#6. The story behind: making of Konny
Finding a highly skilled sewing factory
From the early stages of planning and designing, I promised myself that I would never compromise on choosing an experienced and skilled sewing factory, since I knew that our main product, the baby carrier, was directly linked to the baby’s safety. But I couldn't find any sewing factories at all, let alone a highly skilled one. I had no idea where they were and what they even looked like. After endless web search and legwork, I later found out that the reason it was so hard for me to find any information about them was that sewing factories worked directly with other companies, not consumers.
Back when I was struggling to find sewing factories everyday...
All I could do was ask around here and there and endless web search. After digging through the network, I collected the contacts of sewing factories and visited each one that was looking for work. But most of the companies did not treat me like a partner. They gave me the cold-shoulder and few of them even slammed the door in my face. Their asking price was always beyond my budget. Looking back now, anyone would have easily noticed that I was a novice, and the companies would have seen me as unprepared. (Now I can only imagine how annoying it would have been for them to deal with a fully motivated, confident amateur like me…)
But I needed to be convinced that it was the factory I wanted to work with, as I had to fully invest all available capital to production. This was a totally new field to me. So, even after meeting with several factory managers, I wasn't sure if I could just follow my gut and entrust the destiny of the brand to them. Recognizing that I knew nothing about the nature or working cycle of the sewing factory, I came to think that I wasn't prepared enough.
One day, I was introduced to a production agency by an acquaintance. Believing it was a real good chance for me to complement my lacking experience, I immediately signed up to work with the agency. By then, all of Konny’s initial products were already made. But as I tried to work at a desk without visiting the factory myself, I couldn't figure out what difficulties people at the production site were facing. Even though we frequently communicated about the issues, I wasn't sure whether our thoughts were being delivered precisely in the “language” they spoke in the factory or reflected in their work through their fingertips. I believe the producers should have an accurate understanding of every bit of the product I want to make. Because even if I design them, the products that the consumers will receive are being produced by the hands of the seamstresses. After all, I knew everything will turn out differently depending on the mindset of each individual on the team and how they approach their work.
From fabric to sewing to production, there were so many things I needed to learn. And communicating through an intermediary agency made the process slow and opaque. I came to understand that in this kind of setting, I could not ensure the product quality, which matters the most. So I decided to start everything from scratch, admit my inexperience and directly communicate with the producers.
When the factory seemed okay to work with, the asking price was overly high.
While I kept struggling to find the right sewing factory, my mother said, “You know, your youngest auntie does sewing. Why don’t you call her and ask for help?” (Seriously, right at that moment, I saw the halo shining over my mom’s head.) I called my youngest aunt for the first time in my life. “Oh, you didn't know? I sew for a living at my older brother’s factory. We only take brand name clothes sold in department stores. The clothes I bring home during national holidays are the ones we make at the factory. Come by whenever you have time.” Then, I realized that the clothes from popular brands I wore from back when I was a middle schooler were all made by my aunt.
I immediately scheduled a visit to the factory. It turned out to be the factory with the best environment among the ones I've visited. The working place was spacious, bright and clean. In other words, the ones I previously visited were tiny, dark and untidy. The factory manager confidently said I didn't need to worry about the quality of sewing at all, since he has been supplying to department stores for 30 years and was sufficiently trained while working with clothing brands with strict standards. He also gave his word that he would help me in every way I needed. I asked if I could count on the factory for production of all of our products, and he willingly accepted.
The factory has now become a Konny-exclusive factory, both for domestic sales and exports. It stopped taking orders from clothing brands it has been supplying to for 30 years, and now solely supplies our products. Since they only focus on making our products all-year round, they are highly skilled, fast and have high standards about the quality of the finished products. Above all, I love the fact that the factory manager, who also happens to be my distant relative, is reliable, honest and meticulous.
The Konny-exclusive factory ♡
At first, I wondered why this highly skilled factory was willing to exclusively partner with a small brand like Konny. The factory manager later told me that while supplying to high quality brands, the factory workers became increasingly skilled and the unit cost for sewing went up accordingly; and due to the high unit cost, department store brands are now turning to offshore manufacturing for cheaper labor. Plus, there were difficulties they faced while taking small quantity orders for various kinds of products: delivering products without any defects, brands shifting the blame onto the factory for mistakes, and recurrent abuse of power… Meanwhile, with Konny, there were no frustrations or burdens from such business practices.
The factory manager said they love working with Konny as Konny places stable orders for a single item, makes prompt payments and does not make any absurd requests by abusing power. As much as the factory appreciates us, we also try our best to be the best partner. Perhaps the valued relationship with the factory is the key to our excellent production quality and a dramatically low defect rate.
Just as there are special bonds between people, I guess there can be one between a company and a factory as well.