In effort to attract more clients for its contract manufacturing business, Dragon Crowd Garment Inc. is breaking ground on new projects to become a brand and expand its global footprint.
As part of its plan launched three years ago to transform from a run-of-the-mill Chinese factory to a vertical manufacturer with multiple facilities in various countries, the 18-year-old company is building a high-tech showroom in its headquarters in Ningbo, China, and starting construction on a new factory in Vietnam. With annual sales in excess of $125 million, these new initiatives are expected to increase sales by at least 10 percent this year, according to Jeff Marshall, marketing director for Dragon Crowd in its Costa Mesa, Calif., office.
“We took an approach that a brand would do,” he said.
In sync with Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, Vans, Roots Canada, Roxy, Volcom and other brands that hire it to produce knit tops, denim and woven tops and bottoms, Dragon Crowd is envisioning 12,000 square feet of empty space in its headquarters as more than concrete walls and white paint. Set for a May opening, the showroom is decorated like a boutique that would be commonplace in Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, N.Y., or on Los Angeles’ Abbot Kinney Boulevard, with reclaimed wood, black metal frames and nesting tables.
All of its best-selling apparel made throughout the years hang on racks, and bar codes attached to each fabric and clothing allow customers to scan information that is vital for production, like the amount of cloth that is in stock and the construction details of each garment. For clients who spend two to three days on site to develop and produce collections, it’s also offering a lounge decorated with Moroccan rugs and lush plants to evoke a cross between a first-class airport lounge and the Rolling Stones’ recording studio.
“This is where they’re putting their livelihood,” Marshall said. “This is where the product is coming from.”
In the coming years, Dragon Crowd expects to make more products in Southeast Asia. Scheduled to be completed in April, the factory in Vietnam allows Dragon Crowd to take advantage of new global trade dynamics spurred by the expected implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It already owns and operates four factories in China that employ more than 3,000 people, produce more than 50 lines and have the capacity to manufacture more than 1.8 million units a month. It also owns two mills that make knit fabric and another that specializes in woven fabric. Marshall said Dragon Crowd has plans to expand to Cambodia in 2017.
Despite rising labor costs and other challenges to staying competitive in China, Dragon Crowd spots opportunity in staying in the country to cater to the domestic market, which is increasingly fond of American brands, even those that manufacture in China.
“We see a new consumer revolution,” Marshall said. “It’s not just rich or poor. It’s a growing middle class.”