Millions of people worldwide are engaged in the business of selling clothes, as it is an evergreen business and has relatively low entry barriers. But that does not mean everyone is equally successful. In fact, the large number of businesses in this industry leads to stiff competition and we may see that a shirt we bought 10 years ago is still available at a similar price, while the prices of everything else have skyrocketed. This means you need solid business acumen and a strong product, to be able to succeed in this market. You cannot sell a sub-standard product and hope to succeed just as you can't charge a premium, without actually having a strong differentiator.
Selecting the right Clothing Manufacturer is one of the things, that is crucial for the success of your fashion brand. All the passion you put into designing your garments, the website or showroom space, the marketing and promotions - is all just a waste if you don’t find the right garment manufacturer who can transform your ideas into reality at a competitive price, in a short turnaround time and deliver high-quality products.
In my opinion, the single most important factor we should keep in mind is how well you and the manufacturer understand each other. A lot of delays and future problems are the result of communication gaps and misunderstandings between the parties involved. So how to find the right manufacturer and ensure we have clear communication between each other?
We have put together a quick reference guide to find the best clothing manufacturers on the market and to help you decide on the best one for your small/midsize Fashion Brand.
What Exactly Is a Garment Manufacturer?
A garment manufacturer is a company that produces clothing. As the client, you must provide the manufacturer with the design and the necessary specifications like materials, measurements, finishes etc in a proper Tech-Pack. Based on your specifications, the garment manufacturer produces your line of clothing ready to be sold to your customers.
Types of Garment Manufacturers
The very concept of a Clothing Factory, like any other factory, is based on efficient large scale utilization of resources and impeccable planning of all processes to ensure the final output is consistent and similar in quality. However, this necessitates that a factory operates at optimal utilisation rates. So a factory that can produce 100,000 pieces a day will be extremely inefficient and produce poor quality if they try to make a batch run of 100 pieces. Therefore a factory always mentions an MOQ which is indicative of what their production lines need to operate efficiently. Similarly, a unit that can produce 100 pieces a day will be a poor choice for a production batch of 50,000 pieces.
Most clothing manufacturers work using a progressive production system or variations like the modular system or section system. Whatever the case, this method is based on the concept of several tailors working on the same piece of clothing in progressive steps. Therefore, a tailor or a group of them oversees just one operation. Once he completes the operation, he passes the piece to the next station where another tailor continues the work and so on, until completion.
The advantages of this method are that the production is faster, it can handle high volumes, and the overall production costs are lower. But since many workers are involved in producing every single piece of clothing, it may be challenging to maintain the quality all along the process.
Which type of clothing manufacturer is right for you depends on several factors such as how many pieces you need and how much you can pay for them. The type of fabric you need, the level of customisation, and the scalability of your business are also important factors. A factory that provides good quality at the right price for you as a startup, may not be the right choice when your business grows and you need larger quantities, faster re-orders and the advantage of economies of scale.
Where to Find the Right Garment Manufacturer
After figuring out the type of manufacturer you need, it is now time to start your research. It is not as difficult as you may think. There are plenty of resources for you to get in touch with garment manufacturers. However, first of all, you need to decide if you need a local or overseas factory.
1. Domestic vs Local
Nowadays, both local (the United States and Europe) and overseas factories can guarantee high-quality products so that should not be your primary concern in making this decision. Instead, each option comes with pros and cons that you must be aware of to understand which choice makes the most sense for your business.
Once again, the overall production costs come into the picture and it is a significant indicator that will lead to your decision. If you choose an overseas manufacturer, mainly in an Asian country, you can reduce production costs significantly. However, you must calculate how much shipping and customs fees impact the price.
Dealing with an overseas manufacturer has a cost even in terms of time and energy. The different time zone, language and cultural barriers, and the need to provide detailed product specifications to meet the quality you want, all take a toll on your time. Since you cannot physically visit the factory, unless you want to add some extra costs, quality control is more challenging compared to local manufacturers. Therefore, you need a lot of preparation and double-checking before placing your first order. Not to be overlooked is the fact that protecting your intellectual property may be more difficult when an overseas garment manufacturer manages the production. So the importance of the manufacturer to have a clear manufacturing agreement mentioning that your IP will not be violated.
On the other end, dealing with local factories may be more convenient, but there are some downsides as well. First, since labour costs are typically much higher, local manufacturers are more expensive. Moreover, you have fewer options to choose from and local manufacturers are less prone to bend to your requests compared to overseas providers. Since outsourcing overseas is so common now, it might even be impossible to find a local manufacturer for many items.
Once the debate about local or overseas manufacturers is sorted out, you can now move on to the many channels available to find the right garment manufacturer.
2. Industry Meetups and Trade Shows
Attending these events has traditionally been one of the great ways to get in contact with several manufacturers in a short time. Moreover, having direct contact gives you some clue about their trustworthiness and the quality they offer. However, with the current Covid-19 crisis most events have been cancelled and when and to what scale they will resume is rather uncertain.
3. Online Research
This option comes as a no brainer, but it is for sure a great way to discover many available options. As a word of caution, most garment manufacturers are not very tech-savvy and you may not find them on page one or two of Google. Be prepared to check all the pages available and to use a variety of search queries. If you persist, you may just discover a hidden gem.
Directories have lost much of their popularity but are still around and are an excellent source to find manufacturers. Among the most popular directories that we can mention are Sqetch in Europe, Makers Row in the US, and Kompass to find overseas factories. Offline directories have now graduated to online listing sites like Serai Trade and Foursource, which provide a lot of details about various manufacturers across the world.
5. Online Marketplaces
This is a viable option if you want to outsource your production overseas, specifically, to China. Alibaba and AliExpress are two major marketplaces where you can find countless options. But language barriers, quality and trust issues are a challenge for most buyers wanting to source from China, especially if you are still a small brand and cannot travel to China and check your products physically.
Just asking around is a great way to find new options. Even if some manufacturers turn you down or do not meet your requirements, ask them if they have any other suggestions for you. You may be amazed at how many new contacts you can collect.
Key Points Before You Place Your First Order
If you have followed all the steps outlined previously, you have been able to select your potential clothing manufacturer. Before placing your first order, however, there are a few additional things you want to confirm to make sure that the process flows smoothly and results in the final product you need.
The following are some questions you may want to ask the manufacturer.
1. Which brands have they worked with?
This is a great question to start with but instead of looking for names of big brands only, try to understand if there are brands similar to yours in terms of size and style. A manufacturer who makes clothes for Walmart may not be a good choice (and may not even accept your order) if you need just 500 pieces of a particular product.
2. Quality Certifications
You will also want to know which qualifications the company possesses. These certificates are useful to confirm the quality and work ethic of the manufacturer and if they are compliant with local regulations. It is essential as well to understand if the company works sustainably or not since this is a growing concern among consumers. Some of the sustainability certifications you can look for are:
BCI (Better Cotton Initiative)
Cradle to Cradle
(GOTS) Global Organic Textile Standard
Global Recycle Standard
SAAS (Social Accountability Accreditation Services)
USDA Certified Organic
(WFTO) World Fair Trade Organization
Fair Wear Foundation
Two Organic Standard Certifications
(ETI) Ethical Trading Initiative
Sustainable Apparel Coalition
3. Minimum Order and Shipping Fees
All manufacturers require a minimum order and the minimum quantity may vary from 200 to 2000 pieces. You do not want to commit yourself to order a number of pieces that you are not sure you can sell. It is important to understand how the minimum order works, whether it is per colour, style, and size.
Do not forget to check the incoterms and get clarity on who manages the shipping, especially if you are dealing with overseas manufacturers. Garment factories do not manage the shipping themselves but through their local contacts, may be able to get a better price on shipping, than what you would get directly.
It is best if the manufacturer can provide samples of the ordered items. They may charge you for that, but it is a good investment if you don’t want to end up with a full shipment of incorrect items. You may also get a sample of a similar product, that the manufacturer has made earlier rather than your exact product, as sampling from scratch is a time consuming and expensive process.
5. Production Capacity
You must ask this question not to plan your current order but for your future activities. If you are a new business, your first order will most likely be small. But what if your business picks up and you need to increase the quantity and frequency of your order? You must make sure that the current manufacturer can assist your business in the future; otherwise, you may find yourself searching for a new one from scratch again. Equally, it is important to choose a manufacturer for whom your business matters enough in terms of revenue so they give you better service.
Selecting the right garment manufacturer is a crucial decision for your fashion business. The manufacturer is one of your most valuable partners on which your business depends. Making the products available without delay as well as the overall satisfaction of your clients largely depend on how reliable your clothing manufacturer is.
The NoName Company is a sustainable white-label garment manufacturer & exporter in India. NoName was founded in 2018, to promote efficient, sustainable & ethical garment manufacturing, through the use of organic & recycled fabrics like Organic cotton, Linen, Hemp, Bamboo, Tencel etc and technology-based utilisation of resources, creating a network of audited, verified suppliers, fabricators and factories.
We work with Mid-size fashion brands across the world, to help them make apparel with organic sustainable materials, at reasonable rates and with Small MOQs.
We look forward to understanding what you need as a brand and exploring if we can work with you to help your brand succeed. If you’d like to schedule a meeting with us, you do so, using the link attached: https://calendly.com/nonameglobal/meet