The clothes that you see on the rack at your favorite store are there at the end of a long process which encompasses a vast number of participants who do everything from design, cut, source material, stitch, and ship. There are also smaller responsibilities in the process that make the end product affordable, stylish, widely available, and fashionable.
The process starts with designers who try to anticipate the styles that are on the horizon. It is a competitive part of the industry. Styles that catch-on stand to make large profits for all those up and down the production chain. Lines that fail can bring steep losses. Designers take inspiration from boutiques, movies, celebrities, and even combine ideas from past designs to come up with something fresh.
Once the designs are approved, the materials that are needed are sourced and costs are calculated before the final decision to proceed is made. Once the supply chain is confirmed and the materials and products are available, the process begins in earnest.
At this point, the design is adapted to various regions and different sizes are contemplated. The design has to undergo some alterations to be made for different sizes. The original design may look good on a petite size but not on a medium frame. All these need to be adjusted before the different lines are approved.
With the designs for the different sizes complete and all the material and accessories in place, the fabric is cut. Modern technology has altered the way fabric is cut. Today, multiple layers of cloth are placed in special cutters that use either large blades or lasers. All the cutters are controlled by computers that monitor every stage of the process.
Once the material is cut, they are sent to manual stations that take the different pieces of material and stitch them together. This part of the process is still largely driven by human labor. The seamstresses who work the station are usually told what they need to do in a very methodical process that allows only a few seconds to complete a particular section of the garment. The process uses an assembly-line format.
Once stitched, the garments go thought the finishing stages where they are taken to another bank of seamstresses to attach various accessories that are called for by the design, such as buttons, hooks, belts, and so on.
Once this is complete, the finished garments are sent to an inspection line. Here inspectors check the quality of the workmanship and the overall product. The more expensive the brand label that goes on the garment, the more stringent the inspection. Clothes that are destined for the bargain rack are sampled and not checked individually for defects or quality. Clothes that are going to high-dollar stores are meticulously checked and labeled. Whatever is rejected by the high-dollar inspectors get included in the bargain-rack pile.
The clothes are then packed and shipped to their destinations months before the season they are designed for.
Clothing manufacturing in Vietnam brings together a wide array of expertise from business to marketing, to retail and shipping to be able to execute a global industry that circles the globe every season.