Soames Rudowski, CEO, Fashion Team

1. Tell us about your business, how long has it been running and what’s the story behind it? We started in 1983 in the fabric import export business. Throughout time we have dedicated and specialised ourselves into the production of clothes.

2. Do you have your own design department, if so, where do you get the inspiration for your designs from? With some of the factories we subcontract we do have a designing department that helps our customers get the look they are searching. Inspiration is a mixture between the customer ideas and our imagination.

3. Do you find that brands and retailers are increasingly looking for design input from their manufacturing partners? Not so much in design but more in fabric input. What’s new in the market.

4. 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? Lace comes and goes. It was out of fashion 3 years ago and now everyone wants lace. The cliche of what goes around comes around is absolutely true, especially in fashion. I foresee a more classical move in the next years. Sportswear will always be sportswear, but there is a tendency to transform classical into sportswear, but that might change soon.

5. Are there any core staples that you are always asked for, irrespective of seasonal trend changes? Durability. Brands we work with want high quality products. So the regular question is, how can we make the styles more durable.

6. Do you have a particular manufacturing niche which sets you apart? How do you set yourselves apart from other manufacturers? Well, there are many points that set us apart. We tend to work in partnerships. Our competitors are just part of our world so we like to collaborate. We don’t see them as a threat. We communicate fast and we have a good product.

7. 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? The technological developments are something that touches us in every single moment of our lives. In the textile world I would point out the fact that we are in a totally informatized ERA. Communication flows. What we needed to send by post, then by telex, fax, we can now send by email through our phone. This is the most incredible change in the last years. Many of the production processes are machine made but I don’t believe and don’t like to think about my profession as completely dominated by machines. I truly believe it’s impossible. Man power is fundamental for our success.

8. Are you seeing any trends or changes in the way production is moving? For ex-ample, are you being asked more about ethical practices or are you turning to data driven production? I can’t run away from the fact that brands are more and more conscious about the environment. I believe it’s important to be aware of the new possibilities, but when it comes to that, when you produce in Portugal, you are already taking for granted things that you can’t take for granted in other countries, especially in the far east. Brands like to know that the fabric is not contaminating the reveres when it’s being produced. I get a lot of brands asking to hold a paper saying I PRODUCED YOUR CLOTHES.. So there is a growing concern about these kinds of themes.

9. How do you adapt to the changes in the marketplace, how do you stay ahead of the curve? We are flexible. We unfold the curve and keep a straight line ☺ New fabrics, constantly new investments, travelling a lot. Meeting people. Human contact, so that people understand we are also humans and not only a production company.

10. Have customers become more demanding of suppliers? What have the core changes been in this relationship? Absolutely. Customers demand more and more, but we need to accept that. I see business as a give and take process. If I say I can supply, it must be true. It can’t be a bluff. Brands need the goods and they need to trust their supplier. Trust comes from hard work and commitment.

11. What advice would you give sourcing professionals looking for a manufacturer? What should they look for, and what questions should they be asking? Good one. Hmm.. it’s difficult to say but if I would be looking for a supplier, I would be well prepared, in the sense that I would have tech packs prepared in a way that the suppliers understand and that they can interact with it, by proposing fabrics and details that can make the product more cost effective. I would listen to what suppliers have to say and then decide the direction to go…

12. How can manufacturers and sourcing professionals improve their relationships? By communicating more and by creating a trusting and committed relationship.

13. Are ethical and sustainable credentials more important today? Is this some-thing where buyers are becoming more demanding on these issues? Yes.

14. What are your minimum and maximum order quantities? Minimums 200 pcs per colour and style, depending on the styles, fabrics and details of each one of them. There is no maximum order, there is a timeline that can be longer or shorter.

15. How do you think Brexit will affect your garment manufacturing business? I don’t believe in Brexit. Anyway, In case it really happens, there will be an adaptation period and then it will be business as usual. Depending on how the final agreements will be done, there might be some issues with duties and import taxes that will make it less competitive for Portugal to export to the UK but at the same time, Portugal being a historical business partner for the UK, ways will be found to make it happen.