The world of clothing and fashion accessories is changing with its customers. Big brands and giant labels no longer dictate the industry. The new kids on the block are emerging direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands. Warby Parker (sunglasses) or Daniel Wellington (watches) are prime best practices in how they disrupted the industry. Whether you’re looking to launch the next big thing or a curated collection of products that fit your brand, starting your next project with a private label or contract manufacturing partner instead of producing your products yourself might be the right choice for you.
If this is your first time producing your own products, you’re probably wondering where to start. Generally, it’s important to answer the following questions first. What kind of products do you want to make first? For newly established D2C brands or if you are a retailer and want to sell your own products, it is common to start with a specific product with only simple variations. This limits complexity, which is important in the beginning.
Let’s say your vision is to have a full-fledged accessories brand, then you should not produce watches, sunglasses and backpacks at the very beginning. For example, the German brand “Kapten & Son” started with just one watch model before scaling their product line to multiple models, sunglasses, backpacks and even suitcases.
Do you design the products yourself or in collaboration with the manufacturer? The good thing about private labeling is that you don’t have to be a fashion designer, nor do you have to hire one to have your products made to your specifications. Private label manufacturers usually have existing models that you can modify to fit your needs entirely. On the other hand, if you have your own product design, this can be a great advantage as it is customized to your needs. The disadvantage – on the other hand – could be that the minimum order quantities for your own designs are much higher. Also, it is very important to have a good communication with the manufacturer so that both of you can be sure that the product is made the way you want it to be. Who will be the best private label or contract manufacturing partner for your project?
After you are clear on what type of product you want to make, you need to figure out how much volume is needed. Once you’ve gathered this information, it’s time to decide which manufacturer is best for your project. There are many different factors that go into choosing a private label or contract manufacturing partner, such as regional proximity, minimum order quantities, quality of production, but also what parts of the process – besides manufacturing – the producer can also handle. For example, it can be advantageous if a producer also takes care of the legal parts, packaging, etc. You will get the best deals if you search for private label producers not only in your home country, but also in other countries. This way you can find a manufacturer that is willing to produce your products at a reasonable price and still have the quality standards that are important to you. How do you find the best private label manufacturer for your direct-to-consumer business?
Obviously, that’s a very difficult question to answer. Because there are so many manufacturers out there and it’s a very tedious process to write RFQs, communicate with producers and get the project started.
If you are looking for a cheap solution, then Alibaba is probably a good choice for you. Surely you can get lucky with it and find a good producer there. If you want to have your products made in Europe in a fair way, you have to go the hard way and search via Google, go to trade shows or work with agents.