Garment Production, The Heart & Soul of the Business
So what does the world of fashion production involve? We're talking the garment costing side of the business and not fashion show production. These are two different job descriptions.
A job in production is what I call the nuts and bolts of the business. It's a position where you're intimately involved in the most crucial aspects of making sure that margin goals are met and sales and fit samples are approved in time to meet production delivery times.
I'm writing from first hand experience. I started my career in fashion design and then switched to the production side of the business because I find that it's more gratifying. I love working with numbers and keeping an eye on production lead times to make sure that delivery is kept.
This type of job is very interactive within internal departments and with the domestic or overseas coordinator that's handling the production. Yes! I mentioned domestic production. You might be surprised that production on a small scale is being done right here in the USA---New York, California, North Carolina to name a few. There are a few well known designers that incorporate domestic production along with overseas production.
To give you an idea of the duties involved in this position, let's start from the beginning of a season. The design team at your company have just finished confirming their styles for spring/summer and they're now making the styles "real" by creating style numbers. The Pre-Production Coordinator will assist the design team by entering the bill of materials which includes fabric, trim and garment color names. This data is normally entered into a WebPDM type of computer system. Although, the computer system that is used depends on the company that you work for. The Pre-Production coordinator will also assist with allocating styles to different manufacturers based on which manufacturer is the best in achieving certain trim applications, best known for producing quality knits or wovens or special garment washing techniques for example.
Once the sketch and bill of materials are entered in the computer, the Pre-Production Coordinator can create a PDF file of the bill of materials which includes the sketch and email this to the coordinator at the manufacturing company. This will give the coordinator at the manufacturing company a heads up of what styles to expect even before the technical specs are completed for the style.
The production team then sends out target costs to the coordinator at the manufacturer's office. This cost is based on the fashion company's profit goal. Once the complete specs and bill of materials are at the manufacturer's office the follow up game starts! The Production Associate then requests an initial cost break down of each garment and a first proto sample delivery date.
Once the first sample arrives and initial costing is in. The styles get reviewed by the entire team in a meeting (design, production, sales, creative director) to make sure that all is on the right track. This is where revisions are made to the style. If necessary a second proto is requested to achieve the desired look before going into sales samples.
The Production Coordinator will negotiate costing and request a time and action plan from the manufacturer. Once sales samples are approved, the Production Coordinator requests fit samples and will monitor the fit process to make sure that fit samples are approved on time to meet production delivery to the fashion company's distribution center.
Final costing is then confirmed along with the delivery schedule. Lab dips and bulk have to be approved as well along with packaging and hang tags. This process is very fascinating and complex. It's super high energy and one has to be amazingly organized. One has to be able to resolve production issues that can come up. Each season will present different challenges. It's a job where you have to be creative in terms of resolving issues and make sure that all aspects of approvals are kept. It's wise to also keep up to date on manufacturing news and trends.
This is just a snapshot of the role of a Production Associate in general. The role of this position varies based on the company that one works for. In general, this position has to communicate well with all internal teams that I listed above and with the manufacturer. Communication is done thru meetings, emails and phone conversations. The computer programs used are WebPDM and definitely Excel for garment and lab dip tracking purposes. Also some companies use a PLM (product, lifestyle, management) web based system. This all varies company to company.
So, if you're interested in jobs in production, some job titles includes:
Production Assistant or Coordinator
Sourcing Manager and Director
It's a wonderful path to venture if you'd like to be in the nitty gritty of the business and want the responsibility of making sure that the company's profit goal is achieved while also making sure that garment execution and quality is maintained.
Whew! It's a huge responsibility but, somebody has to do it. Oh! and depending on the company that you work for, you may get to travel to the manufacturing facility or go on sourcing trips!
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