This is probably the first lesson I learned, yet is something I’m reminded about every day. This isn’t coming from a cynical point of view; it’s just the reality. No matter how much you tell someone about what you're doing, no matter how much you pay them, you will always care more. Since this is just how it is, here are some of the best ways to get the most out of people.
- Know your stuff. You need to know whatever you’re working on inside and out. You need to know if something is wrong. You need to know why it’s wrong. And you need to know how to fix it. Obviously, you’re not going to know all this in the beginning—or ever—but the more you know the more you can problem solve and push people in the direction you need them to do.
- Know when to cut your losses. It’s easy to get romantic about a person or factory’s capabilities. They say they can work faster, cheaper or better than your existing setup. But if something isn’t working (often communication is lackluster in this world), you have to stop. Even if you want to believe it will improve and you just need to clarify one more thing, it likely won’t. This is different than building a relationship through the ups and downs. If something seems too good to be true, or you find yourself giving someone too many chances, it’s time to let go.
- Always have a plan b (and c and d). Because you care the most, sometimes the results won’t meet your standards. When this happens, you need to have options. Diversification is key. Stuff goes wrong, takes too long, or doesn’t meet your expectations, and you need to forge ahead. We’ve found most of our suppliers and factories through word of mouth and recommendations. Always be talking to people, especially other brands, about how they work and get their stuff done. Some will be more open as others, but you should always reach out. It’s a small world so people often know each other. Having multiple options is especially important with suppliers, when lead times and costing can vary. If you’re ordering zippers, get detailed quotes from every supplier you can. When one says 6 weeks but another says 2 weeks, you’ll be grateful you explored other options.
- Be present, especially early on. Being in the physical space where your pieces are being made is crucial to learning how everything works and ensuring you get what you want. Making clothing is a highly-specific practice and details are everything. Being there when they are created and perfected will vastly increase your knowledge. And most importantly, you can build a strong relationship with the people you’re working with.