This week I’m delving behind the scenes in the fashion industry to find out all about garment production from an idea through to a production run. As a person who loves the end product, I was intrigued to find out what processes were involved and just how easy (or how hard) was it to get a sketched idea manufactured. Luckily enough, my guest this week, Boris, founder of Sewport, was able to provide the answers for me …. Hi Boris!
Thank you for letting me share this with your audience, Linda. I’m Boris Hodakel, 31, founder of Sewport. I’ve been doing different things in my life but my heart settled years ago when I started working in the fashion industry. I mean, in garment production. Especially living in London, which is a mecca for certain styles and fashion of its own, you get to see so much more than lies on the surface. Sewport started off as a full cycle production service 3 years ago with our own factory working with emerging brands and start-up. It felt like we needed to move on to something bigger. Built a platform to become something else. We used to turn down a lot of people because what they needed was not quite our profile. By thinking that we would still like to help them find what they are looking for, we became an online place where hundreds of clothing brands and garment manufacturers connect with each other. Why should we stand in the way of progress? Our idea is to allow people find more than one option at a time and in one single place. Finding services and companies to launch a product is extremely hard, now there is a one-stop show for everything but with many more possibilities.
What inspired you to launch your business, Sewport?
I was inspired by the Internet of Things and the digitisation of everything. Technology is all around us. We need to allow it to assist or even drive our everyday activities. And then, if we can, bring technology and innovation to industries and areas where it has never been before, we should. Luckily, living in a tipping point era of everything digital, it is so easy to imagine how an online service can improve a certain area of our life or business.
Hypothetically speaking, if I was a fashion designer with just an idea & looking to develop the idea further, what stages would I need to go through to make the finished garment a reality? What services would you be able to offer me?
A fail-safe experience is to have the idea finalised first. You will need to push yourself to as much extent as you feel you are capable of to describe and maybe even draw it technically. It is ok if you can’t draw that well though, as anything goes and the “Idea” stage. Sometimes when people build their idea they forget the more important details like pockets, buttons, zips, lining etc. If you feel you can’t do it or the idea is vague or the design is not complete you can always choose to work with a Designer / Technical Specialist freelancer who can help you get that idea production ready. We have plenty of such specialists on our platform preparing documentation, drawings and size specs for brands. A clothing manufacturer will ask certain questions about the design to understand all details anyway. And its good that you will have some of these answers already put down on paper. So, we are done the “Idea” stage … now it gets simpler. You will need to have a sample made. You can do this either with a small sampling studio or get it done with a manufacturer before bulk production. There are factories who can take care of all the details: fabric, trims, printing, embroidery, labels for you. Once a sample is approved and you are happy with the fit, you are ready to go. Sewport has an array of companies, freelancers and service providers for just about anything that might be required on route from Idea to completed product.
Out of all the services you offer, what ones seem to be most popular amongst your clients?
Tech Pack (for those reading who do not know what this is, it’s a Blueprint for your design) making by Freelance designers. Only because it’s the first step, the first tier. As with emerging designers or generally start-ups they might find that they want to change the idea completely, or they trial different designs and pick the best ones. Also, some people never go ahead with bulk production as they find out it’s not as cheap as they thought it would be. But for any garment manufacturer to give a more or less accurate quote, a tech pack is needed.
One of your core goals is to help provide affordable manufacturing services. Why is there is a high minimum order quantity imposed by most manufacturers, and how are you able to offer a more reasonable minimum quantity run?
Good question. The reason that most companies have high MOQ lays in the process of manufacturing. A lot of preparations and procedures which can make production in low quantities either too expensive per piece or unprofitable for the manufacturer. That is why when a manufacturer offers production minimums they just try to make it mutually beneficial and in a quantity, that will make sense to both parties involved. What is different about companies on our platform is that some of them are also small businesses who understand the ways or emerging brands and are ready for their small orders, as they do not need to maintain a workforce of hundreds of workers and tens of different departments. Also, servicing companies on Sewport know that most of the brands want lower quantities. Above all, brands write what sort of quantity they are looking for, and manufacturers write the same in their profile so we are matchmaking them for a better success rate.
Searching for the right fabrics to highlight the designs is a task in itself. Does Sewport offer help and expertise in sourcing fabrics?
We have fabric agents, fabric mills, and factories who will be able to help with this step too. We do encourage people to participate in this, as it’s important to feel the fabric, get to know the fabric so one can not neglect fabric shows and fabric shops – unfortunately having the ability to touch fabric through a computer screen is not something we will see in the nearest future.
You have had many years of experience in the fashion industry. What do you enjoy most about your career?
It is just so rewarding to work alongside creative people who have imminence drive and passion for what they do. It’s never routine or mundane as fashion changes very quickly and there are always new things to learn and explore. And it’s not just me, some colleagues we work with are experienced veterans and even they would from time to time say “we have not tried this yet, but let us see how it goes”.
Growing up, what career aspirations did you have?
Something serious, corporate, suits. I’m so grateful for the opportunity in life and my wife who supported me to escape the formal office life of the 9 to 5. If you don’t wake up excited and go to sleep anxious that tomorrow is another day in the rat race, you definitely need to shout stop and think where your life is taking you as obviously, you are not taking your life to where you should, if you know what I mean.
As you are based in London, are you able to help designers that are not based in the UK?
Definitely. We have people from all around the globe. It does not matter where you are located. We have customers from Australia working with specialists from the USA. Our goal is to provide really thought through tools to help them facilitate this relationship, and by the location of these deals, people close on our platform – seems like we are doing a really good job.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Working in garment production has really changed the way I dress. Buying clothes has become sort of complicated. If you know production you start to look at all the threads hanging out, if seams are dense and straight, the type of fabric, the composition of the fabric is very important. I’m not a big fan of fast fashion, as I believe slow fashion is the way to go. Someone told me once “I’m not rich enough to wear fast-fashion garments”. You end up buying and buying and in the end, you spend more than you would on a good piece of clothing that will last for years. Some people support a really bad trend of buying cheap low quality but trendy clothes and as these garments become quite shabby after a couple of wears and washes they just throw them out. These shopping habits are the reason behind low work standards at factories, use of child labor, sweatshops and that some clothing manufacturing companies in the UK and Europe close down under required price production pressure. Most of the larger brands do not care about these things as they only chase higher margins and they are not concerned with where it takes them. And then, there is the fact that you better know what sort of margins these are. How would you feel buying a shirt for 50 when you know it costs 10 to make. But then there are marketing costs, shop space rental costs… I choose simple designs, natural fabrics and preferably EU/UK made.
Do you have any favorite shops or online sites?
I shop the same brands, mainly online. Some items I get as perks from working in the industry from suppliers and other manufacturing companies I keep good relationships with. I don’t want to advertise. Certain brands tend to capture the fit of one’s body shape better than the others.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe/accessory wish list?
Just some loafers for the summer.
Boots or Shoes?
Boots. Never know where my life takes me, so better stay comfortable.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Sewport.
Thanks Boris for such a detailed and interesting response. I never realised before how being involved in the garment industry, like you are, could affect the way you dress and pick outfits – but it does stand to reason. Your enthusiasm for Sewport shines through, Boris, and I hope it continues to do so – you have a gem of a company there 🙂
All photos/pictures ( apart from the photo for pinning) have been published with kind permission from Boris Hodakel of Sewport.
The photo for pinning is by Linda Hobden.