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I knew I was missing business. My shop was really booming, the holidays were fast approaching, and my boutique was low on inventory. I always hated it when I KNEW I could sell more if I just had the right product in stock. I was feeling the pressure to get some new Jane Hamill dress styles in stock as of, like, yesterday.

So I took a new cutting ticket to my cutter’s place and begged her to put a major rush on it. I was repeating a body I had cut before – same pattern – but making some major changes with the fabric. I figured the fabric changes would not change the fit too much, and I was almost right about that.

The idea was to cut the bodice of the dress in cotton velveteen (from Wimpfheimer – gorgeous!) and the skirt in a light weight crepe. It sounds a little cheesy now, perhaps, but it was cute at the time so bear with me.

I was in a rush.

So I took the cutting ticket for 48 pieces (small run, just for my store) and explained the A fabric and the B fabric and put swatches on the page. My cutter and sewers were not in the same house but they worked well together and the cutter would deliver the cut pieces to the factory for me. There was no time for a sample in the correct fabric (it was already November 5!) and the plan was to get the finished pieces in 9 days.

Sure enough, they delivered on time. I remember it was a Friday morning, snowing lightly outside, which was putting my customers in the holiday mood. I remember that I was glad I could get the dresses out for the weekend.  I opened the bags and the fabrics were great, the color combinations were right on.

Just one little problem.

The A fabric was in the B spot on the B fabric was in the A spot. Seriously??!!!! How bad could this look?! I was SO MAD at the contractors. How could they not see that a flimsy crepe bodice would NOT hold up that velveteen skirt? I mean, the bodices looked like crap – all wrinkly and the fuse was ridiculous. I was thinking, even if it was cut wrong, why didn’t the sewers call me and tell me this looked off? Oh, the pain and suffering of 48 completely wasted pieces.

Let me tell you I ran to look at the cutting ticket and the swatches were in the right place. I really wanted to blame my cutter for the screw-up.  And in a way I did. But ultimately it was my mistake and my responsibility.

I had made 3 major mistakes:

  1. I did not give them a “sew-by” sample. The sample I gave them was old and in the wrong fabric. I was in too big of a rush to do things right so when the sewers got confused they had nothing to reference and they just plowed ahead.
  2. I didn’t check a top of production sample. I didn’t visit the contractors AT ALL in the entire 9 days. Not once. Looking back at it I am surprised, ashamed even, by that.
  3. I rushed the contractors. They were trying to please me and meet my deadline. I have no doubt that if I had a production schedule that was better organized, this fiasco could have been avoided.

What is cost me.

So let’s run some numbers on this mistake.

Cost of a perfect sew-by sample: $90 and one week’s time

Cost of 48 dresses I could not sell; $4880 (not to mention the lost sales)

To be honest, I still get a pit in my stomach when I tell this story. It puts me in a bad place. I better stop typing now and do some deep breathing and I’m not really kidding.

I certainly learned a huge lesson. Don’t skimp. Have a good sample for your contractor to use. Every time. Every single time. It always pays to get back to the basics of good business.

Do you hear me? Do you agree? Do you have a story to share? I just laid it all out there so let me know what you think in the comments below, will you?

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2 Responses

  1. I am working on my line and I’m hoping to launch it at the end of the year this year. I have my designs and I’ve made samples of everything, but I’m looking for a low cost contractor in the Los Angeles area to “mass” produce my samples. Can anybody recommend anyone or place?

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