Geoff Krasnov offers apparel/clothing/garment manufacturing and sourcing news.

Monday, February 13, 2006

American Apparel Producers Network - An Untapped Resource

Most visitors to our website are potential customers. Perhaps 20% are vendors looking to establish business relations. An even smaller percentage are competitors, who want to "check us out" Each and every visitor, no matter which catagory you fall in, has something to gain by becoming familiar with, and joining the AAPN ( I won't bore you with the evolution of this network, but suffice it to say that it was, at one time, a trade association, restricted to like minded manufacturers. Trade associations used to have a signifigant impact on the inter-relationships between competitors and parts of their supply chain. Once or twice a year they would gather, usually at posh resorts, and swap war stories. They would host educational seminars, that were more promotional talks by select vendors, than they were interactively educational. They would have social hours, golf outings, and tours. The big wigs would hobnob, keeping any "real" information about their business or issues under tight wraps, seeking to eek out a tidbit of something usefull some well lubricated exec might slip out. I know, I attended many, and I have fabulous memories of playing rounds at Grand Cyprus, getting VIP tours of Universal Studios and playing poker on free liquor and shrimp cocktails to odd hours of the morning. I'd return back to my corporate job and write a three page "trip report" about all the things I had learned, which I would glean off the promotional material handouts.

There are still trade associations. They still play their part, albeit to a much smaller crowd. The AAPN is NOT a trade association. It is a network representing the entire spectrum of the apparel and textile supply chain. From cotton growers to synthetic fiber producers to yarn spinners to knitters, dyers, finishers to software to elastics and buttons to retailers and sourcing executives. When the AAPN has a meeting, it is a networking meeting. For the first several hours each attending member stands up and introduces his company and what they do. I have been a member for 8 years, and I have heard the same people get up each year. Interestingly though, I can't remember anyone saying the same thing twice. That is because they have had one more year to make the change. What change? The change we all have to make each and every year to not only survive but to persue the objective we all share, being profitable.

You might ask how anyone, and how any company, can manage perpetual change. You may have heard the saying that the only true constant is change. The answer is simpler than you might imagine. Change is managed by understanding our past, knowing our present and seeking our future. I can't speak for you, but I don't have the mental capacity to fully understand the dynamics at work within every facet from fiber to the retail shelf. There are no books telling me how to successfully transition from a contractor to a vertically integrated provider. I can be clueless about issues that face retail buyers or sourcing managers. Ideally, I need a community of knowledgeable people representing all aspects of our trade available to me. I need to know them on a first name basis, so when I need an answer I can call and they'll receive me warmly and make every effort to help me. I even need to know my competitors on the same basis, as there are times I cannot service a customer yet want to refer them.

The AAPN provides the only true open knowledge incubation format in the industry. When we meet we are open with the issues we face, the solutions we have considered, the hurdles we have yet to overcome and the resources we are applying. We share with each other proactively, in an empoweing way, in a way that makes three page trip reports roll off our minds without second thoughts.

Avail your self of the website, the easy to use search engine, and the informative blogs and articles. Better yet, attend our fall meeting. You'll never feel alone in this industry again.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Importing Custom Apparel - Who Needs the "Middle Man?"

We are often asked to explain our role in the import custom apparel food chain. Many prospective customers will ask us why they should use our services when they can go direct, after all, they met a fellow at a trade fair who said he could make their item at 25% less than our quotation. A synopsis of our routine answers follow.

1. Importing apparel from an overseas factory you have no experience with is a roll of the dice. All overseas producers require a deposit in full in advance of producing. You have no form of oversight, aside from factory management. If they do not ship, or ship defective product, you have no legal recourse for resolution. You must rely on what they tell you and on their approval systems. You have little to no influence and must handle all communications directly.

2. Going direct also means you are responsible for all logistics. You can hire a broker on both sides to handle this, but must co-ordinate and deal with issues as they arise.

3. To communicate on issues of a technical nature (color, fabrication, construction, etc) you must be knowledgeable of fabric and garment construction. Issues like light fastness, fabric shrinkage, labeling compliance, etc. will likely come up and have to be addressed.

4. Never forget the mantra that if it seems to be too good to be true it probably is. The fellows at the international trade fairs have a mission to bring in prospects. I've never heard one say no to anything.

Utilizing our services does not mean you are hiring a "middle man". You are working with a USA based company to facilitate the importation of specifically designed and constructed apparel. We insure the spec pacs are complete and instructive. We handle all communications, sampling processes, oversight and logistics. Most importantly, we GUARANTEE the products will conform within commercial standards, and as a USA based company you have recourse to resolve issues that may arise. We are able to do so, with confidence, due to our combined experience of over 30 years working with specific overseas vendors. In this business, a track record is tremendously meaningfull.

If you were to handle the importation of apparel yourself, your time would have a monetary value and you would have expenses for communications. The small percentage we earn for our services is likely no greater than the expenditures you would incur / combined with the risk you would take. Whether your need is for custom apparel, private label clothing or custom garment production Style Source is the solution.