How can sourcing professionals work more closely with producers? With the demand for detailed intricate fabrics increasing, along with pressure for more transparent production processes and quick turnaround times, how can you ensure you find the right producer? We spoke to Jean Marie Bardout, Founder and CEO at French producer Cap Est about how the business works, and the predictions for the future.
Tell us about your business
Cap Est was founded in 1994, with a focus on ladieswear. Production has been at the heart of our business from the very beginning and is now subcontracted to Ukrainian factories, with a production platform in Kiev. Initially we started out working with middle-end customers until intense competition from Chinese quotas made our customers all but disappear! This prompted us to specialise in the high-end market that we call in French “luxe accessible”. We pride ourselves in providing a high level of service, reliability and quality for all our customers.
Do you have your own design department, if so, where do you get the inspiration for your designs from?
Yes, we have four pattern makers, and we work with models from our customers.
Do you find that brands and retailers are increasingly looking for design input from their manufacturing partners?
That doesn’t apply the way we work with our customers – they provide their own models – but we do recognise that customers are increasingly looking for additional services. These include those who can provide design and distribution, and we tend to look for partners to provide this and everything in between for our clients.
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 ?
There have been major changes in fabric trends, with new compositions that are more delicate to work with. We are seeing a demand for lighter fabrics but with more sophisticated details such as lots of bias and AMF stitching.
Are there any core staples that you are always asked for, irrespective of seasonal trend changes?
Perhaps being asked to deliver the finished goods before receiving the fabric!
Do you have a particular manufacturing niche which sets you apart?
We specialise in coats, jackets, trousers, dresses, skirts and blouses that we manufacture in different factories. We support factories with our own technical department and are in constant contact with them in order to improve quality and make sure the production process goes smoothly.
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 difference?
We have recently introduced laser cut for some small production lines which gives a very specific visual aspect. We are seeing more and more automated equipment in factories, doing sophisticated operations and it does bring good quality and productivity. But, we have still a lot of operations that need to be done manually, and this is the added value that designers are looking for. Ukrainian workers have a lot of technical know-how and skills inherited from a long tradition, and sadly we are already starting to lose that in France.
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 see that production periods are getting shorter and shorter. Due to European fabric factories closing, fabric production is more concentrated, which causes issues receiving fabric on time. Another trend we are witnessing is that our customers are increasing their number of collections each year.
How do you adapt to the changes in the marketplace, how do you stay ahead of the curve? Being more flexible; and adapting to customer constraints. We are constantly proposing new services that the customer cannot, or do not want to do internally.
Have customers become more demanding of suppliers? What have the core changes been in this relationship?
Customers are demanding more transparency, with an on time information exchange. They also look to us to become part of the solution to the problems they may face in all the production process.
What advice would you give sourcing professionals looking for a manufacturer?
What should they look for, and what questions should they be asking?
Visit the factory and look at production for other customers. This will help them to understand the factory’s technical know-how, and the quality control they use. Above all, assess the communications skills of their interlocutors and the point of contact they will be dealing with.
How can manufacturers and sourcing professionals improve their relationships?
It must be a win-win relationship with each party having confidence in the other. Both parties have to be transparent about production details, price, planning and problems which may arise. Constraints of the other party must be considered and solutions discussed together. An open channel of communication from the start is the only way to maintain a successful relationship.
Are ethical and sustainable credentials more important today? Is this something where buyers are becoming more demanding on these issues?
Yes definitely, buyers are more demanding due to the public pressure they face. This is not an issue in the Ukraine, because the working environment already brings major warranties to workers.
Meet Cap Es on stand SD10 at Fashion SVP from 26 – 27 June 2018.