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How to work with clothing manufacturers

Before establishing a brand or a fashion line, you need to know how to find a clothing manufacturer. This task initially seems simple if you’re a startup with fresh ideas. Once you start trying to form relationships and build connections, the process can get a bit complicated.

If you’re looking for custom clothing manufacturers clients can trust, this guide provides tips that can help you locate appropriate vendors to meet your needs.

Plenty of clothing manufacturers will promise the world. The tips below will help you spot and separate the contenders from the pretenders.

If you are wondering how to communicate with your clothing factory, this video is for your reference.

Prepare for Your Clothing Manufacturing Needs
Before you locate a clothing manufacturer, your business might need to take care of a few things before developing factory relationships or creating products.

  • Perform Market Research. This information helps you avoid products that customers aren’t willing to purchase. Review what competitors are offering so that you don’t create a worse version of something already existing.
  • Licensing and Copyrights. Do you want to produce and sell apparel yourself or license ideas to another company? Will you have the rights to make and market the graphics and fashion designs, or do you need to secure licenses and copyrights?
  • Prototyping. You can make a sample or work with a factory to produce one. It can take several months to complete, so it helps to start this process immediately.
  • Intellectual Property Protection. Protect your IP by registering for patents, trademarks, or copyrights if you work with an overseas factory or pursue off-shoring or near-shoring.

When you communicate with clothing manufacturers, there might be contracts to sign that talk about specific ordering amounts or IP transfers. Read everything thoroughly and refer to a professional legal advisor if you encounter something that seems risky or uncertain.

How to Find a Clothing Manufacturer

The first question to answer involves the geographic location of your preferred clothing manufacturers. For this initial decision, you can choose domestic, near-shore, or off-shore vendors.

Almost every country has at least one clothing manufacturer. Many startups source their products overseas with custom options in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China.

You can also work with USA, UK, or Canadian companies.

Each option has several advantages and disadvantages to consider. If you work with an American provider, the shipping times are less, and the quality is often more consistent – but you’ll pay more per item.

It costs less to source from clothing manufacturers overseas, but you might need to invest in third-party oversight or quality control guarantees.

Near-shoring involves working in a foreign country next to where you live. Many US-based apparel companies have partners in Mexico in this category.

Are Custom Clothing Manufacturers for Startups Necessary?

If you’re a startup, it’s essential to remember that working with a clothing manufacturer can be a time and financial risk. There can be massive rewards if things work in your favor, so weighing the various benefits with the potential problems that could develop is essential.

When you work with clothing manufacturers, these three goals are possible.

  • You can start building a unique brand image that translates into a desirable fashion line.
  • There is more creative freedom to produce the apparel you’ve envisioned.
  • More control over distribution and marketing is available to your business.

Custom clothing manufacturers often have minimum order requirements to meet, so you must have market information already available to limit investment risks. It might be necessary to pay upfront for designs and samples to ensure the quality you want is available.

There will always be a risk in clothing and fashion because customers might not like what you create. As a startup, you can’t afford to absorb as many losses as the more prominent retailers. If you can find a reliable manufacturer that works within your budget, you’ll be on a path that hopefully leads to successful outcomes.

Do I Need to Worry About MOQ?

MOQ stands for “minimum order quantity.” Many clothing manufacturers require startups and small businesses to complete transactions that meet this requirement.

Although it can be scary to see an MOQ as high as 10,000 with some clothing manufacturers, you should know that this figure is negotiable. Reducing this figure by 30% or more is not unusual, but you must take a realistic approach.

A factory won’t drop from 5,000 to 50 for your MOQ because that’s what your budget can afford. You might get approval for 1,000 to 500 or less, but it would be unusual for the order to drop under 100.

If you’re concerned about the minimum order requirements with a clothing manufacturer with everything else you need, these tactics can help reduce that number.

  • First-time buyers often have more room to negotiate because the factory wants to establish a long-term relationship. Suppliers need orders, so a reasonable request is rarely rejected.
  • Be willing to increase your per-unit price to get a lower MOQ.
  • Mix and match orders to adhere to the minimum requirements without taking a significant volume of a single product.

It isn’t always worth ordering small quantities, especially when rapid shipping is desired. Try to balance your cost with what customers will offer for the product to find a healthy profit margin.

Local Custom Clothing Manufacturers: Better Than Overseas?

Apparel manufacturing in Asia is comparable to what you can find today in the United States, the UK, and Canada.

Even the ordering process is similar. Companies produce at several MOQ levels for small businesses, ensuring your brand is ready for the sales market immediately.

When working with companies in China, or another Asian country, the primary issue you might face is the lead time for orders. If you use sea-based freighting instead of air, you might longer time to wait for your items. However, if you choose a professional clothing manufacturer, you don’t have to worry about the lead time. It will provide you with complete guide, one-stop solutions to make sure your items are of good-quality and on-time.

American manufacturers often accommodate smaller batches. It’s easier to monitor the apparel manufacturing process when the facility is nearby, and the logistics are usually less complex.

Both solutions are viable for fashion startups. The choice depends on your approach to the industry and the clothing manufacturer’s options.

How to Find Custom Clothing Manufacturers for Startups

Once you’ve decided to partner domestically, through near-shoring, or with an overseas provider, your small business is ready to find the specific manufacturer to meet your production requirements.

Here are the proven methods to help your fashion brand make new connections.

Visit Industry Meetups

Try attending local events, large-scale trade shows, and industry-specific meetings to start developing vendor relationships. Clothing manufacturers maintain a presence at them because it is a natural way to meet like-minded people and businesses.

It helps to bring your ideas to these events so that you can see if the clothing manufacturers can produce your concept accurately and affordably.

Review Clothing Manufacturer Directories

Directories provide contact information to many of today’s best clothing manufacturers worldwide. Some are more reliable than others, such as Alibaba, Kompass.

Some directories specialize in domestic relationship development, off-shoring, or near-shoring, so you’ll need to review the expected relationship profile before proceeding.

Once you’ve located a clothing manufacturer that meets your stipulations, you can contact them directly about your idea or project.

Search Engine Results

Google, Bing, and other search engines can easily help you find clothing manufacturers. Most vendors don’t update their websites frequently, so the information you see could be outdated.

Once you find a vendor that looks like it could help, you can use the contact information on the site to call or send a message.

In-Person Visits

There is always value in putting your eyes on the location where clothing manufacturing occurs. When you visit the site, you can see if the factory has appropriate material and quality controls available to meet or exceed current regulations.

An in-person visit lets you see the apparel sizing so that you can know if a custom label is necessary. If you or a representative cannot visit the manufacturing location, ask for samples to verify this information.

Social Media Groups

Platforms like Facebook provide opportunities to connect with fellow entrepreneurs and startups. When someone finds a reliable clothing manufacturer, they tend to talk about it with their close networks. These online groups are often filled with searchable information that can help you make decisions without necessarily taking the time to form relationships.

How to Talk to a Clothing Manufacturer

When you work with a clothing manufacturer, you create a B2B (business-to-business) relationship. Start by introducing yourself and your startup.

Next, you’ll want to be clear about your vision. What do you hope to accomplish with this relationship? That information lets the clothing manufacturer know if your business is a good fit for their processes.

Review the production stages, request a quote, and stick to your budget. If you have any questions, take the time to clarify uncertainties.

If you introduce last-second changes, your order might miss its reserved slot. Ask about cut-off dates for alterations, along with the implications that come when not following them.

You’ll typically see better results when the conversation is polite and responsive.

How to Pick the Best Clothing Manufacturer

Once you’ve reviewed the clothing manufacturers that meet your standards, it’s time to pare several selections down to the one provider that you’ll choose to create apparel. The refinement process should look at several information points.

  • Shipping Times. What is the expected time for air and sea freight? Are express options through DHL, UPS, or FedEx available?
  • Quality and Cost. Which clothing manufacturer provides the most products at the highest quality for a price that works with your budget?
  • Experience. Take time to read the online reviews for each preferred clothing manufacturer. Have other startups had positive or negative experiences in your position?

When performing your due diligence, it helps to ask around to see if a clothing manufacturer is the best at what they do. Multiple positive and negative perspectives can help you know if it is worth developing a specific relationship.

The clothing manufacturer should be comfortable producing your lineup while communicating consistently. If there are any hiccups in the initial contact phases, those issues are typically found in the manufacturing process.

Treat those initial conversations as a preview of what to expect when placing orders. You want to have a seamless, thorough, and competent conversation.

Alternative Choices to Consider for Clothing Manufacturers

Most startups find that working directly with a factory is the best solution for clothing production. There can be instances where a different relationship is a financially better decision to pursue.

Wholesale manufacturing is an excellent choice if your small business has room to store products. By buying the apparel in larger quantities, you can often secure a better per-unit price. That means you can increase your profits without raising prices for customers to pay.

If you don’t have warehousing options, another choice to consider is dropshipping. You can sell your apparel directly to customers. Once a purchase is made, the factory delivers it to the client without you getting involved in the transaction beyond transmitting the order. This alternative lets you swap items with a couple of clicks while keeping costs low since you’re not manufacturing apparel in advance.

Dropshipping allows you to start small and experiment while keeping costs low. The per-unit price is typically higher, so you might see fewer customers.

A Final Thought on Custom Clothing Manufacturers for Startups

Finding a clothing manufacturer for your startup is one of the most significant decisions you’ll face in your business’s early days. It might be tempting to rush through this process, but it helps to take time to build relationships and review products to ensure the results meet your expectations.

The extra time you spend during these initial moments will prevent larger setbacks from happening as your company grows.

Don’t settle or compromise. The best clothing manufacturers will check each box you have to ensure the apparel meets or exceeds what you’ve envisioned. Ask questions, follow up on requests, and get specifics in writing to ensure there won’t be surprises to manage.

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