How to find clothing manufacturers for your fashion business


Whether you’re dreaming of becoming a fashion mogul or simply want to sell stylish or everyday clothes online, discovering the perfect manufacturers and apparel suppliers is key to your success in starting a successful brand.

 

The fashion industry is tough, often ruled by big brands with deep pockets and years of experience. But don’t let that discourage you—thanks to the rise of eCommerce and boutique fashion, many hopeful entrepreneurs, just like you, have been able to learn how to start a clothing brand and have been more than successful.

 

If you’re reading this, your clothing business idea is probably already taking shape. You’ve got a niche, maybe some cool designs, or ideas for the clothes you want to sell. But here’s the challenge: you’re not sure where to kick off or whom to trust for your manufacturing needs.

 

I get it—this part of your business journey may seem intimidating. Executing on your dream means investing timetrust, and money in something with an unknown outcome. However, I’m here to guide you through finding top-notch clothing manufacturers and wholesale suppliers to make that outcome a little more sure. In fact, I’ll share some fantastic ones in this article.

No need to feel daunted or overwhelmed; let’s turn your dream of creating a clothing 


1.Preparation

 

When looking for a manufacturer, it is critical to understand what type of manufacturing partner you require. One common misconception that some entrepreneurs have when looking for a manufacturer is that factories can do everything, including design, sourcing materials, and production. However, not all factories are one-stop shops, and you will almost certainly need to find a design partner, a materials partner, and a manufacturing partner. A design partner can assist you in transforming your sketches into a pattern, and then into a technical drawing. Sourcing partners can assist you in locating fabric, hardware, and all other components required to complete your product. Finally, a manufacturing or construction partner will manufacture or construct your product and make it usable.

In order to find a right manufacturer for your business you will need to have some essentials on hand:

  1. Establish information about your product and brand goals. Make a rough estimate of your budget.
  2. Determine what capabilities you will require from your manufacturer. For example, do you need a Full Production Package or Cut Make and Trim services?
  3. Have a time frame in mind and be ready to adjust to your manufacturer’s schedule depending on how busy they are.
  4. Determine how much you want to produce.
  5. Develop a tech pack that will include product sketches, construction details, Measurement Specs and Bill of Materials.
  6. Have a working prototype or sample of your product on hand, or talk to the manufacturer about making one.
 
 
 

Where to search for a clothing manufacturer

Once you’ve created a solid business plan and understand your company’s requirements ,here are a few tried and true ways to find clothing manufacturers.

Industry Meetups and Trade Shows

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. To continue the networking efforts, share an Apple Wallet business card with attendees as it allows easy contact sharing with just one click.

SaleHoo’s Verified Supplier Directory

The SaleHoo Wholesale Directory has more than 8,000 low-cost suppliers and 1.6 million products and brands. There are more than 200 clothing suppliers all around the world. The best thing about SaleHoo’s supplier directory is that all of the manufacturers have been verified by SaleHoo staff, so you know they are trustworthy. It just takes one click to see all of the manufacturer’s contact information, including phone number, business email, and physical address, as well as details such as their trustworthy score, product range and quality, and customer service information.

Online Marketplaces

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.

BONUS: Learn more about how to find reliable manufacturers in China

Facebook Groups 

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!

Just keep in mind their rules before you join. A few helpful groups to get you started include Shopify EntrepreneursKingpinning, and Ecommerce Entrepreneurs. 

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.

Supplier related issues

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 summer dresses, then you would do well to work with a dress manufacturer that has a lot of experience with dresses. Just like if you want to sell luxury clothes then you might like to work with one of the luxury clothing manufacturers, etc. 

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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 to 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.

BONUS: Check out our guide to communicating with manufacturers and suppliers (including email scripts you can use!)

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 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.

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.

Where to Find Reliable Clothing Manufacturers

It’s relatively easy to find clothing manufacturers online. The tricky part is knowing which ones are reliable and which aren’t.

 

 

Bonus: How to Start a Clothing Business 

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. 

1. Pick a niche

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. 

2. Develop your brand 

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! 

3. Research your competition

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. 

4. Create a budget 

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. 

5. Understand your legal requirements

Every country has different requirements. Check out the business license regulatory body in your country or region for more information on this. 

We have a few helpful articles below to get you started if you are in the following countries: 

6. Design your clothes 

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.  

7. Work with your manufacturer

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!

8. Take your clothes to market!

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: 

  • Setting up your online store
  • Pricing your products 
  • Marketing
  • Packaging & shipping 
  • Creating a returns policy and handling customer issues
  • Working with your manufacturer to make sure production is never an issue 

You’re Ready to Start Your Clothing Business

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