Tell us about your business, how long has it been running and what’s the story behind it?
Condra was established in 1992, entirely with private Romanian capital. It is a family business, based on an old tradition and passion for producing men shirts. In the beginning there were 7 employees in a rented space. Now, after 26 years of continuous reinvestment from private resources, we own a production space of approximately 2000 square meters and offer working conditions at European standards for 150 employees. The existing technology and accumulated experience allows us to make any model of men shirt or women blouse, starting with the pattern creating from scratch.
Production capacity is 1000 units per day.
Do you have your own design department, if so, where do you get the inspiration for your designs from?
We do not have our own design department, but we work together with young European designers for which we make prototype samples and collections based on an original sketch and a size table. We build basic patterns and perform grading using CAD technology.
Do you find that brands and retailers are increasingly looking for design input from their manufacturing partners?
We believe brands are looking for the shortest way from design to ready-made product. We offer the link between a designer and a brand. We make possible the dreams and ideas of a designer to materialise in a brand. We started at CMT and got to FOB, offering everything from sampling to final product delivery for many of the renowned brands in Europe (Versace, Tiger of Sweden, Peak Performance, Fil Noir, Rue de Tokio) and the UK (Asos, Long Tall Sally, Guide London).
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?
Trends have their roots in contradictions:
– known – unknown
– present – return to the past
– austerity – freshness
– chiaroscuro – brightness
– minimalism – decorative exuberance
Lately, we have seen how sporting elements have been reinterpreted and worn in a smart way. The collections are more like day-to-day, with simple easy-to-wear pieces. The women’s blouses have been transformed into over shirts / long dresses inspired by men’s shirts, keeping the collar and cuffs.
Flower patterns combined with piping, tapes, accessories in contrast have penetrated a lot on the men’s shirt category.
Are there any core staples that you are always asked for, irrespective of seasonal trend changes?
Yes. The classic has not disappeared. Simple, standard products, where design offers a sense of curiosity and originality. These basic products are always updated with a variety of fabrics and prints.
As the Germans are saying, “The shirt is the fine mechanics of the garment industry”.
Do you have a particular manufacturing niche which sets you apart? How do you set yourselves apart from other manufacturers?
As we said, we are a factory specialised in shirts for men and women, and on this niche we can offer absolutely everything. We meet all the criteria to become a partner of a brand:
– specialised personnel
– the technical equipment
– the high quality of execution
– prompt delivery of orders
– the creditworthiness of the company
– the best quality/price ratio
And maybe what differentiates us from the rest is that we are a strong team built on trust and communication.
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 always following the implementation of technological developments in the production process, with a result in flexibility and speed we have in the production process. A regular delivery time of 3-4 weeks can sometimes be compressed in a single week. We are agile, we react quickly and we offer individualised products.
The textiles industry will not be fully automated due to the variation and novelty of the materials being processed. The human side of the workforce will remain part of the production chain and will bring authenticity to the products. But organising your business on an automated computing system is a must to remain present on the market.
Are you seeing any trends or changes in the way production is moving? For example, are you being asked more about ethical practices or are you turning to data driven production?
In our field, the great variety of materials does not really offer the chance of automation, at least not in the near future. It is not enough to invest in new machines, but more important to see if we have balanced our activity, if we operate efficiently, and continuously develop our internal organisation. We have adopted and implemented the ETI BASE CODE and even if the major challenge of the Romanian producers, at this moment, is the lack of human resources, we are not affected by this.
How do you adapt to the changes in the marketplace, how do you stay ahead of the curve?
Simple. We continuously adapt through a lot of work and plenty of perseverance.
Have customers become more demanding of suppliers? What have the core changes been in this relationship?
Our clients grew up with us and we are as well growing up with them. We respect each other and try to evolve together.
What advice would you give sourcing professionals looking for a manufacturer? What should they look for, and what questions should they be asking?
They should be looking for the manufacturers background, quick delivery terms, good ratio price/quality.
How can manufacturers and sourcing professionals improve their relationships?
Communication is the main ingredient. Through effective communication, good will and open minds on both sides, we can overcome all obstacles.
Are ethical and sustainable credentials more important today? Is this something where buyers are becoming more demanding on these issues?
Ethical accreditation’s are important for big brands who want to have a scanned image of the factory. Small brands representatives want to know us personally, in the factory on a normal business day. They visit us regularly and meeting face to face is a great thing for business growth on both sides.