8 Lessons I Learned from Working in an Apparel Export House

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I have shared my learning while working in a garment export house.

I have written this blog post for newcomers. Every year thousands of students passed out from colleges, schools and fashion institutes and join to the main stream of fashion product manufacturing. Some of those join garment manufacturing.

In this article I will share my learning over two and half years of working in an export house. I hope my learning will help you to get better prepared and train yourselves to achieve success in shortest possible time.

I started my career in an apparel manufacturing company. I worked there about two and half years. Though it was a short span of working in manufacturing field, I had gained a lot of good and bad experiences. Here I have shared top 8 lessons.


#1. Show respect to your seniors 

Good relationship with peers and colleagues matters a lot. After all you need support, guidance and right career direction from seniors and from the person you will report to. If you don’t respect them, you may not get support from them. I am sharing one of my stories.

That time I was just passed out from a fashion institute (NIFT) and joined as assistant manager to the company. Few months later, one of my seniors (passed out from same college) joined to the company as Deputy Merchandising Manager (DMM). I used to call him by his name as he was working on the similar position. (Many used to call their colleagues by name in buying offices. I just followed that culture). It was my mistake. He never told me to call him as ‘Sir’ but his replies and body languages showed that he did not like it. 

Remember, in India, juniors don’t suppose to call their seniors by name. As a result we were not feeling easy discussing works. For this simple reason I failed to set professional relationship with my senior.

It is not just to respect to your college seniors, but you must respect to your colleagues who hold a higher position than you and who are quite experienced and respected person in the company. When you respect to your seniors, you will get help and guidance from them in need.

Rule#1: Give respect to others to get it in return.

#2. Double check the work that is delegated to others

Don’t believe others on their face. You might be given a lot of job responsibilities as you hold supervising or managerial position in the company. You need to ensure that your jobs must get done by your subordinates. Always check the work that has been delegated to others. Also you need to cross-check the work whether the job is done correctly or not. Even check the job has been yet started or not. If any job is not done on time and if any mistake found in the work, it would be your fault and you are responsible for the mistakes. I faced this kind of problem many times with cutting department and production team.

Rule#2: Don’t believe others till the result is shown

#3. Keep a receipt copy /signed copy of all communications 

Garment export house is a place where bad things can happen to you that is never expected. Don’t take this in a wrong way. This is the culture of most garment export houses, I learned this in my next job. I have given this statement after listening stories from many victims.

People are always busy with fire fighting. I mean managers, and supervisors struggle with problems day and night. If some mistakes are made by anybody, no one would accept their mistakes. It happens on giving instruction, handing over samples, items, or in verbal approvals. When problem is raised, nobody would take responsibility for the mistake. If you don’t have written document or receipt copy or signed copy with you, you couldn’t prove that it was not your mistake. You will fall in the trap. So, never forget to keep written documents for all communication with other departments.

This applies communication with buyers as well as with your vendors. Many times buyer approves things over phone but at the time of final inspection they all disagree for the verbal approval.

Rule #3: Never forget to keep the receipt


#4. More you solve problems more you get to solve

I am not saying solving problems is a bad thing. It has many positive sides. When you start solving problems you will get noticed by others. Problem is that when you help others to solve most of the problems, later you have to do the job. Thus you will be given over workload while others will enjoy a free time.

Same thing happened with me – initially I enjoyed solving emailing issues, setting email account with Outlook, making nice formats on excels, computer maintenance, finding explanation of new things on Google and many other things. After few months I found myself being busy with solving computer related issues of my colleagues, even for our MD. Even I got calls from ex-colleagues when they find problem with their home PC and in other company.

Rule#4: Concentrate in your job first. Sometimes you have to say no to others.

#5. Very few employees share their experience

When I started working with this company I had the least work experience compared to other staffs in the company. Many of the staff members were experienced in this field. But I did not get help from most of them. I do not mean that I did not learn from them. I learned from them after making mistakes.

Wherever you join in garment industry, you will come in contact with experts and experienced people. But don’t expect anything from them in terms of learning tricks, tools or technology for solving critical problems. They would be afraid of you. If you learn from them and start solving problem on what they are expert, they seem their value might go down. You may find some exception.

Rule#5 : Learn by doing. Don’t fear of making mistakes.

#6. Don’t hide a mistake

It is acceptable that you may do mistakes. If you make any mistake don’t hide it. Disclose it as soon as possible. Otherwise, a small mistake can become larger in later days and nobody can help you on that time. Remember, if you hide something (mistakes) there are many experienced people in the company who can find your mistake easily sooner or later.

#7. Speak well, else nobody will listen you

In the factory everyone was trying to prove him / her better and superior than me. Other staffs always tried to find mistakes in my work. Every day, I had arguments in meeting and in personal level. I did not have such heavy voice to keep other silent and raise my voice over them. I am not a native Hindi speaker. I faced challenges for communicating things with staffs and seniors.

So, learn local language, speak well and put your point in meeting without any hesitation. Speaking louder is good in most of the time.

#8. Others may try to make the thing worse

I didn’t like to share this piece of learning. But I could not stop myself to disclose it. Many problems would come to you first time. But it may not be first time to the others who are working for a longer time in the factory than you. They know the consequences of any simple mistakes or the work method you are going to follow. They are aware of it that you are following a wrong direction that would make a loss for the company but still nobody would warn you. Reason, everyone tries to prove that you are incapable of doing the given job and handling your position or responsibility.

Now it is up to you. You can follow my advice or experience it by yourself. 

OCS readers are invited to share their experience and learning in their filed.

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Online Clothing Study: 8 Lessons I Learned from Working in an Apparel Export House
8 Lessons I Learned from Working in an Apparel Export House
I have shared my learning while working in a garment export house.
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