Which trends are manufacturers seeing and can manufacturers work directly with sourcing professionals on design? We talk sporty chic and checks to 70’s, animal print and romanticism with Helder Veloso Rodrigues and Michelle Prieto Rodrigues from Irmãos Rodrigues.

Tell us about your business, how long has it been running and what’s the story behind it?
Irmãos Rodrigues was established in 1987. It is a family-owned business, specialising in the production of women, men and children’s jersey garments. Working as an active partner with clients, we follow the entire process, from the first sketches to the finished product.

Do you have your own design department, if so, where do you get the inspiration for your designs from?
Yes, IR Lab is our own design & trends department. Its focus is on the continuous research and development of collections for our clients, catering to each one’s individual needs. Inspiration comes from many sources: catwalks, WGSN, high street trends, shopping, fashion fairs and more!

Do you find that brands and retailers are increasingly looking for design input from their manufacturing partners?
Yes, nowadays it is extremely important for us to help and support our clients in development, from the sketches to the final product. Our design team has added value to our company. Many of our clients are using our designs to develop their collections; they are also buying designs from the IR Lab collection and this is something that gives us satisfaction to continue improving and growing.

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 we have seen coming over the past seasons include laces, flowers, velvet, transparencies, glitters/lurex, sporty chic styles, checks, stripes, mixed prints, letterings, among others.
Trends we expect to see over the coming seasons include 70’s style, checks, animal prints and romanticism.

Are there any core staples that you are always asked for, irrespective of seasonal trend changes?
Yes, we have clients that over the last 20 years have developed the same product in different seasons with slight detail changes within fabrics/techniques/accessories.

Do you have a particular manufacturing niche which sets you apart? How do you set yourselves apart from other manufacturers?
Our core business is with jersey manufacturing. The accuracy of our methods, the focus on the continuous improvement, the innovation in design, a qualified and talented team and the speed of our production process make it possible to respond effectively and in very short lead times, offering our clients the credibility and confidence to place their products and invest in a stable partnership.

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 new technologies in terms of machines and teams, to offer our clients the quality and capacity to quickly response to their needs.

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 feel the market growing demand for environmental and ethical practices. We are an OEKO-TEX and GOTS certified company for many years now; and we are in the process of SA8000 certification.

How do you adapt to the changes in the marketplace, how do you stay ahead of the curve?
With a strong spirit of creativity, with the relentless pursuit of excellence, with professionalism, with the flexibility to respond to different needs and with the help of all our clients and partners that push us to be and do always better.

Have customers become more demanding of suppliers? What have the core changes been in this relationship?
They are demanding what the market demands and we have to be with them at every stage to support the changes.

What advice would you give sourcing professionals looking for a manufacturer? What should they look for, and what questions should they be asking?
To keep in mind that we are an extension of their companies; to look up for the best service, with the most added-value.

How can manufacturers and sourcing professionals improve their relationships?
Always speaking and finding solutions together, always thinking as a team, and looking for the growth of both parties.

Are ethical and sustainable credentials more important today? Is this something where buyers are becoming more demanding on these issues?
Yes, this is something with growing importance these days. Irmãos Rodrigues assumes the responsibility to value the importance of environmental principles and their application.