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Supply Chain Outsourcing: Apparel Brand Strategies for Small Runs of Accessories

Fashion is unpredictable. Things we thought we’d never see again — like scrunchies or fanny packs — come back in style, while more classic items may start to fade into the background. Ultimately, there’s no foolproof way to predict the reaction of the public when adding a new accessory to your tried and true apparel line, and it’s why small first runs are so incredibly important. They allow brands to test the popularity of their designs in major markets before investing in a full accessory line. 

Of course, the difficulty to these small accessory runs is in the execution. These smaller batches are best outsourced to minimize the costs, but not a lot of factories are willing to take on these projects. One of the best ways for you and your brand to get around this is to work with a partner who can locate an apparel-focused factory to design and create accessories on your behalf.

Why Apparel Brands Need Accessories 

Most major brands only release two or three new collections per year. Today’s fast-paced fashion industry, requires more content than that — especially for smaller brands and individual designers whose brands are driven by a constantly-engaged audience. To consistently surprise and delight customers, it’s crucial to roll out new offerings on a more frequent basis than two or three times a year. This has a lot to do with how social media has impacted the fashion industry.

In the past, the average consumer would get their information about the latest styles from fashion magazines or celebrities on the red carpet. Brands had a lot of “runway” (mind the pun) to provide images and more than enough content to fill monthly magazine spreads. Additionally, collections shown off at the various fashion weeks around the world did more than enough to keep consumers excited. 

That’s not the case anymore. Today, consumers get their fashion information from sites like Instagram and Pinterest, where they can see items almost as soon as they hit the runway and sometimes well before. These sites are especially crucial in helping apparel brands reach young consumers. More than half of Gen Z shoppers report their most recent fashion purchases were made because of something they saw on social media. To cater to these consumers, you must have a continuously evolving digital presence and a supply chain that can back it up. 

However, consistently creating new content is a challenge. No apparel brand has enough new pieces to share multiple posts a day, every day of the year, without repeating things. But… accessories can help fill the gap. Custom socks, bags, hats, and other small items can allow you to keep releasing new products while also gauging public interest to determine if you should make a larger second run. 

But if you’re going to give consumers a reason to keep coming back, you’ll need to establish a relationship with a manufacturer who can handle these smaller projects and complete them fast. 

Creating an Effective Supply Chain Outsourcing Strategy for Small Accessory Runs 

Choosing an overseas factory to design and manufacture new accessories is the best way to keep producing new items while minimizing expenses. To do this, your main focus needs to be finding a factory that will design as well as manufacture the items. This isn’t entirely common, so you should look for companies that specialize in apparel to improve your chances. 

Of course, the best way to do this is to work with a partner who has connections and “clout” in the market. This manufacturing partner can:

Recommend factories: Individuals who connect brands with manufacturers usually have a wide range of factory connections in various locales. They’ll be able to look at those companies they’ve dealt with before and choose the best one for your brand.

Provide low MOQ orders: One of the major benefits of a manufacturing partner is that they aggregate orders from dozens of different companies, meaning you can easily obtain very low MOQs from the start and test a product before doing a full launch.

Offer prototypes and design options: Manufacturing partners can act as the go-between in obtaining multiple designs for you to choose from before selecting the final option. As this often requires a lot of back and forth, having a representative simplifies the process and saves time, as they may already have options lined up for you to choose from.

Manage training and QA: Having a third party representing a brand is crucial in maintaining high-quality standards in small run lines. Typically, the less you spend with a factory, the less leverage you have in demanding quality standards. But with a manufacturing partner aggregating orders, they can use their existing relationships and large volume orders to demand high-quality work.  

Expedite and simplify shipping: One of the biggest challenges in overseas manufacturing is getting through customs. However, manufacturing partners have pushed products through shipping hundreds of times and are able to expedite the process and do everything they can to mitigate issues or delays — while guaranteeing you vastly lower prices than you could negotiate with shipping partners on your own.

When looking for a supply chain outsourcing strategy that will allow you to do small runs of accessories, a partnership with an experienced intermediary like The/Studio is the best solution. Otherwise, doing small runs might not be cost-effective or could be too time-consuming. By working with someone who has the connections needed to design and create branded accessories, you will be able to fill the constantly growing need to provide content for your most fashion-forward consumers. 

The/Studio is your boots on the ground when you want to develop a supply chain outsourcing strategy for small runs of accessories. We have the connections you need to quickly and cost-effectively create a line of accessories to complement your brand. Contact us for more information. 


Image Credit | Floral Deco | Shutterstock




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