Starting a new brand and finding a clothing manufacturer can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you're new to the production side of the game. At times it can feel like you‘re learning a whole new language. MOQ, SPEC, BOM, FOB with all these new terms, it’s easy to get caught in a whirlwind of words and not know where to place your feet. Where should you go to find a manufacturer? How do you decipher through all the options and possibilities which clothing manufacturer is a good fit for your brand. What is it that you should be looking for?
More often than not your search will start with everyone’s best friend, Google. Searching for a clothing manufacturer doesn’t need to be any different, however it may send you into a never ending spiral with no manufacturer at the end of it. The best thing to do is narrow your playing field. Do you have a preference where your brand is made? China of course is a great place for clothing production with majority of the clothing industry being there, but would you prefer it made in Europe. Maybe you are wanting to specialize in a certain textile from a particular region in the world, then it’s best to start your search there. There are countless websites with lists but you need to narrow them geographically first.
Now that you’ve found your region its important to ensure that factory you’re targeting for production can actually produce your products. As a new brand you may have entire outfits planned in your new collection, however it’s important to note that it’s very rare that one factory can handle all product groups. As you can probably imagine, a factory that makes heavyweight jackets will have a bit of a struggle with swimwear. Apart from obviously being for different times of the year, the fabrics for these styles will be completely opposite. This means any washes, treatments or printing techniques that may work for a lycra fabric won't apply the same to a denim. If you are planning on printing fabric, the content, stretch and the hand feel of the lycra and denim are very different and therefore the techniques used to apply a print will also differ. Another reason you need to know what the factory specialises in, is due to what machinery they have. The machinery that a factory has to work with jackets will not be compatible with the construction techniques of swimwear and visa versa, the swimwear machines will struggle to handle the heavy duty fabrics and threads . So it pays to get to know and understand your potential manufacturer well and what their capabilities are with your product.
Building a good relationship with your clothing manufacturer has multiple benefits. Apart from just enjoying the conversation more, the more transparent they are with you and more information they give you the better. Understanding and learning how your manufacturer cuts, sews, presses and packages your product can be vitale information down the track. If its possible it's always nice to visit the factories you work with so you can see the machinery, the workers and the overall process of how your product is made. Visiting and seeing first hand can also open up new alternatives for your designs or the way your garments are packaged that you were simply unaware of previously. It’s best to say that ideally the better your understanding, the smoother your relationship will be with your manufacturer. This will offer you the ability to work together as team rather than sending double the amount of email and everything then being lost in translation. This may be all well and good, but it's important to ensure that you are not exhausting your, (or the manufacturer's) time when in the end you are not of a compatible to work together. You know that they make what you want, you know they have a good reputation, but getting that dream manufacturer may not be as easy as sending an email with a smiley.
If you’re a start-up it can be easy to say what manufacturer you want, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want you. It’s important to go in with the correct expectations so you find a manufacturing relationship that’s mutually beneficial. Before you do any searching you should have the answer to this question. What is your minimum order quantity? Better known as your MOQ, this is important as there is no point chasing a manufacturer that deals in the tens of thousands if you only want 100 units made. If you’re planning on starting small then source a manufacturer that deals with smaller quantities. Generally this information is up front on manufacturer websites, if not it will most likely be the first question asked. So know your MOQ before approaching manufacturers with your designs then, after numbers comes pictures and it’s important that you both have the same one in mind.
Pictures speak louder than words, and when working with manufacturers all over the world this couldn’t be more true. It’s important that you have clear pictures of what you want when liaising with potential manufacturers so you can reduce the room for error. Don’t be afraid to show examples of similar garments, fabrics, construction techniques to ensure you both have a clear image of the final product. Being too wordy can up the risk factor, so take a picture and include it in your tech pack. Ensure you’re both clear with what you want before you head into this brave new world of production.
On the internet trust is a little bit more difficult to measure, so it’s always good to go into the situation being clear and knowledgeable. Research and then research again, and if you’re unsure ask a professional. There are multiple platforms out there with people offering to help with the finer details. Understand the supply chain that best suits your brand and ensure you have the finer details down pat. This will help for a smoother ride and all round more pleasant experience when building a relationship with a new clothing manufacturer.