China in Review: A Whole New Appreciation
I am finally on my last leg of the 20-hour journey that started when we left Shanghai at 9:00 AM on October 20th. The coolest part about traveling home from China is that I’ll get to live the same day twice on two different continents. For the past ten days, my mom, who is also my business partner, and I have spent countless hours on planes, trains, and automobiles so that we could gain a whole new appreciation for how our products are made and the people behind the magic.
Our first visit involved a three-hour car ride to Shengzhou, a small town outside of Shanghai. Our lovely driver picked us up at our hotel in Shanghai and drove us through the rural countryside to the factory of our supplier Michael. When we arrived, we received a very warm welcome from Michael, his office staff, and his employees in the cutting and sewing factory. We couldn’t communicate in English with anyone except Michael, but the occasional use of our Google voice translator allowed us to have basic conversations with everyone else. Everyone was extremely kind and welcoming throughout our visit.
After two days with Michael, we moved on to the city of Hangzhou. Hangzhou is a beautiful and bustling city that is home to nine million people as well as the incredible West Lake. Our visit with our newest supplier of three years was amazing! We were absolutely blown away by how young they were and the remarkable company they were running.
Again, a driver picked us up at our hotel and took us to the office where we were greeted by a warm welcoming sign before each employee introduced themselves. We had a lovely conversation with the owners about business expansion ideas. Afterwards we took tours of the print factory, and the cutting and sewing factory, ending the day with a whole company hot pot dinner at a restaurant known for the best customer service in China. It was hands down a once in a lifetime experience.
I could go on about how wonderful our suppliers are and how fortunate we feel to be surrounded by loyal and honest companies. Instead, I would like to highlight the long process and all the people behind making the products that we deliver to our customers.
While customers are searching for discounts, they often don’t realize how many different people are involved in the work that goes into the final product. These people work hard and are dedicated to their work. Fortunately, we have suppliers that take good care of their employees, treat them as family, and pay them good wages.
The products go through a multi-step, labor intensive process. The office receives the order and checks the design to make sure everything looks correct before sending the fabric to be made. The fabrics are then either woven or printed before being checked and verified, or reprinted if the colors need to be adjusted. Once the fabrics are complete, they are sent to be washed, steamed and dried. The fabrics are then shipped to the cutting and sewing factories, where they are measured, cut, and sewn into ties, scarves, or shirts. Finally, the finished product is prepared for export.
While my description may seem simple, in actuality, it is incredibly complex. There are many different factories and employees that our products pass through requiring transport between factories in different cities, and every detail has to be correct before they can put together the customer’s final product. I never really understood how asking for small details and changes on orders was a much bigger deal than I thought because of how it affected the final production.
Therefore, I want to share with you my newfound appreciation for our factories, the workers, the time and effort that goes into each of our orders and how dedicated our suppliers are. Many factories in China will only produce garments or textiles with MOQ (minimum order quantities) of 1,000 pieces or higher. The amount of work and the process that goes into a thousand-piece order is the same that goes into a smaller 30 piece order.
If we want to live up to our core values and be compassionate, we ask that our customers also understand all the hard work and precision that goes into making their custom product. I hope that this creates an understanding for why we are about fairly paying our suppliers, they are very every bit deserving. We hope that this helps you wear your custom product even more proudly now that you know the story behind it!