Writing this new blog has been a great insight for me into production in China. I work part-time for this New Zealand/ Chinese supplier and have to say after working in the fashion industry for 18 years I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work for a such a pleasant fashion supplier who make beautiful product with a great attitude to fashion. These are the questions that I was interested in asking the General Manager William Wu:
1. Who have been some of your most high profile fashion customers since you entered the fashion industry?
I started working in the garment business in 1994 after graduating from University. At this time, we mainly dealt with importers in New York who supplied to the likes of J.C Penny, Macy’s, Sears and the Dress Barn. These products were all 100% silk and the quantities were massive which meant that the cost per garment was very cheap.
In the first 2 years of my career I worked on the factory floor, conscious that I wanted to learnt from the ground up. I dealt with and learnt about fabric construction, cutting, sewing, basic pattern making and quality control inspection. In the year 2000 I moved to the company Suzhou Hengsheng and through this company we moved into the New Zealand and the Australian markets. To date the most high profile customers in these regions that we have worked with have been Karen Walker, Helen Cherry and Camilla & Marc.
2. What major differences do you see in the fashion industry as it is today to when you entered it, from a suppliers point of view?
When I started working in the fashion industry I had the opportunity to work for several garment fashion factories before taking the role of General Manager for Suzhou Hengsheng. At this time, all orders were relatively large and most of the factory managers and administrators were very experienced and responsible in the way they ran production. Workers were trained before they started to work on production lines and the quality of the goods was very high.
Now, 20 years later, there are less orders placed and the quantities are a lot smaller. I have to be honest and say that the overall quality now in factories is compromised and there is far less responsibility taken. The economic and fashion markets have changed internationally and this is a result of these changes.
3. There has been an abundance of changes in the fashion industry over the last few years. Who is still here, who has gone, who has adapted. What does Skywards Apparel plan to do, for its future, to ensure they continue as a strong company within this industry?
There have been many clothing manufacturers in China, in the eastern coastal areas particularly, that with the changes in the economy, peoples ideologies and the rising cost of labour that are having to close down. These factories have sadly got to that stage where they are no longer making any profit and there has been a great loss in workers moving from fashion to other manufacturing industries. There has been a huge shift of production being moved to cheaper labour costs in countries such as India, Bangladesh and Vietnam.
At Suzhou Hensheng/ Skywards Apparel we have specialised in the New Zealand market now for around 17 years. Although we too are struggling and are facing these difficult times we know all our customers well and have a good working relationship with them. We are also committed to developing working relations with more high-end customers because we have our own factory which is very specialised in small quantities and orders which is suited to this level of premium product.
We also offer our machinists and workers rewards incentive schemes to ensuring they understand their roles within the company are highly appreciated and to ensure our product stays consistent to the high standards that we are known for.
4. The fashion industry is becoming highly aware of the pollution & human rights issues that have been created as a result to the demand for fast fashion. What does Skywards Apparel do to counteract these harmful outcomes from fashion production?
Firstly, by no means do we permit child labour in our garment factories. This is one of the main terms of compliance that we have when being audited by the majority of our customers prior to and throughout manufacturing for their business.
Secondly, strictly speaking garment factories rarely cause pollution to the environment. Usually these sorts of manufacturers produce fabrics which include dying and printing fabrics using a lot of special finishing procedures which will cause pollution.
5. Do you think that there is possibility for suppliers to establish themselves to be well known premium product suppliers who integrate ethical, sustainable, recyclable and human rights as part of their key message when deciding on who their customers are and what sort of premium product they can produce?
This would be ideal! This is what we are aiming to achieve.