Launching a new clothing brand is a risky and daunting task. It entails transforming designs into products that will succeed with customers and turn a profit. Several fashion brands fail early in their run. According to Statistic Brain, 47 percent of startup fashion brands fail in the first 4 years. Brand owners struggle with budgeting, executing on their ideas, and adding value to the fashion’s industry’s highly competitive market. That’s why we recommend small batch garment production. This method of fashion manufacturing resolves many of the issues that new apparel brands sometimes experience, particularly with risk and quality control.
What Is Small Batch Garment Manufacturing?
Small run garment manufacturing can range from production runs of expert artisan handmade items to those produced by smaller manufacturers working in a microfactory. Ultimately, small batch manufacturing in the fashion industry means a small scale production run of 50 to 500 units per run – some companies even go as low as 30. What determines whether or not fashion designers and brand owners can request smaller production runs for their collections is whether or not their chosen factory will allow for a low MOQ or minimum order quantity. The minimum order quantity is the fewest number of units that a business (in this case, the garment factory) will sell to a customer (in this case, the fashion brand) at a time.
Manufacturing on a small scale like this offers at least four big benefits that traditional large scale processes can’t provide.
1. Decreased Risk
Investing in a fashion business is capital-intensive. While it varies, for medium to large sized businesses, designer-owners will need to have on hand at least a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.
However, small batch production can be a more affordable approach. Even though businesses will almost always pay more per unit, small batch production is a more budget friendly option for fashion startups as they pay less overall for a smaller inventory along with no or limited warehouse costs. Plus, any failed outcomes because of oversight in quality or trend forecasting becomes less catastrophic when dealing with 100 items versus 10,000, and hence, less of a waste of money when any faulty or unsellable clothing needs to be disposed of.
Fortunately, quality issues are less likely to occur because of the next perk of small batch…
2. Greater Quality Control
The combination of more agile production plus less inventory allows manufacturers to alter issues quickly to prevent further errors on more units. These factors also prevent more production issues down the road.
Moreover, garments that require a great degree of technical skill are often more difficult to mass produce at a good margin. Therefore, it is easier for artisans to produce excellent work on fewer items, making small batch producers a better fit for brands planning to sell technically challenging, intricate, or unique designs.
With strong quality control in addition to a great QMS or Quality Management System, brands can end up with a well crafted end product that will build trust with customers.
3. Allow for Market Testing
Fashion is a heavily concentrated market. For example, dozens of variations of a basic white t-shirt exist. Therefore, it is sometimes riskier to go too safe on designs, and small production runs assist in testing the waters, especially with more innovative styles.
A small batch often softens the risk, particularly for newer fashion entrepreneurs with niche customer markets, because if it’s not a hit, it results in less leftover stock. On the other hand, if the product design succeeds, then the brand can continue with that product in a larger or even mass production run after the fact.
4. Fashion Sustainability
The fashion industry is notorious for its impact on the planet. Studies find that manufacturers throw away 13 million tons of textile each year.
Much of the waste comes from overproduced stock and situations in which unsold clothing stock is burned or thrown away. However, small runs combat this because they avoid extreme overproduction in principle.
The greater control enabled by small batch production also means that it is easier to implement more sustainable sourcing policies for the brand, such as recycling fabric scraps or producing garments with more difficult to acquire sustainable fabrics. This can put the brand in a positive position as sustainable business practices have become a rising value among customers. In fact, according to Statistica, “As of 2020, 45 percent of consumers surveyed stated that they were interested in finding brands that were sustainable or environmentally responsible. Likewise, 44 percent of consumers stated that they were interested in brands that supported recycling.”
Small Batch Garment Production Is Fashion Entrepreneurs’ Big Opportunity
Small batch production is not only a way to more confidently enter the fashion world, it is a badge of honor for already established brands that have used this model for years. It shows customers that brands give special attention to their production and gives those designers something greater to offer than the typical mass produced items. While starting a new business is an intimidating venture, small run production and inventory models help with goal-focused fashion entrepreneurs take valuable steps forward.