Matching or Project Management model for a fashion production platform?

A maker on a Juki Postbed Sewing Machine

So which is better, a matching model or Project Management model for fashion production? Let’s imagine now you are a brand looking to launch your own line of leather goods. First, there is the matching model. The idea is simple. You are looking for a leather goods manufacturer and on the other side there are leather goods manufacturer that are seeking to help you enable your production. So using a matching model you meet the manufacturer you are looking for and everything is good. Then there is a Project Management model, or agency model as known traditionally in the industry,  where you contact the platform with your needs to manufacture your line of leather goods, and the platform will then act as liaison between you and the leather goods manufacturer. So the question is, which model is better?

better for who?

For you, the brand, it might seem like it’s better to use a matching platform. Cause after all, you just need to pay the subscription fees once to get access to the directory and once you have connected with the right leather goods manufacturer you can then stop paying the platform and go direct to them for future projects. For the leather goods manufacturer a matching model might also seem better to because it means that they won’t have to pay for any commissions or fees to the platform when brands like yours go direct to them for future projects. However, does this hold true for Independent Brands and small scale manufacturing?

why project management?

So why project management when you have to pay more because you have to pay the middlemen: the platform? This is the same reason why you go and pay higher to eat at a restaurant when you can get it cheaper if you cook yourself at home. The answer is 1. Convenience and 2. Assurance. 

This is where we start to see what holds true for huge brands working with huge factories is the total opposite for small Independent Brands and small scale manufacturers. Some of us have read about how the Agency model is no longer working for the big supply chain management company. They made tons of money when China manufacturing first opened up but now more and more they are having to re-invent their business model because as more and more brands go to China to manufacture, the manufacturers are no longer seeing why they should give a cut to the agents just like the big brands are seeing no reason to also pay these agency. So the big brands looking to work with huge leather goods manufacturers will find ways to go direct and every day it is getting easier and easier because the factories are hiring their own internal account management team thereby cutting the need for an agency. While this makes a lot of sense for the huge brands, it is not feasible for the Independent Brands to say have a team to solely oversee production halfway across the globe for a small scale production. What is more crucial for the Independent brands would be the quality of the products, as unlike big fast fashion brands, quality is a much bigger selling point in their case. 
This then brings us to the point about assurance which again lies in the quality of the products. And this is where the project management model once again is a better option, especially when working with smaller manufacturers. By adopting a Project Management model, platforms are then able to, through production guidelines and specifications, standardizations of processes, and quality control, ensure not only a higher but also a more consistent quality that is replicable. 

In conclusion, what we are seeing is that for smaller Independent Brands, as long as the cost of good is still able to give them the margin they need, a one stop solution that is achieved through the project management model is almost always their preferred model when it comes to fashion production. This is the case too for the small scale manufacturers as working with a platform enables them to focus on the actual production while the platform oversees everything else from timeline and deliverables, account management, quality control, and logistics and delivery.
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