If you’re getting started on your clothing business journey, there are a few things to consider before you choose a clothing manufacturer.
1. Can They Make Your Product?
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.
2. Domestic or Overseas Clothing Manufacturer?
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.
Domestic (US, Europe) Clothing Manufacturers
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 labour 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.
Overseas Clothing Manufacturers
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 labour 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 backwards to do business with you.
3. What is the Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)?
When you’re working with a clothing manufacturer, you need to know what their minimum order quantity is. That means that 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.
4. Can They Provide Product Samples?
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 provide samples, usually for a modest fee, but it’s up to you to get them to commit to it from the beginning.
5. What Are Their Fees and Shipping Costs?
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.
6. What Is Their Production Capacity?
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 focussed 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.
7. What Is Their Standard of Quality?
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.
8. What Other Brands Have They Worked With?
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.