When we think of ‘newness’ we immediately think of new fabrics, new collections or colors. Today there is almost as much change happening on the sourcing and production side of the business, as manufacturers and buyers are being pushed to rethink how they manage their entire supply chain, said Hans Joachim Isler, managing director of HD Isler & Co. Ltd.
The Hong Kong-based independent sourcing company was founded in 1962 at the beginning of the offshore sourcing boom and witnessed the evolution of international sourcing from the early days when buyers first stepped into Asia to the the peak of the fast fashion boom. HD Isler began by sourcing blouses and dresses and then expanded to source outerwear in China and Vietnam. It remains a family owned and run business.
“Today sourcing is about smaller orders and flexible lead times. This new model is posing a tremendous challenge to the industry, which was built on low cost, volume orders,” said Mr. Isler. “China has become much more expensive, but medium sized brands don’t have the quantity to shift to Bangladesh or Vietnam.”
“The minimum order size is also starting to come down in China as manufacturers become more flexible. We have a portfolio of factories that can meet different customers’ requirements. Some of them can manage 300 pieces or below per style, while other factories we have are doing 500 – 1000 pieces per style,” said Mr. Isler.
Nurturing New Brands
HD Isler focuses on the European market where some of the stronger smaller, niche brands have been able to survive alongside the larger international brands. Today there is a resurgence of these small to medium sized brands, with more than 3,000 niche brands in Germany alone now.
“We feel very encouraged by seeing so many new brands coming up,” said Mr. Isler. “Our real strength is working with small and medium size companies. Most of these brands are very knowledgeable about sales and design, however many of them are weak on production. We can help them to streamline production so that they can save time and costs,” he said, noting that there are lots of pitfalls for brands that don’t have deep experience managing offshore production.
“We work very closely with these brands and guide them and nurture them – the goal is a mutually successful, long term business partnership,” said Mr. Isler.
“Our objective is to work with our customers’ design teams to help facilitate a smooth production flow,” said Mr. Isler, explaining that his team works with clients to find fabrics and trims, as well as to fine tune the pattern making.
“The fact that we are independent means we can be objective and truly make sure everything the factory does is up to the standard,” said Mr. Isler. The company also has its own quality inspection team to make sure everything goes well in the factory.
Market Intelligence Makes a Difference
Part of being agile is having the best market information. For over ten years HD Isler has subscribed to Inside Fashion to gain critical market insights.
“We rely on Inside Fashion for accurate information about what’s happening in key sourcing markets. Understanding the movement of trade in global markets is vitally important and Inside Fashion’s team is on the ground in those markets,” said Mr. Isler.
“The key is to be very proactive on the production side. It’s essential to get as many critical things done as early as possible in order to guarantee a high quality product that is delivered on time,” he said, explaining how HD Isler manages to achieve reliable deliveries. “There are countless things that can go wrong during the production process so the more time you can save in the beginning the more time you have to solve those problems when they arise.”