The Big Tour

Garment Production Factory 1Can't believe I let 2 days go by without blogging about this, but it's been an insanely busy weekend, so you'll have to excuse me. Man. Where do I even begin?

I guess I ought to start by saying a big thank you to Jiale, a friend of mine whom I met back in the states that was able to get me the contact for the factory. A lot of business here is done via connections, so without her help it's likely I would have never had the opportunity to tour and get this far with things. So thanks!

The day started downtown around 1:00, when I met the contact in a small noodle restaurant on a busy corner next to the bus stop. We chatted a bit in Chinese and English and talked about the city, my business, and China. When we were done there we hopped in a car driven by the manager of the factory we were about to tour and drove north, away from the city.

It's crazy how quick the scenery can change here. I have it pretty easy here in the city since a lot of things have been Westernized and modernized, but just a few minutes away it becomes farms, rivers, and traditional country-side villages. And then it all changes again, and the surroundings were all very commercial and industrial - huge factories and sprawling business complexes. After winding our way into the heart of the city, our car finally squeezed its way into a narrow alley that opened into a courtyard filled with a scent I immediately recognized - screenprinting ink!

The owner and a few other managers led me into a small but comfortable room with a long table and invited me to sit down. As I did, a young aide slid up behind me and delivered a cup of hot green tea. I sipped it as we began to talk about Linty Fresh, my goals for the company, and what I was looking for in China. Soon the table was piled high with clothing samples from Disney underwear to trendy Japanese skirts. They did it all! Then we started the tour.

It began with a walkthrough of the post-production/stitching floor, where dozens of young (college age) workers were running all sorts of sewing machines. They explained that they also did all the tagging and bagging of the garments, too. I think I was drooling at this point, but it's a bit fuzzy. Next we went to the oversize printing floor, where a team of guys were screenprinting a 100-meter stretch of fabric with a 1x2-meter screen. It was nuts, and so incredibly fast. My mind was spinning with ideas for things I could start producing with these types of contacts at my disposal.

After touring this facility we jumped back in the car and headed over to a second location, which was owned and operated by someone else. While the first complex we toured impressed me, this was something else entirely. Instead of pulling into a narrow driveway, the entrance of this place was huge, clearly meant for constant traffic of goods. The factories were immense, too. I'd say each floor was 200 meters long by 50 wide. And there were 4 floors per building. Needless to say, I felt way out of my league. Instead of a 16 or even a 24 station press, there were literally hundreds of stations on each line, and the workers were so efficient in laying down the ink. It blew my mind.

One thing that really impressed me was the working conditions. I was dreading walking into some dimly-lit rat-infested sweatshop straight out of a stereotype, but I was pleased to see that the workers were surrounded by natural light, a really comfortable breeze (plus overhead fans), clean conditions, and even some music. I later asked how much they made per month, and was further pleased and surprised to find that it was fairly good money (by Chinese standards, of course).

The tour finally ended with a meeting upstairs in the second factory, where we discussed quantities, colors, garment sizing, etc. I even threw out some really bizarre requests just to see if they were willing to experiment, and while some of them were received with puzzled expressions, the answer was almost always yes.

Now, all that said, there are still no guarantees about any of this. Because my starting quantities are so low they've had to adjust the quote (plus they're making the tees from scratch, so they need to experiment with a few things). There are other variables in the mix, too, and of course there are the copyright issues than need to be addressed. So we'll see. But I'm stoked. The sky is literally the limit here.

Pretty nuts!

More pics on my Flickr photostream here!

posted by Mr. Linty @ 9:21 AM,


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