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Whether you want to be the next big fashion entrepreneur, or you simply want to sell everyday clothing items online, finding the right manufacturer is critical to your success.
The clothing industry is extremely competitive and dominated by major brands with big budgets, celebrity endorsements, and decades of experience.
However, the rise of eCommerce and boutique clothing lines has seen many aspiring fashion entrepreneurs find success online – and there’s no reason why you can’t do the same.
If you’re reading this, your clothing business idea is probably already well developed. You have a niche in mind and, perhaps, some clothing designs, or ideas for the clothing items you’d like to sell.
But you’re not quite sure where to start – or who to trust – to get your clothing manufactured.
Unfortunately, this is the roadblock that causes many aspiring entrepreneurs to give up. There are several reasons for this:
I want to assure you that finding a clothing manufacturer doesn’t have to be difficult or scary. In fact, I’ll share some great clothing manufacturers with you in this article.
I understand why this part of your business journey can seem daunting, but let me guide you through the process of finding quality clothing manufacturers so that you can take your ideas and make them your reality.
The first thing you should ask yourself when launching a clothing business is: Do I really need a clothing manufacturer? If you’re simply wanting to sell clothing items online, then you may be better off starting with dropshipping and sourcing products from a clothing supplier. That way you don’t have to worry about the production side of things as you can choose pre-made clothing items from a catalog. You also don’t have to buy a whole lot of stock that might not sell. It can save you a lot of time, money, and unnecessary risk.
For example, if you’re planning to sell blank t-shirts, there’s not much point in trying to reinvent the wheel when there are a lot of suppliers already stocking every kind of blank t-shirt under the sun.
However, if you have a unique idea for a new range of clothing, or you’re a fashion designer wanting to launch your own brand, then you will need to work directly with a manufacturer.
There are pros and cons of working with a clothing manufacturer.
If you’re getting started on your clothing business journey, there are a few things to consider before you choose a clothing manufacturer.
This might seem like an obvious question, but it’s an important one. Not all clothing manufacturers are capable of producing all types of clothing. For example, outdoors or exercise clothing often requires special materials, such as lycra or waterproof fabrics. You need to be sure that the manufacturer you choose is able to make the clothing products that you want. Even better, you should try and use a manufacturer that specializes in making the clothing that you want. If you’re starting a clothing business that sells stylish swimwear, then you would do well to work with a manufacturer that has a lot of experience with swimwear. Just like if you want to sell luxury clothes then you might like to work with one of the luxury clothing manufacturers, etc.
You need to decide whether you’re going to work with local manufacturers in your country or area, or overseas manufacturers. Typically, this means choosing between manufacturers in the United States and Europe or manufacturers in Asia (typically China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh). It’s quite rare to find economically-viable clothing manufacturers in smaller countries, but if being locally-made is important to you, you might be able to make it work.
There are a lot of benefits to working with domestic clothing manufacturers. Firstly, it’s much easier to meet with the manufacturers, inspect their factories, and discuss your specific needs without a language barrier. There are more stringent labor regulations and better working conditions. Consumers are becoming more conscious of these things and being “locally made” can be a powerful selling point. You’ll also have the benefit of faster shipping times, which keeps customers happy. The quality also tends to be higher.
However, all of this comes at a financial cost. It typically costs more to use domestic manufacturers, although you will also have grounds to charge more for your clothing items.
The main benefit of using overseas manufacturers is cost. They are almost always a lot cheaper, which is why so much clothing is made in China. However, this is typically because labor standards and working conditions are unregulated, which is something you need to keep in mind.
It’s also more difficult for you to visit and inspect factories. And while overseas manufacturers can produce quality clothing, this relies on you choosing a reputable manufacturer.
Shipping times are also much longer when the products are being sent internationally. However, if you’re buying your clothing items in bulk and shipping them yourself, this isn’t a major issue.
The other benefit is that you can often have a greater range of options with overseas manufacturers – fabrics, styles etc – and they’re more inclined to bend over backward to do business with you.
When you’re working with a clothing manufacturer, you need to know what their minimum order quantity is. That means the minimum number of items you need to purchase in a single order. The MOQ could range from 200 to 2000 items, or even more. It’s very rare for manufacturers to not have an MOQ. This is important for you to know because if you start working with a manufacturer and go to place your first order, and they tell you that you need to buy 1500 units of the swimsuit you want to manufacture, you might not be able to afford it. Also, it’s not a good idea to buy 2000 clothing items if you’re not sure you can sell them all. That way, you’re left with excess stock that’s difficult to move.
In short, make sure the MOQ is manageable for you before you start working with a clothing manufacturer.
Try before you buy. There’s a reason there are changing rooms in clothing stores and that’s because people want to know what they’re getting before they commit to buying it. The same goes for your manufacturer. If you’re getting a manufacturer to produce clothing items for your business, you want to make sure that you can get samples before committing to a large order. This is important because if something’s not quite right, you can make adjustments until it is. Imagine getting an order of hundreds of jackets that you’ve designed, only to find that they don’t quite fit right or they’ve used the wrong kind of button.
The easiest way to do this is by bringing it up in your communication early on. Most manufacturers will be more than happy to provide samples, usually for a modest fee, but it’s up to you to get them to commit to it from the beginning.
In the excitement and rush of bringing your clothing business to life, it can be easy to overlook basic due diligence. All it takes is one or two lines in an email to ask the manufacturer if they have any additional fees you should know about, and what their shipping costs and times are.
This is really important information that can help you decide whether you work with that manufacturer or not, so make sure you address it early on.
This is something you might not think about until business is booming. When you’re just getting started with your clothing line, you’re probably focused on getting your first order and making sales. But what happens if business goes better than expected, and your clothing sells out quickly? Can you rely on your manufacturer to produce your clothing quickly and at a greater capacity moving forward? This is why you should ask your supplier about their production capacity. Make sure they have the ability to notch it up if needed. Also ask about turnaround time or lead time, meaning how long it takes the manufacturer to fulfill your order. You don’t want to have to wait weeks or months for an order, missing out on potential customers and sales in the process.
Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can ask a manufacturer in an email and take their word on. However, you can do your own research by reading reviews of the manufacturer online, visiting the factory (if possible), and ordering samples. Remember that the quality of your garments determines your reputation, so you want to be sure that your manufacturer produces clothing to a high standard. You will be better off paying a slightly higher price for higher quality goods than risking your reputation just to save a few dollars.
This is one of the best ways to test the reliability of a manufacturer. Ask them what other brands they’ve produced clothing for. Then look at the websites for those brands. Are they successful? What’s their customer feedback like?. Contact the owners of those brands and ask them how they’ve found working with the manufacturer. Have they had any issues? Are they happy with the quality? There’s nothing like real-world testimonials to provide you with the peace of mind to proceed with a manufacturer. Or they might sound warning bells that will help you to decide to go with a different manufacturer.
It’s relatively easy to find clothing manufacturers online. The tricky part is knowing which ones are reliable and which aren’t.
Here are a few tried and true ways to find clothing manufacturers.
Trade shows (also known as trade fairs) are exhibitions where manufacturers showcase their products and services. It’s a great way to meet manufacturers in person so you can discuss your specific needs. The same goes for industry meetups. You can’t beat talking with a manufacturer face-to-face. It helps to build trust and confidence and establishes a more personal business relationship.
You can find manufacturers on popular, China-based online marketplaces such as Alibaba and AliExpress. Manufacturers often sell directly via these platforms so if you come across a listing that’s similar to the clothing product that you want to make, you can try contacting the seller and asking if they are a manufacturer. You have the added benefit of being able to read reviews and contact previous customers. However, you do need to be wary of scams and you should still undertake due diligence using the guidelines above.
Facebook is a great place to find fellow entrepreneurs and communities with similar interests to you. There are many groups to choose from but look for ones that are specifically for eCommerce entrepreneurs. You will be sure to find questions and answers in them to do with finding reliable clothing manufacturers!
Or head to the Facebook search bar and search for your query and see what groups pop up. A quick search of “clothing manufacturers” returned a ton of different group results! But it will take some time to check them out for relevance. So, it is a good idea to join well-established eCommerce groups first that are full of helpful people willing to point you in the right direction and help you on your journey.
Pineapple Clothing is a US-based clothing supplier and manufacturer of women’s and children’s apparel, known for its unique prints and designs intended for everyday use and for special occasions. While they sell direct to consumer, they also supply and manufacture clothing for retail stores.
Good Clothing Company, based in the US, provides both small batch and large scale manufacturing services for independent designers and established brands. The company prides itself on using environmentally sustainable production practices and paying its workers fairly for their skilled labor. They provide a simple online form to make an enquiry about manufacturing with them.
Apparel Production Incorporated is a distinguished and highly experienced garment manufacturer in New York. Established in 1949, the company has always been committed to producing superior garments at the most reasonable prices with the help of its domestic and international manufacturing networks. The company has worked with high-end fashion labels.
Indie Source is full-service clothing development and manufacturing consultancy, based in Los Angeles. It provides fashion designers and clothing businesses with a personalized, in-house product development team which includes a dedicated project manager and experienced sourcing specialists, patternmakers, and sample makers.
Portland Garment Factory is a full-service creative design and fabrication studio, based in Portland, Oregon. They provide concept, design, and manufacturing services, specializing in more creative, designer clothing. The zero-waste studio is committed to upending the traditional factory model, through ethical labor practices and environmental sustainability.
Billoomi Fashion is an India-based private label clothing manufacturer of ready-to-wear woven and knitted garments for men, women, and children. The company has clients around the world and is equipped to handle any volume and any type of clothing manufacturing, which suggests that production capacity won’t be an issue.
Dewhirst design, develop and manufacture a wide range of men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing. The company was established in 1880, so it has more than a century of experience. Dewhirst has manufacturing capabilities in several countries, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Given the locations of some of its factories, Dewhirst takes care to uphold ethical values in terms of workplace conditions, health and safety, and sustainability.
Zega Apparel is one of the full-service apparel manufacturers. They are based in Karachi, Pakistan. It seems as though they can cater to almost any customer requirement and have the motto “you name it we have it.” They pride themselves on their values and claim to have good working conditions for their employees. A great benefit of using them is the fact they have low minimum order requirements which makes them a good option for start up entrepreneurs.
Euphoric Color is a full-service clothing manufacturer based in Los Angeles. They have a wide range of clothing options available including swimwear, sleepwear, activewear, and more so they are likely to have what you need. They also offer premium eco friendly fabrics. To get in touch fill out their inquiry form under their clothing manufacturers section.
DSA manufacturing is based in the UK and offers a range of high quality clothing manufacturing. They pride themselves on effective communication from start to finish and have no nasty or hidden costs.
A bonus is they offer design, marketing, and photoshoot packages which could be good if you are just starting out. Also, they work with many clothing companies from around the world which means their production capacity is likely to be good. However, they have a minimum order quantity of 100 which might be a deterrent for new eCommerce entrepreneurs.
Starting a clothing business may seem like a pretty daunting process. But it is possible! Outlined below is a brief step by step to help you on your path to success.
Just like with any business, picking a niche is a fundamental first step. It’s important to ask yourself: How am I going to stand out and who are my clothes targeting? Busy moms, who want comfy yoga leggings? T-shirts that represent aspects of a certain country?
For example, take a look at Black Milk. They started out by specializing in unique designed leggings and have now added to their range but the prints are still very unique and target customers who aren’t afraid to make a statement and stand out.
Naturally, when you are picking your niche you will need to narrow down the type of clothing you are selling. And the material you are going to use or the specific and unique design.
There are many things you will want to think about when developing your brand. For example, it is important to identify your target audience, the products you want to make, your unique point of view, logo, colors, etc. Creating a business plan is a good idea during this step!
Now that you have a pretty strong idea of the type of clothes you are going to sell, it’s a good decision to do some research on your competition and look at how you are going to stand out. To start, take a look at how they are promoting their clothes and their brand tone and voice. It will give you some idea of how you can differentiate yourself.
Before you get started creating your clothing line it’s important to know what you are in for. Think about all the costs involved. For example the costs of working with your manufacturer, shipping, legal fees, website costs, etc.
Every country has different requirements. Check out the business license regulatory body in your country or region for more information on this.
Lots of manufacturing companies have in house designers to work with. You could use one of these or work with a designer of your choice. Alternatively, take a course or check out design programs like Adobe Illustrator.
This is a big step on its own. You will want to communicate with a few different manufacturers to make sure you are working with one best suited for you and your products.
Remember manufacturers can offer Full Production Package (FPP) or Cut, Make Trim (CMT) packages. FPP means they are with you the entire way from design to patterns to producing the final garment.
When working with your manufacturer make sure you take into account the information mentioned in this article like communication, MOQ’s, samples, and timeframes. Also, you will likely need to provide them with a tech pack!
Once you are happy with your test product and have committed to a full product run you’ll want to start the process of taking your clothes to market! This process involves:
Now that you know what to look for in a clothing manufacturer, where to find them, and have a few options to get you started, you should be in a good position to get your clothing business underway.
While it’s a highly competitive market, there are still plenty of opportunities to capitalize on new trends and creative ideas and build a sustainable online business. If you’ve got great ideas and a drive to bring them to life, there’s no reason why you can’t create a successful clothing line.
So what do you think? Have you had any experience sourcing clothing manufacturers? What are the common obstacles have you faced?
I hope this guide has been helpful. If you have any questions or any other tips for working with clothing manufacturers, please leave a comment below.