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Finding and working with the right manufacturer overseas is a complex, expensive and time-consuming task. Supplycompass is the most user-friendly tool that provides an end-to-end solution, enabling brands to find their perfect ethical fashion manufacturers, at home or overseas. Brands can create tech packs and use the platform to manage production from design to delivery. Most importantly Supplycompass finds and visits manufacturers around the globe and handpicks only the best to be part of their network. Sign up, get matched and get quotes for free!
We interview Gus Bartholomew, the co-founder of Supplycompass, THE leader platform in the ethical fashion manufacturer sourcing industry. They are on a mission to help create the world’s most trusted supply chains, to offer the most responsible and innovative sourcing solutions. Great technology with a real human approach. Learn how they do it and enjoy the interview!
What does Supplycompass stand for in the world of fashion?
We want to make it easier for brands to find and work with the best manufacturers around the world. We are on a mission to help create the world’s most trusted supply chains, to offer the most responsible and innovative sourcing solutions and to provide the most seamless experience for brands and manufacturers.
What is the service you provide that helps new fashion brands to see the light more effectively?
Whether you’re an SME or multinational, finding and working with the right manufacturer overseas is a complex and time-consuming task. Our intuitive platform brings clarity and structure to a notoriously complex process. Our focus is on facilitating better relationships within global supply chains, embedding greater trust and transparency throughout. From a single dashboard, brands can create digital tech packs, get matched with a trusted manufacturer, learn more about them via the profiles and videos we have created about them on our visits. Our platform helps bring structure and improve communication between brands and manufacturers from design through to delivery.
What are the most significant barriers between brands and suppliers to make the right connection?
Supply chains have traditionally been very opaque, with brands often unwilling to share names of their good suppliers in fear of losing their competitive advantage. Locating factories abroad and knowing who to trust is full of risk for brands. Manufacturers are very good at manufacturing, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re great a marketing, which means that often the best ones often the hardest to find.Locating factories abroad and knowing who to trust is full of risk for brands. Manufacturers are very good at manufacturing, but often the best ones often the hardest to find. Click To Tweet
When did we come to the point where producing “at home” was no longer an option?
Producing at home can still be an excellent option for some businesses, it just depends on the requirements of the brand and the specialisms of local manufacturers. The most important thing when looking for a manufacturing partner is finding one who can deliver what you need, to the required timescales, at the required price point, whilst operating responsibly. It’s a highly competitive market, and therefore local manufacturers often aren’t always able to be price competitive [particularly at scale] or don’t have the required skills to deliver the product the brand is looking for.
Are there any local ethical fashion manufacturers from the UK or even from the Europe market listed in the Supplycompass platform?
Yes, we have partnered with a number of sampling and smaller units the UK and have partners in mainland Europe too. Even though the units in the UK are comparatively more expensive, brands can benefit from quicker lead times, lower MOQs a cheaper logistics costs. Plus, their geographical proximity makes it easy to drop in and communicate designs in person. This can be extremely useful during the sampling phase, especially when producing more complex products. Pretty much any garment can be manufactured in mainland Europe and prices are generally lower than the UK, although not always. Choosing a location really depends on the specific requirements of your brand but the key things to consider are the price, speed of delivery and scale of production that you need to achieve.
How do you research and assess the factories?
Supplycompass finds and visits manufacturers around the globe and handpicks only the best to be part of our network. We take the time to build long-lasting partnerships, with trust and transparency at the core of our philosophy.
We have a three-phase vetting process. The first phase is data collection and begins with an initial assessment to understand their performance and capabilities. If they are in line with what we are looking for, we request they complete a comprehensive self-assessment. We analyse these results to gauge integrity and their capabilities in full. If satisfactory we move into the second phase, data verification. This phase revolves around factory visits. We film and take photos, interview managers and factory workers and inspect documents. We then verify our findings with external bodies as necessary. If we have a positive verification result, we require manufacturers to sign a code of conduct before being added to the platform.
We use our verified content to create a compelling manufacturer profile, which informs brands of manufacturer capabilities, initiatives, and features badges specific to social and environmental characteristics. Finally, we initiate the third and on-going phase, data maintenance. Maintaining up to date information on our manufacturers and conducting regular visits is the best way to ensure continued integrity. We are currently exploring tech solutions to better automate this process and give us live data from our partners.
What are the key aspects you look for when finding out about their ethical standards? What are these standards?
Certifications are a good starting point but it really comes down to the people who run the business. As a general rule, people who run highly ethical businesses, do it because they have a deep and personal drive to do so. Spending time with the people that run the businesses, understanding their motivations and programmes and seeing them in practice is the best way of understanding how ethical a business is.
A big market Supplycompass covers is based in India. Is there any particular reason? What about China?
We’ve started in India because of its breadth of offering and longstanding heritage with textiles. The manufacturers we work with are highly skilled and are able to produce a high-quality product, at competitive prices whilst also being committed to responsible production. For the sectors we currently work in, we believe it offers the best solution.
China is, of course, another manufacturing powerhouse and has its own specialisms and we are in the process of expanding into this market.The manufacturers we work with are highly skilled and are able to produce a high-quality product, at competitive prices whilst also being committed to responsible production. Click To Tweet
What are the most significant differences between an ethical factory and others that aren’t as sustainable?
That’s a big question! Fundamentally, ethical manufacturing comes down to every facet of how they operate. This spans a huge area, but where the most dramatic differences will be seen between less ethical factories are the following:
People – Ethical manufacturers put the welfare of their employees first. They invest in their workforce from both a skill and social perspective, helping to ensure they aren’t exploited in any way.
Product – More ethical factories will look to reduce their negative impact throughout the supply chain and this often means turning to materials, on the full understanding that to be truly ethical you need to take a holistic approach to the product in hand. For example, you can’t call yourself ethical just because you look after your workers, but the cotton you use if farmed by exploited farmers.
Pollutants and environment – Manufacturing by nature is an intensely resource-heavy operation and has a wide impact. More sustainable manufacturers will consciously look for ways to reduce that impact. This could be via things such as: using more green energy resources, being more efficient with their waste product, correctly treating their effluent.
How much is the initial investment from brands worth it? What need the fashion brands to understand when considering lowering the costs of production?
Fabric minimums of organic fabrics and sustainable fabrics like Tencel are often much higher. To keep production costs down, think about choosing one fabric across your whole collection… Also, for it to work financially for businesses, it is about focusing out how to sell the added value to your customers.
Do you see many existent fashion brands to shift to more ethical and sustainable production?
We have increasing interest from established brands who want to shift towards making more responsibly. Sometimes this means starting with a small, sustainably sourced collection or it can mean fundamentally shaking up their existing supply chains. The shift with consumers towards consuming more responsibly has also had an impact on brands. The transformation is starting to happen and will continue to do so.
If you could write a message on a big wall that the entire world could read, what would it say?
Are you thinking of starting a fashion brand and unsure who can manufacture for you? Comment below, and we will make it happen!