It’s no secret that the clothing business is difficult to break into, especially if you’re a beginner.
After all, it’s one of the most popular niches in ecommerce. Entrepreneurs from every corner of the globe are launching new clothing stores every day.
If you’re looking to launch you own clothing brand, it’s important to make your brand stand out from the crowd.
The best place to start? Selling unique products.
Of course, the challenge is finding those unique products. That’s why many entrepreneurs opt to create their own products instead.
If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to launch your own clothing business with custom products, you’ll need your own designs. What’s more, you’ll also likely need to work with a clothing manufacturer to turn these designs into products.
There’s a whole lot to consider, so we’ve created this article to guide you on your way. We’ll cover everything you need to know to find high-quality clothing manufacturers for your business.
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Do you need a clothing manufacturer?
One of the first questions you need to ask yourself when thinking about launching your own clothing business is: Do I need to work with a clothing manufacturer?
If you’re just getting started with your business, it’s important to know that working with a clothing producer can be a risk—both financially and with regard to your time.
Of course, there can also be huge rewards. But be sure to weigh out your options before you make your decision.
Here’s a quick list of the pros of working with a clothing manufacturer:
- You have the creative freedom to produce the type of clothing that you want.
- You are able to build a brand image.
- You have more control over marketing.
And the cons:
- You have to bulk buy items.
- You increase your risk.
- You need to make an upfront investment.
One big consideration is that you’ll need to place bulk orders for your inventory. That means you’ll receive a large number of products that you’ll need to store and manage yourself
For many, this works out just fine—but there’s the risk that it could eat away at valuable business funds if you’re starting out on a shoestring budget.
This isn’t a problem if you find your audience likes the clothing you’ve created, but there’s no guarantee that this will be the case.
This is an issue that even the biggest retailers face. The only difference is that they can afford to absorb some of the losses if their clothing doesn’t hit the ground running.
If you don’t quite feel ready to take these risks, dropshipping is another way to start a clothing store but with some extra padding.
Dropshipping lets you start small to find out if there’s an audience you can tap into. Then when you find success, you can start making moves toward working with custom clothing manufacturers.
We’ll talk more about dropshipping a bit later. For now, let’s dig into the nitty-gritty of working with clothing manufacturers.
Choosing a clothing manufacturer
When you’re in the market for a clothing supplier, you’ll first need to ask yourself whether you want to work with domestic manufacturers in the country you reside in.
The alternative is sourcing your products from overseas clothing manufacturers, like in China or India.
For reference, when we say domestic, we’re mostly referring to Europe- and US-based clothing manufacturers. When we reference overseas manufacturers, we’re referring to those in countries like China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Of course, both of these options have distinct advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to you to choose which option suits you best in terms of funding, quality, and your business ethics.
Let’s break down some of the pros and cons of working with both local and overseas clothing manufacturers.
Domestic clothing manufacturers
We live in a world where buyers are becoming increasingly conscious about the working standards and the material quality of the clothes they’re buying.
When it comes to domestic clothing manufacturers, you’re more likely to get higher quality products with regulated labor standards.
But they’ll come at a cost—it’ll be more expensive to manufacture clothing with a domestic supplier.
If you’re going to pay the extra fees to use domestic clothing manufacturers, it’s a great idea to emphasize the fact that you’re working with local industries in your marketing material. This can really help to strengthen your brand image with buyers who are conscious about the clothing manufacturing process.
Another great benefit to working with domestic clothing manufacturers are the shipping times. Shipping is going to be much faster than if you were working with apparel manufacturers from overseas.
It’s also typically cheaper than it is when you work with overseas manufacturers.
But one major downside when working with domestic clothing manufacturers is that there’s generally a much smaller choice of products when compared to overseas clothing manufacturing.
This might not be an issue for you if you’re looking to manufacture generic products. But if you’re looking for something more niche, you might find that overseas suppliers are the better option.
Overseas clothing manufacturers
There are plenty of overseas clothing manufacturers that can help you create products for your business, often at a much lower cost than a domestic manufacturer.
The most common overseas clothing manufacturers include China, India, Taiwan, and a host of other Asian countries.
For many years, custom clothing manufacturers from China have been the most popular, with companies that produce all types of clothing for dropshipping and online resale.
But it’s important to note that the quality of the products from an overseas clothing manufacturer might not be as high as domestic. And, keep in mind that the working conditions in their factories might be unregulated.
Another potential downside is that you’ll likely experience longer shipping times for your products. Plus, shipping costs are usually more expensive in comparison to domestic manufacturers.
How to find the best clothing manufacturers
Now that we’ve broken down some of the benefits and drawbacks of domestic and overseas clothing suppliers, it’s time to give you all the info you need to find a reputable manufacturer for your business.
Industry meetups can be invaluable for you while on your search for the right clothing manufacturer for your business.
Attending local events and larger scale trade shows will help you to meet plenty of people with connections to clothing manufacturers.
Directories can provide you with a wealth of clothing manufacturing services.
We recommend sticking with well-known online directories like Maker’s Row if you’re from the US, and Sqetch if you’re from Europe.
If you’re looking for an overseas clothing manufacturer, Kompass is a fantastic option. Once you’ve found a clothing manufacturer, you can reach out to them directly and explain exactly what you’re looking for.
This may come as a surprise, but search engines like Google are a great resource to find a custom clothing manufacturer.
One thing to note is that manufacturers don’t update their websites regularly, so you’ll probably need to scroll through quite a few pages before you find any relevant results.
Don’t worry though. There are plenty of legitimate clothing producers out there!
There are loads of groups on Facebook that are filled with supportive entrepreneurs who are looking to give back to the community.
We recommend joining groups like Shopify Entrepreneurs or Kingpinning, and using any of the resources that are available there to help you find a clothing manufacturer for your business.
Make sure that you read through the rules of the group and ask any questions that you have about starting your own clothing brand.
Bonus: If you’re interested in dropshipping, there’s a great Facebook group called Dropship Business Masterminds. Join it.
There will always be value in networking and asking people in the industry for advice on how to find the right clothing manufacturer.
For example, for clothing manufacturers in China, it’s important to make sure that factories have the right substance control and that they comply with the textile regulations of your country.
For clothing manufacturers in China, the UK, or the US, sizes can be a nightmare if you’re selling in many different markets. So having a manufacturer that allows you to create a custom label for your clothes is paramount.
Talking to others who have worked with US and Chinese manufacturers in this way can help you answer all the right questions at the right time.
Choosing the right clothing manufacturer
After you’ve gone through the resources above, you’ll probably have quite a few potential clothing manufacturers for your business. The next step is to refine your list.
Take into account the following:
- Price and quality. Choose the manufacturer who can provide you with the highest quality products for a price point that aligns with your current business funds.
- Shipping times. Find a manufacturer that can provide you with the fastest shipping times (depending on whether you’ve chosen a domestic or an overseas supplier).
- Experience. Work with a manufacturer that has solid experience and good reviews from other store owners. You want to be sure that they’ll be able to deliver on your requests.
Do your research. Ask around. Do everything you can to find the best clothing manufacturer for your fashion business.
In an ideal world, we always recommend going to visit the clothing manufacturer so you can review their processes. We know this isn’t always possible, but if you can, ask the clothing manufacturer if you can make a visit before you make a significant investment.
This will help you to validate your decision to work with them while building your business relationship—which is essential in a long-term partnership.
Alternative models: Wholesale and dropshipping
Wholesale clothing manufacturers can be the way to go if you’re looking to start a small or large clothing business.
Wholesale is a great business model if you have the space to store merchandise. This is because you can purchase large quantities of stock at a reduced cost and then sell it to your customers at a marked-up price.
If you can’t store large quantities of stock, you should consider dropshipping, as there’s no need to ever touch your own merchandise.
After sourcing clothing from a manufacturer, you don’t need to order anything—just simply offer your merchandise to your customers. Once an item is purchased, contact the manufacturer or supplier and place the order with them. Then they’ll deliver the product straight to your customer.
In addition to not needing to touch your inventory, you can change the products that you’re selling with just a few clicks—there are no financial repercussions, since you haven’t already manufactured the products.
All you really need to worry about is growing your business.
If you’re just launching your business, or if you want to experiment with different niches, we recommend that you start this more lean ecommerce model.
With options like dropshipping available, think about starting small to find out if there’s an audience that you can tap into before you start working with clothing manufacturers.
Starting your clothing business journey
That’s it—that’s everything you need to know when you’re choosing a clothing manufacturer for your business.
Remember, this is a big decision for your business, so take the time to properly do your research and find a manufacturer who fits your business needs. The extra time you spend now will help you to avoid any larger setbacks in the future.
If you’ve got any questions about clothing manufacturers, or about ecommerce in general, feel free to drop us a line in the comments section below—we read them all!
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Clothing manufacturers FAQ
How do I find a fashion manufacturer?
Here is how to find a manufacturer for your clothing line:
- Attend industry meetups.
- Search online directories.
- Use Google to find apparel manufacturers.
- Join fashion Facebook groups.
- Network and ask people for recommendations.
Where are most clothing brands manufactured?
Clothing is produced in factories situated around the globe. Here’s a list of some of the largest clothing exporters and manufacturers:
- Hong Kong
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