Sportswear design, development and sourcing is never straightforward

Blue Associates has been designing and sourcing performance sportswear since it was established in 1997

Blue Associates is a consultancy that specialise in sportswear design and developments and has been sourcing performance sportswear since it was established in 1997.

We predominantly produce our designs in the Far East through a trusted network of quality and performance driven manufacturers. Not only do we source the factory that stitches the garment, we also source all of the other components that are required to produce the garment including fabric, trims and components.  Again these are produced through a network of trusted suppliers that we have worked with for many years and therefore know their abilities, strengths and weaknesses.

We often get approached by entrepreneurs that have a great idea to start a sportswear brand but don’t have any experience with regard to sportswear design, developing or sourcing the product. Many of these entrepreneurs understandably want to start small with tiny production runs to make sure their concept is viable and to manage their investment, however we always turn this work down as tiny production runs always equate to issues. Issues equate to late launches and wasted investment of time and money and ultimately our reputation is in question.

We don’t advertise or hunt for business. Luckily business finds us because of the work we have done over the last 17 years and our reputation for building great product, so when a new client suggests producing below minimum volumes we always refuse this work.

So often, a potential client believes it is possible to produce 300-400 pieces of a style and possibly in several colours, however we understand how factories operate and good factories that produce quality product don’t advertise or hunt for business either and never accept below minimum orders. Because of their reputation, their capacity always becomes full throughout the year and they can pick and choose which brands they want to work with.

We also understand that any factory that produces orders of say 300 pieces would need to add a huge surcharge to recoup the loss of setting up a production line for such a short period of time.

So, back to the start-up brand and their quest for finding a supplier that can produce small runs for them. Usually we part company and they go and explore more local sources that they believe can support their fledgling business. This usually requires a trip to the nominated country to meet a local agent who takes them to several factories who claim they can produce their first collection and a deal is struck. What usually happens is the factory then slips this production into their production schedule when OR if they are quite, however whenever a larger and therefore more profitable order is placed by an established brand, the start-ups order is pushed further and further backwards and quite often is never produced at all.

Every time a new start-up approaches us with the remit to produce tiny volumes, we tell them about these pitfalls and advise them that there is always only one way to do things, and that’s the right way. If you are looking to produce quality, high performance sportswear you need to be producing in a factory that has a reputation for producing this type of product. Unfortunately for start-ups no factory with such a reputation would need to accept tiny orders from a brand with no track record when they are lucky enough to pick and choose their clients.

Usually what happens is the entrepreneur comes back to us after several months of wasted energy and funds because their quest for quality, performance sportswear with tiny minimums was never actually achievable and we then start the process again through our network in the Far East

Luckily we have built great relationships with our suppliers and place several brands collections with them in any given year and can actually call in favours from time to time to help reduce their minimums slightly providing we believe there is potential and growth behind their concept.  We have done this time and again with brands that are now leaders within their sports sector.

Sourcing from the Far East is not however straight forward and it’s not as simple as jumping on a plane or visiting a trade show to meet up with factories. Trade shows are usually full of smaller, less quality or lower performance driven factories that “Claim” to make specific branded product to lure you into believing they produce great gear, however typically they have simply purchased a garment from a store, hung it on mannequin and presented it as their production

Sourcing quality sportswear is never straight forward but if you are looking to start-up a new brand, have a great concept and understand the need to produce your product in the right factories to achieve great gear then give us a shout.