When choosing to work with a workshop for your brand, what are the most important criteria?
All of these are obviously crucial factors. So crucial, in fact, that we sometimes forget a fundamental criterion…
The quality of your relationship with your workshop.
To understand how important this is, let’s use our imagination for a bit, and put ourselves in the shoes of a textile professional. This professional, let’s call him… Jacques, why not?
The Mishaps of Jacques, the Product Manager
Jacques is a product manager for a French high-end women’s ready-to-wear brand, DOVA PARIS. He has only been there for a few weeks and is replacing the former Product Director, who was recently poached by a renowned luxury fashion house.
A Challenge to Overcome
As soon as he arrived, the directives for the coming year were very clear: DOVA PARIS must get ahead of the trends in its designs, especially when it comes to the choice of original fabrics. Despite a resounding success in recent years, recent sales trends show that their customers will soon own all of the brand’s basics… In fact, even the most singular pieces, such as their iconic zippered jacket with a tailor-inspired cut (the “t-AILLEURS” model), are losing momentum.
In short, they need to renew themselves, and they must do so quickly.
Without hesitation, Jacques takes charge of things. He realizes this jacket is a safe bet, so why not adapt it with stronger or more seasonal materials? He has no time to waste: his predecessor’s sudden departure has disrupted the organization a bit. To the point that the brand hasn’t maintained its usual lead on its collection calendar.
Which means he only has a month and a half left to launch a prototype and validate it, or the “t-AILLEURS” adaption will not be released in time. Jacques thus sets out to find the contacts of their different workshops.
“Hello… is anyone there?””
Unfortunately, all he was given is a spreadsheet on which the workshops, their specialties, and the privileged contact for each, are indicated on a single line. He tries to call the workshop usually in charge of this jacket… and ends on the voicemail of a a textile representative. it seems he’s an independent contractor for several workshops.
Jacques then tries to send an email. No response.
Never mind: Jacques focuses his efforts on material sourcing. He has a great idea: he will adapt this smooth-fabric jacket into a new variation, with a fluffy “feathery-effect” fabric for winter, and brighter colors. That perfectly fits the brief he was given on arrival!
Ten days pass.
In the meantime, Jacques found the right fabric from a Japanese supplier. To be fair, the price per meter is a bit too expensive and the care instructions leave rather puzzled (No machine wash, no hand wash, no dry cleaning… No nothing. “Arigato Jacques-San!”)
But never mind: the fabric is visually fabulous! He’ll just have to take that risk!
“It’s about time!””
Good news: On the eleventh day, the representative returns from his vacation and replies to his email:
“ Hello Jacques, nice to meet you. Congratulations on your new position at DOVA PARIS. With pleasure for the “t-AILLEURS” jacket decline, send me the specifications, I will ask the workshop to launch the prototype right away.”.
The deadlines are tight, but Jacques thinks they can make it. He checks the measurements once again, places an order with the fabric supplier, and crosses his fingers.
It’s a disaster!
When the prototype arrives, it’s a complete mess. Every single measurement is much smaller than it should be : presumably, the workshop respected the cutting measurements… But kept the industrial washing they usually apply to the smoother fabric of the “t-AILLEURS”. Which completely shrunk the delicate and unstable Japanese fabric.
And that’s not the worst of it: the splendid Riri Swiss zipper, the luxurious detail used as the signature of the garment, constantly gets jammed and even gradually tears away the jacket’s fabric. The reason seems obvious: considering this “feathery effect” material, it was a risk… It would have been necessary to adapt the finish to keep a zipper on that model. Maybe with a a protective grosgrain strip? Or a wider spacing between the slider and the edges?
“-Darn! I didn’t have time to think about it!”, says Jacques.
“- But come on, seriously ! They could at least have suggested a solution to me! And then for the shrinkage, wasn’t it obvious ? They could have adapted the measurements for the fabric washing. Or at least warned me!”
“We just followed the instructions, sir.””
How are you?
The workshop says they respected the measurements perfectly, and put the same finish as usual.
They ask me if you want to send a different measurement chart for the second prototype.
Also, would you like me to put you in touch with a different supplier for the zippers?
Awaiting your response.
A Shared Frustration
Let’s stop our story here, as you’re probably already guessing the ending: Jacques was unable to launch the jacket in time. As soon as he started his new position, Jacques had a negative experience and the feeling that “nobody actually cares”. A feeling that he won’t soon forget.
The moral of our story is that everyone ends up frustrated: The workshop that receives the impatient feedback from a semi-stranger through an intermediary. Jacques who feels he is working with incompetent people. And the brand, which will not make good sales on their leading product, next winter.
Now, let’s look at how things could have been different at each stage of our story, if Jacques had a workshop that was …
A “partner” rather than a “supplier”
If the brand had a privileged relationship with its workshop, Jacques could:
- Have a dedicated interlocutor that the team knows and who knows the team. Rather than a representative who works for dozens of clients.
- Have the ability to give feedback and request changes on shorter deadlines.
- Experience a real pleasure of work and collaboration, thanks to the quality of daily exchanges.
=> PROFESSIONAL WELL-BEING
- Benefit from the advice and experience of the workshop: this can only be done by taking the time to discuss projects, and only by workshops that focus on a limited number of clients. A workshop with which you have a privileged relationship will work differently: they will try, to adapt your flagship model to each fabric, EVEN before the instruction comes from you. They will work by your side, they will collaborate with you and not simply “deliver”.
With such a relationship our dear Jacques would have received an email or call from the person in charge, warning him of the risks of working with such a fabric, and immediately offering a solution … Rather than just saying “we simply followed the measurements”.
=> TIME SAVING & EXPERTISE
- Jacques would have worked with people who see themselves as “partners” in the success of their clients. This variation would not have been just his to carry, but also the workshop’s responsibility.
Some workshops may only see an order to fulfill.
But others, like Aux Métiers, see a relationship of interdependence.
We see a virtuous ecosystem, from which everyone must benefit: the workshop, its employees, the brand, and finally, the brand’s customers.
=> MUTUAL INTEREST
Trust, responsiveness, professional well-being, time saving, expertise, mutual interest…
These are some of the many reasons why Aux Métiers strives to put the relationship with its clients at the heart of its business. We see this value as simply extending our conception team spirit to our clients, and as an essential aspect of what we call “professionalism”.
And nothing would ever make us want to work any other way.