Established fashion designers recognize the importance of delivering high quality products to their consumers. That’s important because now more than ever, consumers increasingly demand high quality fashion products. A recent study conducted by Feefo revealed that 28 percent of consumers value product quality over customer service. Although this doesn’t mean fashion brands should turn a blind eye to subpar customer service, it does highlight the importance of product quality and product quality systems. In the long term, product quality significantly affects a fashion brand’s profits, and studies show a strong connection between the quality of products and higher ROIs. Because of the drastic impacts quality control has on ROI, fashion brands should take every possible measure to ensure their fashion products meet consumers’ standards. Here are two strategies to boost your fashion brand’s quality control and, ultimately, increase your brand’s ROI.
Quality Control Tip #1: Delegate Quality Control Checks to a Trusted Manufacturers’ Broker
Simply put, it’s worth the trouble to find a new manufacturer if your current one isn’t up to the challenge of innovating the problem-solving necessary to ensure production success. Given the fashion industry’s constant shifts and periods of instability, the right manufacturing partnership can protect fashion brands from emerging quality control issues that could even endanger established brands. Actually, a well-established fashion brand arguably runs a greater risk than newer players because production and quality issues could endanger its illustrious namesake. Therefore, every fashion brand—especially well-established ones—must ensure that they’ve strategically partnered with the right manufacturers. So, how can well-established brands ensure their manufacturers adhere to proper quality standards? The right solution could mean delegating to a manufacturers’ broker.
Manufacturers’ brokers act as intermediaries between designers and manufacturers. Brokers provide access to exclusive market information, entrance within a network of pre-vetted and renowned manufacturers, and direct solutions to manufacturing problems that might arise. Specifically regarding manufacturing quality assurance, brokers can conduct craftsmanship evaluations, which is more complicated than it sounds, as it requires extensive knowledge in fashion and design history. Brokers will use this extensive knowledge to verify truly high end luxury fashion production.
Accessing the best luxury manufacturers can be challenging because oftentimes the most highly regarded manufacturers stay small, so they don’t bother publishing their production information on a website. Instead of maintaining an up to date website (if they even have one), manufacturers will devote their labor to their artisanal craft. In the case of Italy, for example, the highest-quality manufacturers have produced for generations, and only brokers with close ties to these family-owned manufacturers will know the ins and outs of the country’s exclusive manufacturing network. Thus, a manufacturers’ broker can effectively introduce designers to the highest-quality manufacturers and work with factories on behalf of designers to ensure proper quality standards.
Quality Control Tip #2: Consider Implementing a Re-Manufacturing Process
The re-manufacturing process can be defined as creating products made from fashion material composed of reclaimed fabrics from either the post-industrial waste process (which refers to waste material generated in the textile or apparel manufacturing process) or post-consumer waste process (which consists of discarded fashion materials by end consumers). Rather than source virgin materials, the re-manufacturing process disassembles used fashion products and puts them through a process of inspection, cleaning, and reworking of key parts, re-implementing them back into a manufacturing process to create a product of new quality.
The re-manufacturing process can improve product quality because it offers material reinforcement that helps promote longevity in fashion products. Re-manufacturing allows factories to source high-quality fashion materials that can (and should) be re-used and helps manufacturers avoid the financial burden of sourcing raw material goods for their production process, thereby benefiting their overall bottom line.
Research suggests that a successful re-manufacturing process involves a network, comprised of textile recycling firms that offer the following re-manufacturing processes:
- Collecting waste textiles
- Providing the latest technologies in pattern cutting/management software
- Sourcing local artisan entrepreneurs in destination markets for up-cycled or sustainable fashion
Further benefits of remanufacturing include an increased ROI. According to a study published by the Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, some customers are willing to spend more on fashion products that offer unique, limited-edition personal items— these special items could include fashion products produced through a re-manufacturing process. Granted, one challenge during the re-manufacturing process may include establishing the reverse logistics required to get the post-industrial or post-consumer waste (i.e., how to move post-industrial or post-consumer waste from point A to point B and reprocess such materials to make new fashion products). However, doing so could potentially optimize the overall manufacturing process, endear the brand to eco-conscious consumers, and allow the business to make full use of existing fashion technologies. Additionally, remanufacturing (unlike repairs) is an industrial process that the factory can assist with on oversight.
One example of a prominent re-manufacturing hub is Prato, Italy. As Tuscany’s second largest city (right after Florence), Prato produces nearly 12 million garments each year. The city also represents an astounding 3 percent of European textile production. Prato is particularly recognized for its wool-recycling system, which transforms post-industrial and post-consumer wool waste into (re)created fashion products. Because of Prato’s successful wool re-manufacturing process, prominent brands such as Zara, H&M, Banana Republic, and Armani have all partnered with Prato textile producers to include recycled fabrics into their collection.
The importance of the fashion re-manufacturing process continues to surge because it prolongs a product’s lifespan—maximizing all the resources, energy, and labor spent to produce it. Furthermore, the re-manufacturing process highlights the environmental benefits of a circular fashion economy: minimizing the soil contamination caused by sourcing raw, virgin materials and reducing the use of harmful chemicals used to dye and finish textiles. Currently, re-manufacturing textile hubs (e.g., Prato) only produce smaller volumes. However, by networking with textile waste collectors and other fashion innovators, brands may raise production volumes and lower costs, resulting ultimately in higher ROI.
The Future of Apparel Quality Assurance?
Given the fast-paced nature of the fashion industry, brands must continually seek ways to improve quality assurance. This includes increasing supply chain agility, testing and enhancing existing quality standards, and continually seeking opportunities to verify proper quality control.
Without evolving quality control system evaluations, even established fashion designers could fall behind on the best methods to secure high quality standards and customer loyalty. Fashion brands acknowledge the high stakes of quality standards and consequently seek quality assurance innovations that will protect their stability and growth. For example, Guess recently partnered with Qima to digitize its quality control program across its global supply chain. Qima, a quality control and supplier compliance platform, uses data to minimize disruption, increase visibility, and optimize best practices in quality control. Qima and Guess’s partnership exemplifies the innovative measures fashion brands are taking (and must continue to take) to secure growth and stability, even in times of rapid change. Certainly, the shrewdest fashion brands will pursue such quality assurance improvements, which will make all the difference as fashion brands enter a new phase of industry growth.