Backpack manufacturing. How hard can it be?

Bag makers making a 3 way carry sling bag

It was July, 2015, and two friends were chatting over lunch in Singapore. What was supposed to be a short lunch dragged on for 2hours. By the end of lunch, they decided that they wanted to ride on the e-commerce bandwagon and start their own Independent Brand selling what they love most: Backpacks. It’s shouldn’t be that difficult they thought to themselves. Come up with a brand name, create a website, find a backpack manufacturer andthey’re all set. 

Fast forward, to October and what was once an exciting new venture opportunity was on the brink of a premature death. “It was just impossible to make a bag in this city.” They can’t find the materials, the hardware, the bag manufacturer, nothing!  Next up, Alibaba.com. They scoured the site for days and whenever they found a bag manufacturer they like, more issues came up. However, the most obvious problem was the Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ). For a fully customized backpack based on custom designs and specifications, the lowest minimum order quantity they managed to find was 300 pieces per colour per design. What this meant was, to launch what they had in mind; A backpack, a weekender duffle, and a sling bag in 3 colours each, they would be required to make an order of 2,700 pieces. At US$18 a bag, it would mean that just on the cost of products alone, they need to fork outUS$48,600. Now, more than ever, it feels like it was time to lay their lofty dream of becoming the next Filson Brand to rest.

It was at that time when they met a friend of a friend who runs a watch strap manufacturing business in Bangkok, Thailand. “Go to Bangkok, you could get it done easily.” 

Bangkok, the beginning.

So there they were one October morning in 2015, in the middle of a market in Wongwian Yai (Wong-we-and Yah-eye). That was where they were told to go, and very quickly they know they were at the right place. Right from the moment they got off the BTS (Bangkok Transit System not Korean Boy Band) and made their way to the market, they could see the streets lined with shops selling all kind of materials from PU fabric, to leather crafting tools, to shoe lasts and soles. By the time they got to the main market, they were greeted by close to 60 shops selling everything you would ever need to make a bag, from PU fabric to leather to Cordura nylon to YKK Zippers, D Rings, Square rings, webbings, velcro, snap buttons, and so much more. You could just walk in to a fabric shop, give the shop owner an image of the bags you want to make, and he will come back with the base material for the exterior, the interior lining material, the interfacing, the sandwich mesh. All the materials you were searching for months, all in one place over and done with in minutes. Then you go to the shop two doors down, walk in and get all the hardware you need, the D ring, the triglide, the strap adjuster, the webbings. And armed with the materials in hand, you could then walk in to one of the shops offering prototyping services where you could sit down and discuss your design, and in a week or two, you will have your pattern and prototype done.  Finally, with the final sample in hand, you could then source out backpack manufacturers in Thailand who could help get your backpack done in a much smaller and more manageable MOQ of sub 100 pieces per design.

WAIT A MINUTE THERE.

At this time, everyone that wants to make a backpack will be reading this thinking, “Yes! Once this covid mess is over, I’m gonna fly down to Bangkok, get myself to “Wong-we-and Yah-eye”, get my materiasl, get my sample done, then find myself a backpack manufacturer!” Well, hold your horses for a second. While it is true that you can get your backpack done much easier than it would be, say, in Kansas, the thing is, it’s not all sunshines and rainbows. There are things that you need to look out for to traverse the route of bag manufacturing, or any fashion manufacturing for that matter, in Bangkok, and pretty much all of South East Asia. The number one caveat is, a large percentage of the manufacturers don’t speak English. The other would be accessibility. Most of these craftsmen are not in Bangkok and you really need to know people in this industry to know where to look for them. And, even after you find them, there would be the whole issue of project management, timeline and delivery, quality control, etc. 

AND SO JUST LIKE THAT MAKERSCUT WAS FOUNDED.

So that is the story of how we started to first have the idea for Makerscut. Continuing from where we left off at Wongwian Yai, we started asking ourselves. How can we 1. let Independent Designers globally have access to what we saw in Bangkok, from the ready materials to do even a single bag, to the wide array of accessories and hardware, to the pattern maker and sample maker, and finally to the small scale manufacturing with low MOQ. 2. Streamline all of that so that we become a one stop solution where Independent Brands can come to and let us handle all their manufacturing needs while they focus on other parts of the business. And that was how we eventually founded Makerscut.

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