What is a MOQ and why does it mean no?

  • By Catherine Clavering

What is a MOQ and why does it mean no?

Will it come in a size 32E? 38G? UK 6? Can you do the Van Doren set in purple, or all ivory? Can you get the fan lace girdles in now? and the chemises? Will you do all the swimwear you sampled? Will the overwire bra come in more sizes?

We're a chatty brand so people ask plenty of questions, and 95% of the time I think this is great! Unfortunately, 5% of the time I get really sulky, because it can feel like I basically have to go round like some sort of  knicker-grinch, saying no.

Not actually what I look like when you're asking questions, thoughit may seem that way!

One of the biggest reasons I have to say no is MOQ's, which we all say as mock, making conversations with lingerie people a tad peculiar sounding at times. It stands for  Minimum Order Quantity. A MOQ is exactly what is says, it is the smallest amount you are allowed to order for your order to be accepted.

We'll be making 250 of these, largely because the MOQ for the metal parts the ribbon goes into is 1000!

Minimum Order Quantites affect everything - there's one for the number of  suspender clips I can buy, one for how many pairs of stockings we have to have, how many per bra size we must order, how many sizes of bra we can have per 500 bras, how many pairs of stockings we have to have in order to do a custom dye batch, how much elastic trim you have to have before it can be dye matched to your fabric . . . and we in turn give our stockists MOQ's on some things - we refuse to sell hosiery one pair at a time at trade prices, for example.

Negotiating around MOQ's is rarely taught on fashion or lingerie degrees but actually constitutes a large part of the job for small brands!


Why does this only come in black?


So let's take apart a few MOQ's and common questions to see how this works:

Can you do the Van Doren  6 strap and bralet set in all ivory or all red?

Nope, cos MOQ's. The fabric we use for the Van Doren bits in question is from Carvico, and it's a very high quality swimwear/dancewear fabric made in Italy. That's why the it's comfortable, durable and moves with your body (as opposed to powernet, which is comfortable, durable, and squishes you a bit, and we can get small amounts dyed inthe UK).

Last time I checked there were only two agents for Carvico in the UK; ours keeps black in stock all the time, so we can always have it in black, because it doesn't matter how much we order. You can imagine that  even with the maximal coverage of the 50's style lingerie, we still don't use much fabric overall in a production run - fabrics affect price significantly but the time it takes to make things is probably more important in pricing.

Even our skimpy sets aren't very skimpy.

Carvico fabric rolls are something like 200 metres, from which we could make 1000's of garments, and we could get it in ivory or red - if we bought a whole roll. The problem is, we're pretty small in the general scheme of businesses, so if we bought that much fabric we'd either have lots of cash tied up in a colour we might end up taking years to use - or I might get bored of the colour -  or we'd make it all into garments and then find we had cash tied up in garments for ages instead. We can't afford to do either of those things - a bit like when you've found a place you'd like to rent but you can't afford the ridiculous 10 week deposit the estate agent is demanding, because you can't have that much cash tied up going nowhere.

That metaphor won't make any sense outside of the UK with it's ridiculous approach to renting, but hopefully you've got the gist!

Also, with the ivory, we could get elastics, hooks and eyes etc to match as ivory is a standard lingerie colour so getting components is easy.  But with the red? We'd have to either luck out and get some overstock that happened to match (it does happen, we once did a pale pink Vargas longline girdle), or we'd have to have elastic custom dyed. That either costs fortune for a small amount, or you have to get thousands and thousands of metres done, because even a kilometre of elastic is only one smallish box!

We were lucky and found some pink elastic and hooks and eyes that worked with this pink and grey Vargas girdle.

MOQs also affect sizes. In the UK, to add an extra size to a style means making at least 12. Doesn't sound like many but it all adds up - and of course we have to pay to have the pattern for the extra size made up, which might mean making significant changes as you get further away from the middle sizes. 

We've just had the longline pattern  done in sizes XS and 2XL.

We make our more complicated styles and bras over in China generally, where the cost of labour is massively cheaper (and in truth, the UK factory is amazing at girdles, but hadn't really done underwire bras before they met us; those things are tricky), but the MOQ's are much higher for each size. For bras, we need to order 25 per size BUT! and this is a huge but, we can only have 12-15 sizes per 500 bras, so I can't just add 100 bras to get E cups, I'd have to add another few hundred or even 500 and then renegotiate how many sizes we could have overall. Then I'd need the extra patterns and more space to put bras in. They take up a frankly astonishing amount of room, and there's only so many of us to wear them as earwarmers in the winter.

When using bras to keep your ears warm, I recommend the push up plunge styles.

And so this, people, this is why the man from Del Monte says YES but the woman from Kiss Me Deadly says NO. It's not just my inner grouch - it's because we're juggling numbers like you wouldn't believe!

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