discussions with our partners that proved particularly effective:
– Some of our partners could accept a month of delay which opened production capacity to accommodate others. Let your manufacturer know if you can accept a late delivery. It might help them now and they’ll be happy to return the favor when you need it.
– At Knitwin we reorganized our teams. Slowed down some production lines but sped up our samples’ turnaround time. If samples are an issue for you, ask your manufacturer if they could priorities your samples over your production.
Because the situation is ever changing along with the rise and fall of covid cases, it is imperative for you to be in constant communication with your manufacturer. This did allow to find solutions and avoid letting down brands who were counting on us.
Tip: Make sure to ask to be updated whenever realities on the ground that may impact your schedule changes.
Challenge #2 Unstable prices and quotes.
As of writing of this article, organic cotton fiber by the kilo in India is 50% more expensive than it was in November 2020. This impact prices of yarn, fabrics and of course garments.
This rise in prices is due to a scarcity of the fiber. This scarcity affects not only organic cotton but most of all fibers! We’ve seen prices rise in recycled polyester, Lenzing fibers, silk etc…
Tip: Prices fluctuate heavily month after month. If you are in the process of sampling or intend to start, make sure you ask your manufacturer how long his quotes are valid for.
If you’re sampling now for an order that needs to be placed in September, be prepared for the need to re-issue a quote on your styles. Your manufacturer will have to adapt to market prices.
Logistic prices have also gone up since the crisis started. Brands absolutely need to take this into account while calculating their pricing.
Tip: Make sure you reach out to your logistics agent and ask them for an updated quotes for future shipments before placing an order with your manufacturer.
Challenge #3 Communicating with your audience the realities of your supply chain.
The current COVID crisis in India is heartbreaking to say the least. It might be worrisome for your clients that know you produce with partners in India.
Now more than ever might be the opportunity to tell the story of the people behind your clothes. Your following need to know you are engaged in the health of the people working for you.
They will probably feel good too to hear about how people organize and fight back against the disease. Everyone can use some positive news, especially now.
Tip: Ask your manufacturer how they adapted to the covid crisis and share their story to your audience.
Here’s some of what changed for us, and most likely for your manufacturer as well:
1 – Implementation of standard COVID regulations; check temperatures on every entry/exit, provide masks and gel, add additional distance between machines and reduce our personnel.
2 – Organized a small kitchen within the factory to ensure basic snacks and tea/coffee could be available to our team, thus removing the need to risk going to crowded street tea stalls.
3 – Arranged appointments and access to doctors and pharmacy for our staff members. As of the writing of this article, we are in talks with several hospitals around our factory to organize a vaccination drive for our team members and their immediate families.
4 – With the lockdowns, public transportation reduced or stopped entirely. Roads got blocked. People found themselves cut off from their homes and families. We dropped our people back to their homes, made sure everyone was reunited with their loved ones through lockdowns.
These are just some examples. In case you have any doubts as to how your manufacturer adapted to Covid, ask them. They will likely be happy to let you know the measures they took.
The covid crisis has proven incredibly challenging for both brands and manufacturers. Now more than ever there needs to be open discussions, understanding and regular communications between both. Now is the time to improve on your relationship with your manufacturers and build an even stronger partnership. If you can make it through covid, changes are the relationship is meant to last!