The Art of Negotiation

In the fashion industry negotiation is a fine art that takes years to develop especially with factories and suppliers.   As a freelance consultant I often run into an issue where a client does not want to pay me to negotiate on their behalf instead they just want to be introduced to a factory and they want to handle it on their own.   Normally this is not the way I like to work, but once in a while if client insists I will go this route.

Recently a client wanted me to just hand over the initial introduction and they wanted to take it from there.  Yes, this route would save them money but not in the long run.  Why?  Because he did not know how to negotiate with the factory.  

A few months later I get a call.  This particular client was handling their own production with an overseas factory and they were upset they were not getting the results they wanted?  Why?  Halfway through the production process they had informed the factory they had sent the sample out to another factory for a second bid.   Big mistake! 

One of the first rules of negotiation is to hold your cards tight.  Even if you are double sourcing you never ever let your factory know that.   Why would they work hard for you and make your production happen in a timely manner and you are already threatening to take your business to a competitor?   Negotiation is an art and dealing with overseas factories is not the same as dealing with a kid that won't eat their veggies.

In this case both the factory and the client got off on the wrong foot and it ended in disaster.   As a consultant I can just guide people but eventually if they want to handle the project on their own, then there is not much I can do.  As an American when you are dealing with high context cultures such as Italy, Latin America and China building a relationship of trust and friendship is part of the process.  In these cultures a friendly relationship is just as important as the business relationship.  

Patience is very important when dealing with suppliers and factories from other countries.  Not all cultures rush around like Americans.   For example with Italy sometimes it takes them days or even weeks to respond to an email.  After all these years I often still get frustrated when dealing with some Italian suppliers but I never let them know that. (They have the best leather even if it takes a million years to place an order)   Instead I skype them and ask them if they forgot about me in a fun and easy going manner.  A friendly reminder gets better results more than an angry email demanding a prompt response.

Negotiation is an art, if you want to succeed in the fashion industry patience and more patience is the key.   For more about my consulting services please contact me at

Its important to know how to negotiate with your suppliers.  


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