Fashion Manufacturing Bali 101

Right, time to get down to business.  So our first project is that of a fashion sourcing agent.  I would act as a representative for various foreign fashion brands looking to manufacture in Bali.  The challenges as I see it are the following:

  1. Slow island culture
  2. Low quality standards
  3. Limited high quality materials
  4. Rainy season (many products are air dried)
  5. Frequent power outages
Benefits to fashion brands wanting to manufacture in Bali:
  1. Low cost of production
  2. Low minimum requirements
  3. Special handcraft skills
I have a few clients keen to sample here in Bali. Mainly riding on the back of the credibility I have built during my work in the fashion industry, but also for the possible cost savings.  Now I have to actually prove that I can do what I say I can.
Reddy my driver for the day, collected me at 10am. One hour later then we originally planned.  Due to my weekend hangover. My timing was off and I felt jet lagged all over again.  I woke at 2am that morning and could not go back to sleep.  Also I think I was a bit excited and nervous about the day ahead.  My life was no longer a dream on a vision board.  It is real and so are the responsibilities.
So we set off to the the immigration office first, as I had to apply for the business visa.  Still a bit mind boggling to me, seeing as I was born in Indonesia and am half Indonesian.  Also the visa requires me to leave the country every 60 days.  I guess I will be visiting my friends in Singapore Sham and Shiran. Not so many cocktails this time I promise!
I got a lead on a manufacturer I had sampled with the previous year Ibu M (Miss M).  The quality was ok, but not necessarily to the standard I needed.  As in many of the small manufacturing in Bali, her team works from the back area of her house.  She manufactures for companies all over the world.  In fact, I looked up one of her clients in London and I am very familiar with a few of their stockists.  I feel comfortable with Ibu M and feel that I can trust her.  She is Esther’s friend’s mom.  Its important in Bali when that you get a good sense for a person.  Despite her quality being average, I think we can work together to get her standards up.
In order to hedge the research and payment time for the agency I am sampling 3 – 4 of my own collections to sell in London.  Each collection will consists of 5 key shapes and a number of colourways.  I will discuss those brand concepts later.
The meeting was very helpful as I had a price basis for various stages of the process: pattern cutting, sampling, spec drawing, dyeing etc.  I had to then kindly explain to her that I had to cost and quality compare with other places.  I even thought to take my chances at asking if there was anyone she could recommend.  She referred me onto a place that I would check out the following day.  I also asked to see where she purchases the fabrics, trims and where the fabric is dyed.  I tried to explain the importance of transparency not only to understand the process, but also to ensure that there were no ethical issues like sweatshops.
Forgot to mention that Ibu Mary speaks little English so I used my bahasa and had help from her daughter that was in town from Jakarta.  I realised that despite my Indonesian understanding being adequate, that I really needed to invest in my learning.
Reddy and I went off to the fabric shop which appeared to be where all the manufacturers in the area would shop.  I had the assumption that I would be standing in the market and having to bargain prices on materials, but ‘it was all very civilised’ as Lucas would say.  The items were labelled and if you requested a swatch there was a card ready with the fabric swatch and info.  I also realised that I need to improve my understanding of materials I did fashion design courses, but that was 6 years ago.  Even my recent fabric refresher course was not enough.  Some people can touch a fabric and know what it is made of.  I don’t need to be that good, but def more competent in terms of fabric characteristics and quality differentiation.
Between traffic and a few other runs it was already 6pm and I decided to call it a day.  Especially as we didn’t even stop for lunch.  I went for a nice dinner at the local Warung for my 2 dollar dinner.
Not a bad first day!




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