10 Jan Messaging for Global Manufacturing
Our manufacturing plans for 2020 and beyond
Hey peeps, jL from BlackMilk here. :)
Can we take a bit of time to chat about some of the plans for 2020?
So I’ve been back in the business for a little while now, and I’ve been thinking hard about what I want BlackMilk to look like in 2020. Ultimately it’s pretty simple – I want us to create clothes that are as fun, unique and fierce as the girls (and boys) who buy them.
A huge part of that discussion has been about the kinds of clothes we want to make, which means I need to figure out what our supply chain strategy will be in terms of manufacturing. The way I see it, we have two basic options to consider:
- 1. Have a very focused supply chain and only manufacture in our Brisbane factory
- 2. Have a more diversified supply chain and make clothes all over the world (as well as in our Brisbane factory)
There were pros and cons to both approaches. My challenge was to figure out which one would be better for the BlackMilk community long term – both for those who follow us and support us, and for the awesome team in Brisbane.
Well, good news: I have made a decision.
One thing we have always tried to do at BlackMilk is to listen to the customer. We don’t always succeed but we certainly try. Obviously listening to the customer can be a challenge because our customers disagree on almost everything. Show something to three different BlackMilk girls and you’ll get four different opinions! For every customer who tells me she desperately needs her skater skirt longer there’s someone else pleading with me to make it shorter. For every Sharkie who says “What the heck is going on with all the art prints lately?!” there is another saying “Why don’t you do more art prints!?”. For every person who says that this fabric over here is the worst thing BlackMilk have ever done, another person tells me it’s the only reason she still shops with us. So yeah, it’s not easy!
So with that in mind, I watched carefully to see how the BM customer would react to our activewear and swim offerings now we’ve partnered with a global manufacturer. These guys helped us develop some great technical products at a great price. This meant that the BlackMilk customer got more, and paid less.
Guess what – apparently people really like it when you give them great value at a lower price – who knew?! In fact, you guys shopped far more active and swim pieces from this global partnership than you ever did from our local products. Great!
So the customer has spoken loud and clear. She is more than happy to buy good quality BlackMilk pieces, manufactured globally and at a good price point. And I’m going to listen to the customer. If it’s lower priced globally manufactured options you want (as well as our local stuff) – then that is what you shall get! This means that going forward not only will we be making clothes in our Brisbane factory, but we will continue to partner with specialists all over the world who can help us bring new and exciting possibilities to life.
On top of this, the Brisbane factory is constantly overloaded and clogged. Constantly. As we look at growing in 2020, it’s really not sustainable! We have a lot of demand – which is a good thing – but you can’t just keep cramming more stuff into a limited space. So it’s a pretty obvious decision – we will expand our capacity through these partnerships with other manufacturers. It just makes sense.
The more I think about this plan the more excited I get about it, and I hope you will get excited about it too. Let me give you a few reasons why I see this as a win/win for all of us:
1. Our Sharkies will be better off financially
A funny little part of BlackMilk culture is the whole thing about the people who buy our clothes wanting to protect their wallets from us! It’s kind of funny but behind the GIFs there is a dark truth, which is that so many of you can’t afford to buy our clothes! Real talk. And even if peeps can afford to buy some things – very few can afford to buy as much as they want! The truth is there are so many people out there who don’t become Sharkies because the price point is just too high for them. It’s kind of heartbreaking that so many people who could be passionate BlackMilk customers just aren’t for no other reason than our price points exclude them.
Let’s include everyone! By partnering with suppliers that have technologies and abilities that we don’t we will be able to offer a lot of our pieces at much better prices. Of course that doesn’t apply to everything, but I think it will be great that a lot of our fans will be able to shop when they’re doing well, and during the leaner times! (Of course, having more creative options will also mean some high end pieces as well. Any of you guys missing the Sophia James designer pieces should be excited about that!)
2. More creativity and exciting new styles
Do you love the idea of letting your creativity run wild, without limitations?
Sure, I love making great printed leggings and dresses as much as the next guy, but I really don’t want to be only making those things for the rest of my life! Some days I feel like making an insanely cool two-piece suit. Or a really detailed corset. Or a dress with hand sewn sequins, because why the heck not?!
But I don’t. Did you know that about 90% of all the things I design never even see the light of day? That is not even an exaggeration. But to tell the stories we want to tell we are going to have to grow, and that’s a good thing! I’m a peacock, I gotta fly.
Both as a creative designer and someone who has dreams of building an incredible global brand, the limitation of only creating what we can make in our small factory in Brisbane is frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, I love our Brisbane factory, (I created it, remember?), however, I want our Brisbane factory to be an asset, not a limitation. The fact that we have a factory that specialises in one type of clothes should not be something that prevents us from producing other types of clothes! You just end up trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
If BlackMilk was going to do the same old same old for the next 20 years then sure, we don’t need a global manufacturing supply chain. But to tell the truth – I’m ready for a new challenge!
And I suspect that you – dearly beloved customer – are ready too.
How exactly it will all work will need to be figured out by the merchandising team. They will figure out where is the best place to make whatever we design. Some will be simple, some will be complex. Some fast and on trend, some timeless and classic. They will take into account timeframes, technologies, margins and a whole bunch of other things that I really don’t have the brain space to think about to make sure that you get an awesome selection of the clothes that are fun, unique and fierce. And of course ethical.
I’m not going to go into all the boring details about the challenges of producing an entire range of clothing, month after month using only one supplier. Suffice to say it’s really not a smart way of doing business and has the added detriment of putting the BlackMilk team under constant pressure. By opening up our options the BM customer community gets an awesome range of new and exciting clothes, and the BM team get some breathing space to really focus on what we do best.
3. But jL, what about ethical manufacturing?!
I’m a big fan of it. I’ve been doing it for years. In fact, I personally manufactured every piece we sold for the first year of BlackMilk. So of course I want all the partners we work with in our supply chain to uphold the high ethical standards of business practises. To this end I have instructed the teams responsible for managing our supplier relationships to make sure they do the due diligence necessary to ensure we are partnering with organisations that share our high ethical standards. :) . They’ve been hard at work making sure that everyone we deal with holds the same high standards that we do and welcome in suppliers who really are new members of the BlackMilk manufacturing family – and not just a supplier who we don’t know that well.
And global manufacturing obviously doesn’t mean bad quality. The clothes we make have the BM name on them and we want to be proud of them – and for you to be proud to rock them. Our team here at BMHQ work hard on designing them and work with our global partners to make sure that the quality is just as good as what we produce here. In fact for some of the technical garments, because they are specialists, their quality is better than what we could make here.
As for our Brisbane manufacturing team, we will continue to do what we love to do – make amazing clothes for you! We will just be more focused. Instead of trying to do everything, the Brisbane crew they will focus on doing what we do best. At the end of the day, everyone here in Brisbane just wants BM to be great, they just want BM to be successful so that they get to keep coming in every day and sewing. It’s my job to make sure the business is making good decisions so that can happen. And I think this is a good decision.
So the decision has been made! BlackMilk is headed in a new and exciting direction and I would love nothing more than for you to come on this journey with me.
4. And last of all – Essentials!
Guys, I owe you an apology. So many of you love our Essentials range (and leggings) and we have honestly not done a great job of making those available. That’s going to change.
The simple fact is that our Brisbane factory can’t keep up with demand. That means we can’t stock the shop properly and it means we can’t grow! It’s just not sustainable.
My vision is to get back to BlackMilk’s roots and make lots and lots of awesome Essentials and leggings that are actually, like… available. We have been struggling for a long time to put together a fantastic Essentials range with great products at great prices. That changes in 2020. I really believe that by opening up the supply chain we are finally going to be able to fix the very broken staples range.
Oh, and WE WILL HAVE ALL THE LEGGINGS!!!! Including active. :)
*Miranda Priestly Voice* Leggings at BlackMilk… groundbreaking.
For those of you who may be skeptical of my decision – or suspect deviant motives – I understand. However, from you I only ask only one thing: a little time. Give me 12 months before you give your final verdict on the wisdom or wickedness of my decision. Now is too early to tell. You’ve trusted me this far, trust me a little longer. I am confident that given a little time and working with the wonderfully talented team that I have with me, we will create something that you will truly fall in love with.
I really believe that this journey is going to be a huge amount of fun. And I want you on the journey with me!
First we will go deep into the darkness where we will meet Shapeshifters, Vampire Slayers, and Hot Little Goths – as well as the monstrous descendants of The Fallen. But we cannot lurk too long in the darkness – we’ve got tickets to the last rave in the galaxy, where we will dance in the glitter dusted moonscapes. We might even find ourselves in the magical land of Unicornia where the lemon sherbet cupcakes are as sweet as the girls who bake them, and too much pastel is never enough pastel.
Want to come along?
Hugs and Nylon xx.