How can you ensure your manufacturer is committed to sustainability and ethical working practices? Can your supplier also provide design inspiration? We spoke to Serhan Akbas from Turkish garment manufacturer Akbaslar to find out about its green credentials, and how it is working with brands to capture the latest trends. 

Tell us about your business, how long has it been running and what’s the story behind it? Akbaslar was established 1962. It is a family business that started as a print mill and has grown to be one of the largest print mills in Turkey as well as being a fully vertical garment manufacturer.

Do you have your own design department, if so, where do you get the inspiration for your designs from? Yes, we have design offices in London, Barcelona, Italy and Turkey. Inspiration is taken from catwalks, WGSN, high street trends, shopping & sourcing trips (the inspiration can vary depending on the individual customer’s needs – but as we are a near east fast response supplier we would usually always be designing to the latest trends).

Do you find that brands and retailers are increasingly looking for design input from their manufacturing partners? Yes definitely. Most of our customers fully utilise our design services; in using our design service we can offer a slightly different handwriting to their own in-house designers. In addition, we have a huge amount of market insight from across our textile and garment customers.

What design trends have you seen coming over the past two or three seasons, and what trends do you expect to see over the coming seasons? Bohemian – we have seen this for a few seasons and it is going to be important for AW18 and we predict in will continue for SS19. The other key trend that is so dominant right now that we expect to continue for the next 12 months is 90’s Sport (Check, Stripes, Sports) but obviously updated going in to SS19.

Are there any core staples that you are always asked for, irrespective of seasonal trend changes? Yes, some of our customers have key items that are updated each season, but they are used as a print or plain colour vehicles, so these would carry the most fashion forward colours and prints that they had not booked on long lead time from far east suppliers.

Do you have a manufacturing niche which sets you apart? How do you set yourselves apart from other manufacturers? Our niche is that we are a completely vertical mill and garment manufacturer invested in design and R&D to deliver fast fashion to market leaders. In addition, we have two state-of-the-art digital printing machines (there are only 10 of these machines worldwide).

Have there been any new technological developments that you have introduced into your manufacturing processes? Do you think there will ever come a time where manufacturing is fully automated, or it is the human input that makes the quality differences? We are continuously updating our manufacturing processes as we are always keen to be at the forefront of manufacturing innovation and sustainability. In terms of automation, we agree that some processes of the manufacturing could be automated to increase efficiencies, but ultimately being able to offer employment/training/stability to local people and having human input is irreplaceable.

How do you adapt to the changes in the marketplace, how do you stay ahead of the curve? With speed, innovation, investment and flexibility. We stay ahead of the curve by investing in people, investing in innovation, being flexible and reacting with speed.

Have customers become more demanding of suppliers? What have the core changes been in this relationship? I think all customers have expectation levels and their needs can vary according to their own markets, but we do not believe they have become more demanding. As a supplier, it is just important that we continue to be flexible to their needs.

What advice would you give sourcing professionals looking for a manufacturer?  It would depend on their own customer base as all sourcing teams would have various requirements. But I guess the main areas to look at to ask are: design resource, quality assurance, capacity and customers.

How can manufacturers and sourcing professionals improve their relationships? The answer is very simple…. communication! Speaking, planning and sharing information and vision increase the visibility from both sides enabling both parties to react accordingly.

Are ethical and sustainable credentials more important today?  Is this something where buyers are becoming more demanding on these issues? Yes, it is becoming more important. As an ECO (M&S Plan A) approved factory it is incredibly important both from our own conscious as well as buyers. We have been at the forefront of improving our ‘green credentials’ and as a result we own a wind farm and a hydro power plant, plus we recycle the steam and water in our fabric mill. In addition, we can supply our customers with sustainable viscose and recycled polyester and there are many other projects that our research and development teams are working on.