Creating our first print was as much an exercise in choosing the right manufacturing partner as it was a design exercise. And as we learned, manufacturer selection is about much more than costs and materials. A great manufacturing partner brings skills to the table that can complement your own and help elevate your products to be better than the sum of their parts.
When we started Kaftan Life, we were in need of print design expertise. We just weren’t confident enough to put a ton of our limited launch budget behind one of our own design sketches. To remedy this lack of experience, we made design expertise an important part of our manufacturer selection process. The goal became to find a manufacturing partner that not only met our criteria for ethical practices and garment quality, but also showcased strong in-house design capabilities and a readiness to collaborate closely with us to make beautiful products.
Our design “try-out” involved sending multiple manufacturers the request for an original print design, and seeing who did best. At the time, we were hoping to launch in late summer 2018 (LOL!), so we wanted a theme suggesting hot weather-wear to market during the dog days of summer. Tropical foliage? Pineapples? Cacti? Flamingos? All were on the table (all are still on the table ;D)
If you’ve checked out our Launch Lineup, you might already know which theme we chose: the cactus-themed design that would eventually become our ’No Sweat’ Short Drawstring Kaftan! In the print spec document, we included requirements for an original border pattern, color palette suggestions, and some design inspiration (that is, pictures of cacti that we liked). We hoped that in addition to assessing the manufacturers’ ability to follow these specifications, the cactus print would give them a chance to show off their creativity.
Over the following few weeks, we went back and forth with several manufacturers, tweaking each manufacturer’s print until it was production-ready. As the prints evolved, they became brighter and more spacious to suit warm weather wear. One manufacturer in particular created the best print, and ultimately the best sample, in the most timely manner, and were the friendliest to work with, so they won our business. The winning print progressed as follows:
Image: The evolution of our original ‘No Sweat’ cactus print
Collaborating on an original print was a crucial first step in building our relationship with our manufacturer. It gave us insight into their design process and their design strengths. It also inspired confidence in our ability to collaborate on a variety of prints ranging from traditional (i.e. our ‘Debut Dabu’ Long Kaftan) to modern (i.e. our ‘Chill Out’ Short Kaftan) to round out the launch catalog. We can’t wait to show you what designs we’re coming up with next!
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