How to Find the Right Manufacturer for Your Clothing Line

Laura Tolentino

While the logistics of getting your clothing made and delivered isn’t as glamorous as the outfits themselves, running a tight ship is absolutely essential to the survival of your business. Finding a good manufacturer is as important and almost as hard as wholesaling the clothes and getting them on the shelves. Here are a few tips on how to find a manufacturer that will be the right fit for your clothing line.

Make Sure You Make Finding a Main Manufacturer a Priority

Don’t try to line up stores and buyers until you’ve found a good manufacturer. You cannot price your clothing line until you know the production costs. Don’t promise that you’ll sell it at a certain cost until you know both the wholesale and retail prices you need to break even.

You don’t want to promise clothes that look like the ones out of your studio until you know the factory can make them just as well. This is especially important if you’re dealing in a specialty sector. And since items like footwear and lingerie are only made in a few places, finding a reliable supplier in these sectors is much more important than if you’re dealing in something like streetwear for instance. You also have to deal with the prospect of scaling up. Don’t assume that the local suppliers can deliver what you want – know before you promise delivery dates how much production they can actually handle.

Find Your Niche and Price Point

The niche you choose will determine which type of manufacturer you should be going with. You might find that local manufacturers are better for the type of product you’re looking for while overseas manufacturers might give you an edge in other sectors.

If you want to launch a luxury denim brand and price isn’t the issue, then you don’t necessarily have to go overseas and could even use the fact that your jeans are made locally as a selling point. On the other hand, most high end shoes like those featured in this Fashionology Mag article are made in places like Spain or Italy, so if you want to get the same level of craftsmanship, then you’ll probably have to look at European suppliers and be prepared to pay the price as well. But if you want to launch a high quality, but affordable clothing line, Asia would be a better place to start. It’s all about what your target market is looking for, and is ready to pay for, and what level of quality and craftsmanship they’re expecting.

Do Thorough Research

While you can get recommendations for suppliers from peers or know that a famous designer already uses a specific factory, you need to do further research. If you don’t have those leads, you can get a few at fashion trade shows, but you still need to do thorough research. Learn whether or not a factory delivers the type of products you want made. Learn about the quality of items they produce relative to what you want. Research lets you create a short-list of suppliers that you’d like to use. Then try to visit the factories to see if they’re working with the materials you want your clothes made from or make items to your ideal standards.

This is why local factories should be put on your short list. They’re easy to visit for an initial tour. Furthermore, the products will be shipped locally, so you don’t have to worry about international logistical problems interfering with your plans. If there are problems with production, they’re close enough for you to visit and work things out. Quality control is thus higher when the supplier is close by. This does mean you may pay more for products made locally, but they’ll also meet strict legal requirements.

During you visit, make sure that you ask any questions you may have about their production process, and speak with the managing team to discuss prices. You should have a general idea of how much you’re willing to pay and how much they are thinking of charging ahead of time so that you can have a starting point for your negotiations. You should also take the time to ask them if they’re working with any other brands. This may give you a better idea of what level of quality you can expect.

Be Clear on What You Want the Factory to Do

You’ve determined that the factory can make the delicate chiffon or sturdy work boots you want to sell. The next step is being clear on what you want them to do. Are they going to assemble materials according to your pattern, while you supply the material? Or are they going to buy the materials, too? This is what is commonly referred to as full package production. While it costs more, it is probably the better choice for designers who don’t know how to cut patterns or make garments. Cut-measure-trim packages are cheaper, but they are only right for designers who have patterns for the clothing assemblers to follow.

Consider What You’re Willing to Invest

We’ll assume you’ve created a short list of factories with experience making the type of clothing or accessories you want made. You determined that they can meet your quality standards and they’ll make it based on your designs. The next issue is the financial aspect of the relationship. Most clothing manufacturers require minimum orders before they’ll start work. If you only want a few hundred items made, you’re wasting money or taking a major risk by placing an order for 5,000 to meet their minimum order requirements. If you need 50,000 of the item made, can they make that many in time to meet your delivery schedule? These are all important questions that will need to be answered before you make your pick.

Your clothing line’s reputation with its customers will depend on the output of your clothing supplier and their performance. Choose wisely.