Tell us about your business, how long has it been running and what’s the story behind it?

Gulbena as garment manufacturing company has been working for 10 years. It all started when Gulbena as a technical/functional fabrics supplier started participating in trade shows and customers were asking where they could manufacture the garments with those technical fabrics. Taking advantage of the know-how in dyeing and finishing fabrics, the garment manufacturing unit was born focusing in technical and functional garments, such as sportswear and corporate wear. Gulbena has since then been investing in high tech machinery, state of the art technology and highly qualified professionals.

Do you have your own design department, if so, where do you get the inspiration for your designs from?

Gulbena has its own design department in the digital print unit, on the garment manufacturing we work mostly with design developed by our customers

Do you find that brands and retailers are increasingly looking for design input from their manufacturing partners?

We think that our customers rely on us for advice in finding the most suitable fabrics for their designs, achieving the most cost effective sewing or construction details, getting the technical advice on hi-tech details depending on how specific the garment’s use / longevity will be.

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?

More than design trends, we have seen brands turn to sustainability both in raw-materials and during production process in general. We have been working on sustainability for the past few years and are very focused on materials, trims and production. Our fabrics are already Oeko-Tex certified and the manufacturing is currently in the process of Oeko-Tex certification. We are investing and adapting having sustainability in mind as we believe that this is a major global concern and are confident that the majority of the brands will follow this path as well.

Are there any core staples that you are always asked for, irrespective of seasonal trend changes?

Being sportswear garments experts we are asked for performance, comfort and sustainability. The seasonal aspect is not so relevant for us, our garments are quite “seasonless”. We also produce corporate wear, which is also not very seasonable.

Do you have a particular manufacturing niche which sets you apart? How do you set yourselves apart from other manufacturers?

We own a dyeing house and a digital print facility which allows us to be very quick in samples turnaround. We also have in-house pattern cutting and CAD operator, as well as automatic cutting, which is essential for high elasthanne % fabrics. We are capable of offering not only sustainable fabrics but also functional fabrics, such as breathable, thermo regulator, anti-bacterial, SPF, and water repellent.

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 have set up a garment bonding unit, which is getting started in production early next year. We are in the process of testing fabrics, adhesives and procedures. These will allow us to guarantee the quality and the longevity of the product.

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?

We notice that customers are more and more concerned about ethical practices in production and also in the materials used in the products.

How do you adapt to the changes in the marketplace, how do you stay ahead of the curve?

We have ongoing developments not only in garments but also in fabrics and treatments. We visit and exhibit in many tradeshows which allow us to be always updated.

Have customers become more demanding of suppliers? What have the core changes been in this relationship?

The customers look for suppliers they can count on and aim to establish long term partnerships. This enables us to be as efficient as we can possibly be as the more we know our customers and their products the more reliable and proactive we can be.

What advice would you give sourcing professionals looking for a manufacturer? What should they look for, and what questions should they be asking?

We believe that the manufacturers should be open to new developments and should be ready to find new solutions for the demands of the customers. They should be experts in the type of product they produce, knowing all there is to know about it. The manufacturer needs to be very focused on keeping schedules and guaranteeing the quality of the product. Communication is also very important in the partnership.

How can manufacturers and sourcing professionals improve their relationships?

Transparency and communication are fundamental, all parts must be open and honest. This is the key to a successful relationship.

Are ethical and sustainable credentials more important today? Is this something where buyers are becoming more demanding on these issues?

As pointed out in point 4, ethical and sustainable credentials are extremely important as this is the direction of the textile industry worldwide.