Getting our SHIP Together

Cargo ship

Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash.

With our brand's very first production audit behind us (read all about it here), we have a lot on our plates. We're gearing up to launch our website for pre-sales, ramping up social media and email marketing, and most importantly, making sure that all our beautiful kaftans get to the U.S. for our customers to enjoy!

Importing is a key piece of most fashion brands' business models, so early on, we began laying out all the details that we needed in order to do it right. To build a successful import plan, you need to consider: 

  • Unit packing requirements, labeling, and barcoding
  • Case-packing requirements, labeling, and barcoding
  • HTS (harmonized tariff schedule) coding
  • Freight specs (gross weight and volume)
  • Palletization requirements
  • Customs clearance and import tariffs
  • Coordinating overland shipping to the port of origin
  • Coordinating overseas shipping to the port of entry
  • Coordinating overland shipping again to your distributor

... to name most of the key points. Piece of cake for a new fashion brand to manage all by ourselves, right?

The Gang Hires a Freight Forwarder

Image: We can hear this image.

It didn't take long to realize that trying to tackle international importing ourselves was not the best approach. After some conversations with other young brands that had their stuff together (shoutout to our friends at Glade Optics, Colorado-based makers of high-quality polarized eyewear), we decided to partner with a freight forwarder to manage import logistics.

Our partner of choice was Flexport (not a paid endorsement, BTW). They're fairly new players in the world of freight forwarding, but they have a great interface and high touch customer care. Working with Flexport means that we have a team to hold our hand throughout the import process. They secured overseas shipping quotes for us and played matchmaker between our manufacturer and the shipping company. With their help, our products will end up safely in the hands of our distribution partner after reaching the States without us having to coordinate directly between all the parties on the way.

Plus, we get a nifty tracking tool! Flexport lets us pinpoint our shipment anywhere in the world, whenever we want. Right now, I can say that our shipment is safely aboard a cargo ship, having left Nhava Sheva Port in Mumbai on January 9th and destined for Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This first leg of the journey takes about 11 days. In Kaohsiung, our kaftans will rest for 3 days before vaulting across the Pacific, bound for L.A. and, shortly after, our distribution center in Moreno Valley, CA.

Kaftan Life's first overseas shipment, tracked using Flexport

Image: This screenshot of Flexport tracking our shipment across the sea was months in the making. Sometimes we just sit and stare at it.

The Last Piece of the Puzzle

Confidence in our inventory schedule was the last critical piece we needed (or so we thought) to be able to open our website for pre-sales. With our freight in transit to the U.S. and a reliable ETA, we're excited to say that barring any unseen delays, all Kaftan Life preorders will ship on or before March 15, 2019!

Now, delays do happen in overseas freight shipping. See:

Beach container ship run aground

Image: Not our ship.

Containers falling off of ship at sea

Image: Also not our ship.

Cape Akritas. Photo credit FleetMon.

Image: Actually our ship! No tipsy containers here! Photo Credit FleetMon.

So barring any major issues, we look forward to having our inventory stateside in February and fulfilling customer pre-orders by March 15! We can't wait to get our cute, ethically made 100% cotton kaftans into the hands of our customers.

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Startup How-To: Import Your Products


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