Why do we designers / tailors have SUCH a bad reputation around here?!

Why do we designers / tailors have SUCH a bad reputation around here?!

From Twitter…

Chei!  We “tailors” have suffered! Lol!  This seems to be the constant song around here!  Why oh why are we now the SI unit for lies, dishonesty and disappointment?!  

I was still talking about this same issue on the Martwayne Facebook group a few weeks back (yes we do have one for sharing ideas, seeking advice on anything fashion related that is bothering us and also asking for critiques on our work – you can click here to join us Join our Martwayne Facebook Group) and made a mental note to write about this topic.  I had procrastinated on it for so long until I saw this meme on Twitter:


… and I said to myself “okay nah… enough is enough.  It’s high time I addressed this on the blog”.

Yes oh… I won’t lie.. I laughed and laughed when I saw it!  I really could not stop laughing.  But as hilarious as it is, and sad as it is to admit…. it actually is true!  It is a really serious issue around here! And truth be told, this awful reputation is really wrecking our reputation as professionals – and believe it or not… our businesses as well!






You will notice that I keep using “we”.  Yes because around here, anyone who churns out clothes for people on a bespoke or customised level is called a “tailor” regardless of whether they are a fashion designer or a seamstress.  So for the sake of this article, I am lumping all of us together and of course using the term “tailor” very loosely.

I have been on both sides – on the customer side and on the designer / tailor side as well.  I have been both a victim and a perpetrator (if that is the correct word to use).  Victim because that was the real reason I went into fashion, perpetrator because I also held on to people’s clothes and at some point even offered refunds simply because I could not deliver on some of the work in record time.  So I am not here preaching to you or casting stones.  

But one thing I can tell you for free was, for every single time I did not deliver, it was because I was sooooo eager to please, I simply could not say NO even when I knew I could not deliver.  You know around here, saying no is sometimes misconstrued as incompetence.  So for the sake of being seen as a superhero, I would take on the work and work myself into a frenzy until I finally broke down!  Or worse, found just anyone who could sew lines together and they ended up wrecking my work even more!  I can never forget when I had to repeat a particular jacket 3 times or when I missed a very good friend’s wedding simply because I did not want to disappoint someone who wanted to wear that jacket that weekend!  Not only did I not attend the wedding, I still did not deliver so what was really the point?!

But then again, the disappointment our customers face even go beyond not delivering!  Most complain that even after wasting so much time, the clothes are crap!  The finishing is awful and the clothes just do not fit and they wonder why on earth it took you so long to deliver crap!  And yes, I have been there as well!  The sheer horror on my face when my tailor delivered clothes that were only big enough to fit a barbie doll!  

So being on both sides of the fence and from talking to designers on things that go wrong – and yes everything that can go wrong does go wrong – I thought it would be good to talk on just 5 things that could perhaps save us from this constant embarrassment and insults we keep getting from everyone!

Image from https://loanscanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/5-tips-mortgage.jpg

So here are 5 tips on keeping your sanity, your reputation, your customers and of course your bottom line in check! 

1.  Never promise on what you know you cannot deliver on!

Yes no matter the puppy eyes they give you, do not give in!  You know why?!  When you do not deliver, they will not admit or even care that they gave you the clothes only 2 days before!  And why should they?!  You agreed to deliver so they are holding you to it!

By now you should have an idea of the number of jobs you have on ground and how long it typically takes you to deliver.  Whatever time it takes, please add an extra week or two to it?!  You know why?!  Because anything and I mean anything that can go wrong can go wrong when you least expect it!  Your generator can break down, your machine can break down, your tailor can break down, heck even you can break down!  Does the customer care?!  NO!  They don’t!  And really, they should not!

Have that policy in place and stick to it!  Anyone who knows they have a wedding and they want you to churn out the clothes for them should bring it 2 or even 3 weeks before not 2 days before the event!  And no don’t think offering them express “this one time” will work!  If you can deliver once, it automatically means you can deliver again and it will never stop!

As I learnt in KPMG, it is better to under-promise and over-deliver than vice versa!  Stick to your guns always!

2.  Always insist on a fitting! 

Yes many of them do not like coming for fittings I agree.  But I always say, it all depends on how you portrayed your business from Day 1.  Someone on the Group stated that when you ask a customer to come for a fitting, they seem to think you are not good enough – else you would get it right one time!

You know what I say to that?!  How many brides sit at home hoping the dress fit one time?!  Aren’t they the ones who keep harassing you that they want to try on their dresses just in case anything happens, it can be fixed before the day?!  



Fittings are standard practice globally!  Can you see?  This is our very own Deola Sagoe fitting a dress.  Will we say Deola Sagoe is not good at what she does or do we think she is incompetent?!  Far from it!  We all know she is GREAT at what she does but guess what?!  She still has to do a fitting so errors can be corrected before finalising the dress.  If she still does a fitting despite how fab she is and her client can still come in for a fitting, why can’t you?!

Please please please insist on a fitting.  You are better off someone thinking you are incompetent and you then dazzle them with the perfection of your work than you being embarrassed they will think you don’t know what you are doing and then you prove them right!  If they don’t want to come to you, then please go to them.  You can even bill them for it!  But guess what?!  If things go wrong, then like @cherox said, they will stay up all night thinking of how to lynch you!  And put it up on twitter! And you will be lucky if they do not call you out and wreck your reputation!  So you are better off being safe than sorry!

3.  Please document all discussions and agreements! 

I cannot stress this enough!  In fact better still, sign a contract or an agreement if possible!  This is key if you want to save yourself and keep your sanity!  In fact, ensure that contract even has pictures of what you both agreed!  Honestly, you will save yourself a whole lot of headache!  Because some customers will come halfway through and claim they never asked you to use red thread.  Then it now becomes a “he said she said” matter.  Something else I learnt from KPMG.  Document everything!  Screenshots, snapshots, signature under the very design, everything!  And that contract must include a penalty for gaining weight or losing weight or changing your design half way though the order.

And please, collect 85% of your money upfront.  But also put in the contract that if you mess up, they get something back – because it won’t be fair of you to collect all the money and then mess up!

But yes, documentation is key!  I cannot stress it enough!  And if they don’t want to sign, then you better ensure all your conversations are via WhatsApp, email or Blackberry so you can take screen shots as evidence in case things go wrong!  Honestly it will save you like you cannot imagine!

4.  Please EDUCATE your customer!

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In fact I couldn’t have said it better myself!  

Most think they know how things work!  I always tell my students – especially the beginners “I bet you now have a renewed respect for your tailor right”?!  And the answer is always the same – YES!  Many clients think they know but they do not know!  You need to tell them – actually teach them how things work!

If you are working with an invisible zip, tell them the pros and cons of using the zips and how to actually work an invisible zip so it does not break.

If they bring you a style to copy – well first if I were you, I would politely refuse to copy.  But if they insist, you need to let them know if the fabric or their body shape will not work with the design.  And either bow out or let them sign a document with a disclaimer.

If they bring a design you do not understand, please bow out if you cannot create it.  Never ever EVER use your customer’s work as a practice run!  Always create a sample first just to see how it will work out and if you cannot deliver, please return it.  I remember during my sister’s engagement, she had given a lady in Canada her engagement outfit to create for her.  After a week or so, the lady returned it saying she could not work with the fabric.  I ended up churning it out for her.  Was my sister disappointed in the lady?!  Probably.  Did the lady save herself?!  Yes!  There really is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know”.  Yes it might be tough yes and yes they may think you are not that good but trust me, you are better off walking away from the project rather than diving in and getting seriously burnt!

And last but not least…

5.  Please have a conscience when sewing for your customers!  

Your clients deserve a well made garment no matter how little they paid for it!  Do not close your eyes to a bad stitch or awful finishing!  You might think they do not notice but they do!  They probably don’t say anything because they feel that is the best they can get around here.  Sometimes I turn clothes over and I am SHOCKED at what I see on the inside and you want them to pay you and not scream at the work?!  How?!  They paid for a service and they deserve the best!  Please give them a top-notch outfit!

Okies that’s about it!  Of course I could go on and on but I will stop here!  It will take a very long time to rid ourselves of this reputation but if we start one day, before we know it, the effects will be felt and our customers will appreciate it!

Here’s wishing you a good start to the week! ūüėÄ

Cheers!

A Passionate Plea to Fashion Designers…. Part 2

A Passionate Plea to Fashion Designers…. Part 2

Image from:  http://1hjf0v2o7xfp1lwogj1zapji.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/canstockphoto13874869.jpg
 
Okies… so here is Part 2 of my ….err… “passionate plea” to fashion designers. ¬†If you missed Part 1, here it is:
 
 
And it really is a plea.  Yes the last one was a rant because I was frustrated but I have since calmed down so now I am pleading with you.   
 
And why am I pleading with you?!  
 
Well first it makes our job easier of course.  We have had some success stories but we need more.  Second, you have to admit that constantly changing staff is a waste of time and resources for everyone involved.  I am sure if you search deep down within yourselves, you cannot be a happy person but your pride perhaps would not let you admit to yourself that, perhaps, you may be the problem.  Third, it costs a lot of money which can be better used elsewhere on training and retraining (on the assumption that you actually do train your staff) or at least, saving yourself the costs of a new person constantly wrecking your clothes.  Then the trust issues and the stress of constantly monitoring a new person in your space can be physically and mentally draining.  
 
Well… we know our Industry is far from perfect and our tailors are a nightmare to work with. ¬†But have you bothered to ask yourself why your tailors keep leaving you?! ¬†I can safely tell you that when 2 or 3 people sent to the same designer give us the exact same reason for their¬†inability to work with you, then you are¬†the problem. ¬†Yes you might feel¬†like a superwoman (or man) but truth be told, your¬†business is pretty much at a standstill when you do not have the right people to work with.¬†
 
Here are just some of the problems we are aware of and our position on these issues.  If you know you do these things, then you need to stop them!  It is completely unfair and makes life just unnecessarily difficult for everyone involved.


Left Image: https://edlauber.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/assistants-to-a-seamstress_3.jpg
Middle Image:  http://www.symbols.com/gi.php?type=1&id=1594&i=1  
Right Image:  http://riyadhconnect.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/maids-are-humans-too.jpg
 
1.  STOP Treating Your Tailors as Your Domestic Staff!
 
This is TOP of the list!  Your tailors are your production staff and are there to work on your clothes РNOT to wash your clothes, clean your house, run market errands, buy you kerosene (except it is for office use), pick your children up from school, walk your screaming children to calm them down or pretty much do all other odd jobs I have heard tailors complain about.  We even have students who have left places they were learning for this same reason. 
 
I do understand the need for extra hands but this was NOT the primary reason they were employed.  Remember some of these tailors work on a commission basis.  How can they ever meet their targets or deliver on their assigned tasks when they spend half of their day running errands?!  
  
Even if they were earning a salary, why keep them busy working on mundane tasks that do not add to even your own bottom line much less theirs. ¬†They have families to feed! ¬†They are there to work and earn a living. ¬†Please let them work for their pay! ¬†You might think “don’t they get paid at the end of the day”?! ¬†Well yes they might but some people actually go to work because they want to learn new things and improve themselves not just to make the money. ¬†
 
If you need someone to run multiple tasks for you, then please get a gofer – someone who understands, ahead of time, that his/her task is not only to run around on the production floor but also act in the capacity of your PA. Some of them just oblige because they have to not because they want to. ¬†Don’t take advantage of this.
 
2.  Pay Your Tailors When Their Wages / Salaries Are Due
 
Another popular one.  We all know the economy is tough but people cannot work without getting paid, especially with the cost of goods and services these days.  Especially if you claim there is no money, yet travel all over Nigeria for one fashion show or the other; or worse, fix your nails and your hair religiously every week Рeven if your 2nd half is paying for it.  They will leave.
 
And the whole and I quote “Oja ta,¬†oja o ta, owo alaaru a pe” that I¬†have heard designers have quoted to their tailors seems ridiculous to me. ¬†How can you expect them agree to work conditions that state they will not get paid if there is no “business” or “work”?! ¬†No-one will! ¬†I will understand if it was part of their responsibility to bring in the work but if it is not part of their job¬†description, then you need to do 2 things:
 
Р Look for the business yourself and keep them engaged; or
Р Convert their employment to contract and call on them when you need them.
 
Stop giving examples of how your husband or your sister had not been paid for 4 months or worse, telling them to be grateful they even have a job that gets them out of the home every morning.  That is extremely insulting.  
 
If there is no business, carry them along and give them a viable option or you all come up with a plan on what else can be done to make things better.  No-one wants to spend money going to a place of work and not getting paid to at least recoup their costs.
 
A bit of a freaky picture I know but seems quite apt… From: http://www.expatsinindia.org/upload/KWQ-1442.jpg
 
3.   Understand That Your Tailors Need to Have a Life
 
Do not squeeze the life out of them by working them to the bone!  They also need a break.  Have a resumption and closing time and stick to it if you can.  If they have their work schedules cut out for them, most of them will stay behind if they know they need to catch up.  They will know it is as a result of their shortcomings not because it is the norm.  
 
Most of us hate to allow our staff go on leave.  I also find it very difficult.  But you know what?!  It also puts you in a better position when your staff realises that they are not indispensable and work can still continue even in their absence.  
 
Think about it?!  What is the major reason people have for leaving banks, consulting firms and the likes?!  Because they never had time for themselves.  In the early days they might like it but as time goes on, some of them might need time to further educate themselves by going for night classes.  You need to give them time to do that else they will leave for other businesses that allow them some time to themselves.
 
4.  Control Your Temper & Complain Less
 
Tough to do but it needs to be done somehow…¬†No-one wants to work in an environment where their work is being constantly bashed without even the odd thank you when they do¬†something good. I recall a designer I was talking to who went on and on and on and on and on and on and on AND ON about her tailors¬†that I could not even get a word in! ¬†My goodness! ¬†I was completely drained at the end of the conversation and to be honest when she was done, I came to the conclusion that that had to be the reason her tailors kept leaving. ¬†
 
Constantly hammering on the same thing can constitute some form of mental abuse and no-one can thrive in that kind of environment.  Yes I know I have the tendency to do that sometimes especially when I have invested a lot in something but I am now learning to caution myself.  It can be extremely toxic and doe more harm than good!
 
Yes!  And please STOP beating your tailors and/or throwing things at them!  Like seriously?!  Are we in the jungle?!  And the verbal abuse?!  Please stop!  I believe you run a professional business and should, therefore, act in a similar manner.  You can caution your staff without insulting them, their families and 10 generations as well. 
 
5.  Above all, RESPECT THEM as Human Beings, Colleagues and Subordinates!
 
This, I believe, speaks of itself. ¬†Your tailors are human beings and are probably very street savvy. ¬†If you involve them in your business, I can tell you they will save you money in the long run – and this is me speaking from experience. ¬†Ask their opinions, work as a team and let everyone feel like they belong. ¬†Don’t ask them to do things you yourself cannot do. ¬†You do not have to pally them but let them feel like they also belong in that environment. ¬†Implement some of their ideas if they suggest it (even if you know if will not work) just so they feel their input is valued. ¬†It may cost you money and time but it does a lot for their self esteem. ¬†
 
One thing  have learnt is that money is never the only motivating factor for keeping staff. And yes no-one ever has the perfect recipe for dealing with people.  But these points I stated above are the bulk of the complaints I have received from tailors and I had to pass this across.  Which I believe I have just done!
 
Phew…¬†
 
So what’s next?! ¬†Now that I have cleared the air, I can now concentrate on the project I am working on. ¬†Hopefully it will be easier now that designers understand what needs to be done to make it work!
A Passionate Plea to Fashion Designers…. Part 1

A Passionate Plea to Fashion Designers…. Part 1

I know this is for a legal document but it also works for this post.
Image from: http://i2.wp.com/thebudgetnistablog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/cease-and-desist-stamp.png?w=389

SO we’ve been working on a project for a while now. Of course we know how every designer around here complains about tailors… or a lack of.  So we decided to step in to fill the gap by sourcing machinists and pairing them with designers who need their services.  It seems pretty easy right?!  HA!  If only!  So far, it has been DI-FFI-CULT!  

Yes we have had some success stories but goodness the bulk of it has been  such a nightmare!  Yes we know tailors can be funny and granted some of the machinists’ skills can be pretty questionable.  Which is fine.  We are not here to certify how perfect the person is.  The designer is expected to make a decision based on the sample of work the person has done in our office and is also expected to run their own tests.  But most importantly, the designer is expected to train the tailor to their standards and not just throw them on the job.  After all, bankers will confirm that they all get retrained when they move from one bank to the other, no matter how experienced they are.

But THAT is not even the reason for this post.  To be honest, I never really involve myself in how designers choose to pass across their values and mission statements to their staff.

My MAJOR issue is what I am about to list below which to be honest really breaks my heart whenever I get feedback from the machinists we send out.  It really is unfair the awful things I have heard.  Yes the general idea is that tailors are a nightmare to work it and yes I agree with you.  But this post is not about that either because chances are they probably won’t read this post so why bother.

I am here to please please please PLEAD with you (whether or not you source machinists from us) to remember that your employees are people as well and deserve to be treated as such.   The way you treat others is a reflection of the way your business will turn out at the end of the day and if you are facing challenges, perhaps it could be because of how you treat your staff… which always sometimes comes back to bite you in the face!

Here is JUST a snapshot of the complaints I have been getting from our machinists…



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1.  Do NOT book an appointment if you know you will not be available!


This is pretty much a standard these days.  You tell us to send the tailor to you at a certain time and then saunter in 4 hours later without an apology.  And rather than attending to them, you keep them waiting for another 2 hours or worse you tell them to come back the next day.   Or worse, the person is sitting staring at you forming all busy and all and you still keep them waiting when you asked them to be there at that time in the first place.  Why?!  How would you feel if this happened to you?!  We all complain about how we are being treated at Embassies and government parastatals and at the slightest opportunity, we turn around and do the exact same thing!

Biko nu!  These people we are sending to you do not have the money to spend going up and down on fruitless journeys.  Yes you may forget sometimes but the least you could do is offer a heart-felt apology and if you want them to return the next day, then give them the transport fare they wasted that day.  How much can that possibly be?!  It really is unfair!

2.  Keep Your End of the Bargain!

If you have agreed to pay the a certain salary, please stick to it!  Don’t change the terms while they are working for you simply because you can.  And if you must change it, give them enough advance notice, warnings and evaluations and let them know the implications of their non-performance before you change the rules. 

I have often heard of designers agreeing to a payment term and when the person starts work, they never keep up their end of the bargain.  They promise all sorts of juicy terms and when the work starts, zilch is done! I mean how unfair is this?!  

In fact, something just happened recently that I am yet to confirm and I am seriously hoping it is not true.  And I say I am yet to confirm this because I have not yet spoken to the designer to understand what exactly is going on.  But from my understanding, a paid position became a non-paying internship which eventually turned into the designer asking to be paid for the internship / apprenticeship.  I have not yet spoken to the designer to confirm the correctness or otherwise but if it is true, all I can think of is:

a)  that was not the basis on which I was contacted to help source for the person; and
b)  what if the person had resigned a perfectly good job for the hope of better things to come and this happened?”  You can’t go back to your job and now you are stuck with searching for a new one. 

Like I said, I have not confirmed how true this but it has happened in the past so I need to address it.

Designers you cannot put up a policy in retrospect except you have given ENOUGH ample warnings.  If the person is still not performing, then please ask her to leave.  You can dissolve the particular contract and ask her to register for a training with you or pay for an apprenticeship.  Then it becomes a separate transaction!  But don’t mix one with the other simply because you think the person does not have a choice!

3.  Be Fair when Negotiating Wages & Salaries.  

Please do not offer wages, salaries and commissions that do not make sense to anyone including yourself just because it is beneficial to you.  We do not involve ourselves in salary negotiations but please do not offer pittance to someone, especially when you know the person pretty much “travels” to your office.  We try as much as we can to find job opportunities for tailors within their vicinity.  We know things are tough for designers out there so we don’t expect them to pay oil company salaries.  But when you tell us you don’t mind someone who does not live in the area and the tailor also does not mind, then please have a conscience and consider the fact that the person has to take transportation, has to feed, and still have something left over to at least tend to other responsibilities.  

And in the unlikely event that we tell you what a tailor is expecting as a wage or a salary and you say okay, this suggests you are okay with it.  Don’t tell us you are fine with it and ask us to send the person over and then offer them less than half of what the person is asking for like you’re “pricing” fish in the market.  These are people with skills and can be quite insulting.  

I would understand if after you have done a test, the person’s skills are not up to par then you can renegotiate after the person sees and can confirm their work is poor which we even do sometimes after they have done their test with us.  But do not offer peanuts and expect them to deliver outfits fit for royalty because they will be disgruntled – and with good reason!

4.  Be Patient With Them!

Yes I know this is a tough one to do but at some point, you need to be patient.  Most of these machinists learnt with blackhead machines.  The first interaction many of them may have had with electric machines would have been at ours during their test and we give them time to get used to the machines before they start their test.  Please understand this before throwing them on industrial machines to work with.  Chances are they will bungle simply because they are not used to it.  Some of them have potential, you just need to be patient.  

A wise person once told me “the good employees always leave for greener pastures.  The ones with limited skills are the ones who will probably remain with you for a long time”.  And that is very true!  The staff I wanted to fire then turned out to be one of my greatest assets.  It took us a while to get there but each day gets better.

5.  Don’t Try to be Sneaky! We Always Find Out!

YES! This I must say is the worst!  

Offering this service costs money!  We spend a whole lot advertising on various platforms, searching for tailors and running huge telephone bills contacting tailors and designers and you cannot imagine what our petrol bill is like to run these tests.  We sometimes even spend time with the machinists, getting them to familiarise themselves with the machines before they even start their test and we also have a dedicated staff for this service.  So yes we do charge a token fee for our services which is a mere fraction of what we spend to bring you the service.  

So you can imagine how very annoying it is when a designer agrees to our payment terms, calls us to say the tailor we sent her was not good and then goes behind our back to employ the tailor!  Like seriously?!  On top how much?!  I cannot even think of a decent word to call this so I’ll just hold my peace.  You can imagine how shocked I was and how burnt I felt when the tailor we called to “console” and assure we would find somewhere else she can work told us she had already started working there.  The interesting thing was she told us she left because she did not like the lady’s attitude and was planning to call us to give us feedback on how she could no longer work there.  Can you just imagine?!

All I can say is please please please do not contact us if you lack integrity!  I like to think I am dealing with professionals and things like this just makes my stomach turn.  

I can go on and on but I will stop here.  


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This is pre-employment.  Please please please if you are guilty of any of these, please cease and desist. You are making our work incredibly difficult and these unnecessary issues are costing us a whole lot of money!  If we want to make this work and you need the extra hands, then we both need to work together to make life easier for all th parties involved!

My next post will be directed at designers after they have employed the machinists, regardless of whether they were sourced from us or not. 

Thank you for your patience.  And apologies for my rant!  

———

Meanwhile, I might as well use this opportunity to market these services.  If you know anyone, who knows anyone, who knows anyone who loves to sew and needs a job, please contact us.  You can also call our office lines.  The details are on the left side of this page.

Many thanks.
Money Matters: How Much Do You Pay Your Tailor?!

Money Matters: How Much Do You Pay Your Tailor?!

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Hello everyone!!!  Please I need your help!

Lately, we have embarked on a project trying to match designers with the tailors they desperately need to move their businesses forward.  However, the general question I get from designers are: 

“How much should I pay?!  


Naturally my first question is “how much can you afford?” but to be honest that does not really help much because sometimes, we have no clue what we can afford and need help knowing where to even begin the negotiations.


So! Seeing I am totally clueless on what the answer should be or what the industry average is, I have decided to embark on a survey in order to ascertain the going rates for tailors.  We know these rates will vary according to location, specialty (menswear, womenswear, bridals, etc), competence and of course if you are paying via salary or commission but we need these details to help us move forward.   


So please please please, spare of a few minutes of your time by either clicking on the link or filling the form below.  All we need are the amounts and how you pay.  If you pay per item, please specify the rates for these items as well.

All answers are confidential and the results will be published here when we get enough information and I am sure we will all be interested in the results.

I truly and sincerely appreciate your time!  

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Are You a Designer Swamped with Work?! Then You Should Consider Outsourcing…

Hello Everyone!!! ¬†Been quite A WHILE!!!!!¬†¬†BUT here I am! ¬†:-D… as always… ready to talk about one issue or the other. ¬†And¬†today’s topic is about something that has been heavy on my mind for about 2 weeks now…. an issue which designers always face but refuse to do anything about – huge workloads! ¬†
So yes business is great!  The orders are pouring in!  Your work is fab!  You are getting the referrals and the media attention РBUT suddenly you find that you are unable to cope with the workload.  
 
It happens to everyone!  Even I faced it.  Anything that can go wrong, usually does go wrong when making an outfit!  
 
Soon enough your referrals are accompanied by “she is very good o but…. hmmnnn…. she does not deliver on time” ¬†OR ¬†“her work is FAB but just¬†don’t give her anything you need anytime soon”! ¬†
 
And before you know it, you have a not so great reputation!
 
Just last week, a student of mine was ranting and raving at her tailor for not delivering on her job (actually she had not even started it).  So she decided to make another outfit for  party she had that evening herself.  
 
Good¬†enough the work started out fine – as it always does… and then things just started¬†going wrong for some strange reason. ¬†And before she knew it, that 2-in-1 number that was meant to have been completed by 3pm for that hawt party of hers, finally got completed at 7pm – with help from someone else! ¬†[Needless to say that she now has a new-found respect for her tailor].
 
So yes it does happen to everyone.  If that had been a customer, she would not have delivered.  But what I respected was the fact that she realised that she needed help and screamed for help!
 
Which is what I am talking about today… getting help from someone else! ¬†Simply put in other words… outsourcing! ¬†Yup! ¬†Collaborating with other designers…
 
Now I am not talking about full-blown outsourcing like you would see in major business textbooks etc –¬†because of course there are pros and cons to outsourcing. ¬†But I am talking about a situation where you have a lot of work but refuse to pass the job on to another designer to help relieve your workload. ¬†
 
Of course I had always known designers around here preferred to suffer in silence than work with each other.   But I really became aware of how bad this mindset was when a participant at one of my FECs asked me what to do in a month where she did not have a lot of work and her tailors worked on a commission basis.
 
It was a tough one but the easiest solution to me was simply to outsource her services to other designers who needed the help. ¬†In my mind, since I was aware that many designers were constantly “under the table” with work, I thought it would be an easy solution to the problem. ¬†After all, a designer’s top priority should be to get the job delivered to her customer by all means necessary.
 
So what did I do?  I simply put up a message on Blackberry asking people who were swamped with work to let me know so I could refer them to her.  
 
Did I get the pings?  Well yes I did!  Quite a few of them!  
 
Were they interested in outsourcing their work? ¬†Errr…. that was a totally different story… What they wanted was a tailor or machinist to work with them in their production centres! ¬†I could not understand it! ¬†You have too much work to handle yet you are unwilling to pass on work to the next person. ¬†
 
Of course I had to ask my students the next day why designers were unwilling to work with other designers around here and this was their take on it:
 
1.  They probably do not want to share their profits or customers.  Why give someone else my business?
 
Huh?!  Seriously?  How about losing that business altogether if you consistently fail to deliver to your customers.  
 
2.  Their charges may be higher, resulting in charging the customer higher.
 
Well… possibly. ¬†But chances are you have already agreed on a price with your customer. ¬† The only¬†reason you need the help is to help deliver on your promise. ¬†For me I would simply state my offer and if she is willing, fine, if not, we shake hands and move on.
 
But then again, if I was in this situation, knowing me, if I was the designer with the work, I would probably cut my losses to save my face;¬†and if I was the person with a slow month, I would charge just enough to cover my costs and not expect to make the profit just to keep my tailors engaged so I don’t lose them. ¬†Everyone here knows how hard it is to find good machinists.
 
But of course when we both have a good relationship, we can revisit the figures and find a mid-way that is comfortable enough for both of us.   
 
3.  They are probably not sure of how competent the designer is so would not want to risk it.
 
Ah… this I can totally understand. ¬†That can simply be rectified by testing them first before entrusting them with your work. ¬†After all, even under your very nose, your tailor can still mess up your work.
 
4.  They might abandon your work when their own customers come knocking.
 
Very valid point.  That is where agreements come in and where they default, there will be penalties.
 
5.  The designer might steal their design.
 
Ha! ¬†Is this a joke? ¬†Everyone steals everyone else’s designs. ¬†NO that does not make it right but chances are you will never find out anyway. ¬†It even happens to the biggest global companies who produce in Asia. ¬†
 
Besides, before you jump to that conclusion, note that most designers are influenced by the same things.  Chances are she may already have that design.  If I were the other designer, I would show her that design (if I have it in my portfolio) before I accept the job.
6.  They might lose their customer to that designer if their work is better than theirs.
 
Oh puh-lease like seriously?!  If this is your mindset, then it is just shocking!  First, how would the person even know who the customer is?  Then 2nd, get over yourself.
 
There were other reasons but these were the only ones I could remember.
 
I personally think the Nigerian Fashion Industry would be a much better place if people chose to work together rather than step on each other.  I just read an article today which I though was pretty amazing about a new company, Tinker Tailor, who customise designer dresses.  You can read about it at the following link:
 
http://www.businessoffashion.com/daily-digest/start-lets-customize-designer-dresses?utm_source=Subscribers&utm_campaign=6529c52a9e-&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d2191372b3-6529c52a9e-417015481  
 
I know our Industry is not mature enough to handle this type of collaboration, especially since many of us are just starting out and want to protect ourselves and also because of integrity issues, but the global industry has really gone far in terms of collaboration.  
 
During my internship, even though the company I worked with had a huge factory, they still outsourced some of their work to other smaller factories.  Similarly, when I visited China, I found out that despite the stiff competition, factories still outsourced their work to other factories just to meet up with their orders.  Which is the way it should be really?  Establishing a relationship with people who can help move your business forward.  
 
I personally believe that outsourcing¬†will not only make life much easier for you but if you do your maths, you¬†might even find out that it might reduce your costs. ¬†But the biggest advantage to me of outsourcing done right is the ability to deliver on your jobs and have a good night’s sleep as well.
 
SO 
 
If you are a designer swamped with work, do let me know so I can hook you up with others that can help relieve your stress!
 
Cheers everyone!
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