Each season, before all the garments are shipped, I make a point of visiting our factories to inspect the production. With a matter of weeks now to go before the new SS17 collection lands, I’ve been out to Portugal with my Quality Control Manager, Anna, to visit two new factories that we’ve recently started working with – an exciting time because the new collection has a more diverse range of fabrics than ever, including linen jersey, cotton lyocell and more styles in 100% cotton.
Meanwhile, John and our in-house designer Sarah have been busy making the final production quality checks over at our other factory in Turkey to ensure every sleeve is even, every button hole neatly finished, every label stitched on straight, and every sleeve the perfect length. It’s no mean feat working your way through a checklist with more than different 20 styles, each in small, medium, large and LL, but we know you won’t settle for anything less than the best, and neither will we.
When John and I first set out in our search for a factory, we agreed that we wanted to produce quality T-shirts that would wash and wear like a dream. The reality was that it was almost impossible to find somewhere that would produce small quantities in several styles in lots of different colours at a cost that wasn’t through the roof – a nightmare for any factory as the sewing lines are forced to keep stopping and starting to change the thread colours, and consistency is easily lost. It soon became clear to us why other manufacturers were offering only a limited palette. Thankfully, we found a family-run factory in Izmir, Turkey, which understood what we were trying to achieve in terms of quality of fabric, accuracy in colour and detail in fit, and we’ve been working with the same factory for the past ten years.
I must admit that in the early days, a quality control inspection was a slightly drawn-out process, but nowadays we know exactly what to look for. While a few of the repeat styles that have been going for two or three seasons, such as the camisoles and long vests, will need minimal changes, we make doubly sure any new pieces meet our specifications, from ensuring all the stripes line up on the seam and around the arm holes on our new Stripe Pocket Dress to the checking that the button holes are in a straight line down the front of our new Jersey Shirt. In fact, I usually try everything on in a size medium to make sure the fit is right and that there are no niggling quirks, and if there are, it’ll be whisked away and changed right there and then on the spot.
Having seen the first of the boxes packed up and ready to go, I can’t wait for early next month when the SS17 collection hits the website (the catalogue will be dropping through your letterbox any day now, so keep an eye out). Later in March, I’ll be back to Turkey finalise the design and fit of the Autumn/Winter collection. We’ve had the first samples back, chosen the colours and prints, and I’ll also be checking out ideas at London Fashion Week for SS18. It goes without saying that I’m looking for colour. And lots of it!