How to find the right manufacturer for your clothing brand
Updated: Sep 8
The process of turning design ideas into reality is a common struggle for budding designers. You’ve put in the hours and dreamt up the perfect designs. How do you get to the point of holding them in your hands? Not knowing who to trust with your ideas and money can be a real barrier to beginning the process of launching your brand.
A google search for ‘clothing manufacturers’ can be a great start, but it’s hard to know which manufacturers will successfully take over the reins and make your garments exactly as you want them.
The steps below will walk you through the process from beginning to end to find the best manufacturer for your brand.
In a nutshell
1. Overseas or Domestic?
The first decision to make is whether you want to work with manufacturers abroad or in your country of residence. A few factors come into this, and thinking carefully about your budget and personal ethics first is key.
Overseas. Overseas manufacturers are often more cost effective, which can be great for new brands with limited budgets. Even big brands often manufacture abroad due to the increased profit margins. On the other hand, they often have longer lead times (the length of time you’ll wait to receive the final pieces) and achieving the desired quality can take time (a good tech pack can minimise this!)
Domestic. The extra expense of manufacturing within the UK can certainly be worth it. The guarantee of regulated working conditions and wages and the ease with which you can visit the factory to meet the team and check on the conditions and quality, as well as come in if anything goes wrong, are all benefits. It also means a lower carbon footprint as the pieces don’t need to travel as far. All of these things can be selling points for many buyers too.
2. Ensure your designs and fabrics are ready
The quality of manufacturing plays a significant role in the outcome of your garments, but it is not the sole determinant. The designs must be up to scratch for the final product to be a success. Part of this process is ensuring you have tech packs which communicate every aspect of your vision to the manufacturer, so that nothing is different or surprising when you receive the garment.
Deciding where to source your fabrics is also something you can think about once you have decided the location where you would like to have your clothing manufactured. Shipping rolls of fabric overseas can be costly so it’s often cheaper to source locally where possible.
3. Number of units
Before you can choose a manufacturer, you must know how many units of each piece you have designed you wish to order.
It is important to do the necessary market research to figure out a compromise between having enough to make a profit while mitigating risk if the pieces don’t sell. This will save you time as some manufacturers have a minimum order quantity (MOQ), for example they won’t make less than 100 units per order.
4. Where to start looking
Now it's time to start the search and begin contacting manufacturers.
Directories. Directories are a great place to begin in terms of finding a manufacturer. For example letsmakeithere.org lists hundreds of manufacturers around the UK.
Networking. Many small brands and designers will be happy to share information. Approaching small business owners outright and asking for their inside knowledge might not be received too well. It may work, however striking up conversation and creating a mutually beneficial relationship where you help each other may be more fruitful. Don’t always assume, however, that what is best for someone else’s brand is necessarily the best for yours too.
The volume of your order my be smaller and therefore lower on the priority list, or the manufacturer might be better value for brands capable of placing large orders.
Trade shows. Trade shows are a great opportunity to meet potential manufacturers in person and see samples of their work. Both eventseye.com and fashionsvp.com detail various events you can attend around the UK.
5. Visit the manufacturer
Once you have found a manufacturer you are interested in, it can be a good idea to visit the factories in which your clothes will be produced. This is useful for discussing you goals, fostering good communication and relations and ensuring that the factory runs in a way that suits you.
6. Get started!
It is often not lack of ability that holds people back but fear. Once you’ve found a manufacturer you think might work for you, don’t hesitate - go for it. Get a quote, get samples made and place your order. Good luck!
Ready to discuss your brand idea? If you're looking for professional clothing design services, then book your free 20 minute consultation today. I also offer brand consultancy to help streamline ideas and get your next steps mapped out.
This post was created by guest writer - Isabel Dernedde