With the introduction of fully automated sewing machines in the apparel industry, several questions on what the future holds for the industry and its workforce have been raised. Are we in the early phase of a total revolution or sewing robots are just another step forward towards efficiency?
How to Choose the Right Clothing Manufacturer
Selecting the right clothing manufacturer is crucial for the success of your new fashion brand. All the passion you put into designing a piece of clothing, all the details you have envisioned to make it unique, and the glamorous design you have in mind is just a waste if you don’t find a garment manufacturer that can transform fabrics and finishes into your dream.
Quality, even though crucial, is not the only parameter to single out a garment manufacturer. The production method the manufacturer uses, the certifications the company owns, its location, and other factors will impact both the quality and the cost of the final product. Since budgeting is a weighty step to kick start your fashion business, you must make sure you can afford the clothing manufacturer of your choice.
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 emerging business.
What Exactly Is a Garment Manufacturer?
A garment manufacturer is a factory that produces clothing. As the client, you must provide the manufacturer with the design and the necessary specifications like materials, measurements, finishes, and similar.
Based on your requirements, the garment manufacturer produces your line of clothing ready to be sold to your customers.
Types of Garment Manufacturers
Different factories may adopt nonidentical production systems. The manufacturing method affects the final product quality, but also has an impact on the speed, quantity, and overall costs of the production.
Some manufacturers, for instance, use what is called a “make through” system. In this case, a single tailor works on each piece. From pattern to cutting until finishing, he does everything on his / her own. Depending on the skills of the specific tailor, the overall quality could be very good or average. Manufacturers using this method can handle small quantity orders and the final cost is usually higher.
Other manufacturers prefer to 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 at 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 these methods are that the production is faster, it can handle high volumes, and the overall production costs are lower. 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. Moreover, you must also consider the scalability of your business since you don’t want to be stuck with a factory that provides good quality at the right price for you, but cannot deliver your orders when the business grows.
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.
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 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 super-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.
On the other end, dealing with local factories may lift some of the burdens off you, but there are still some downsides. First, since labor standards are typically 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 some items.
As you evaluate your options, also consider the makeup of your future customers. There are still many consumers that associate overseas manufacturing with low quality, even though this is not necessarily the case. Even concerns about protecting human rights and the environment may not work well with overseas productions. Therefore, if you believe that these issues are important for your customers, most likely you need to narrow down your choice to local manufacturers.
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.
Industry Meetups and Trade Shows
Attending these events has traditionally been one of the great way to get in contact with several manufactures 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.
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, for most garment manufacturers, keeping their website up to date is not a priority. Therefore, you cannot stop searching at just 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.
This is a viable option if you want to outsource your production overseas, and specifically, to China. Alibaba and AliExpress are two major marketplaces where you can find countless options. For each potential manufacturer, you can read the reviews of other customers to collect precious clues to make your decision.
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.
Which brands have they worked with?
This is a great question to start with since it reveals the real potential of the company. If they mention brands you are familiar with, it is easier for you to gauge the quality of the manufacturer’s output.
If you don’t know the brands they mention, go online and search for them to check their clothing. It might even be a good idea to get some of these brands, whether they are familiar to you or not, on the phone to cross-reference and ask for feedback. You may receive invaluable information, not only about the quality but also about any issues that they may have had with the manufacturer.
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 certification you can look for are:
- ○ Bluesign
- ○ Cradle to Cradle
- ○ Fair Trade
- ○ (GOTS) Global Organic Textile Standard
- ○ Global Recycle Standard
- ○ Good Weave
- ○ Made By
- ○ OE-100
- ○ Oeko Tex
- ○ SAAS (Social Accountability Accreditation Services)
- ○ SCS Certification
- ○ USDA Certified Organic
- ○ Zque
- ○ (WFTO) World Fair Trade Organization
- ○ Fair Wear Foundation
- ○ Two Organic Standard Certifications
- ○ (ETI) Ethical Trading Initiative
- ○ B Corporation
- ○ Sourcemap
- ○ Cotton Made in Africa
- ○ Responsible Down Standard
- ○ Responsible Wool Standard
- ○ (PETA) People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
- ○ Fashion Revolution
- ○ Sustainable Apparel Coalition
- ○ High Index
- ○ Ecolabel Index
- ○ Outdoor Industry Association
- ○Textile Exchange
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 ordering 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 color, style, and size.
Do not forget to negotiate the shipping fees, especially if you are dealing with overseas manufacturers. Leaving this to chance may lead to unpleasant surprises that cut your sales margin short.
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 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.
Therefore, take your time, conduct due diligence, carefully evaluate all the options, and do not rush your decision. Choosing the right clothing manufacturer may take time and be exhausting at a certain point, but following the above guidelines, you will set a solid foundation for your fashion business.
Apparel Costing Online Course
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