What to Look for When Choosing a Clothing Manufacturer
Choosing a clothing manufacturer is an exciting and challenging process. Whether you’re new to the clothing industry or doing research for a new manufacturer, our tips can help streamline your process and guide you in the right direction. Here’s our advice about what to look for when choosing a clothing manufacturer.
#1. Clear Communication
The number one factor that will determine whether your end product meets your standards is clear communication with your clothing manufacturer, and we’re not just talking about ensuring there’s no language barrier. When you talk or correspond with your prospective manufacturer, notice the ease with which you communicate ideas back and forth.
Sure, you’re not delving too deep in the initial interview process. However, that doesn’t mean that your interview has to be superficial. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions to get a feel for whether this manufacturer might be a good fit for you.
By ensuring that you and your manufacturer communicate well, you reduce the risk of costly errors in the future. Poor communication can cost you in both time and money.
Suggested Interview Questions
By using these interview questions in addition to some of your own, you can get a good idea about how communication will be with this prospective manufacturer.
- Are you taking new customers?
- What’s your turnaround time for a …? Find out about their current production schedule. It might be a deal-breaker if you need to start production now and they can’t work on your order until five months from now.
- What services do you provide? This is a very important question, especially for those who are just starting manufacturing. Some manufacturers also do pattern making, grading, fabric sourcing, packaging, and other services. If you don’t already have materials purchased, you should look in to having your manufacturer supply your materials. Because they are a larger company, they can sometimes get a discount. Be aware that they may charge a commission for this service.
- Are you scaleable? Sure your first order will be a small one, but what happens when you grow? Is the manufacturer able to grow with you and fill larger orders?
- Timely responses to any questions or comments you make.
- Intelligent questions to clarify what you’re seeking.
- Satisfying answers to your questions.
- The ability to provide services that you still need (such as pattern-making).
You should also pay attention to whether it seems to be easy or difficult to contact this prospective clothing manufacturer. You should pass on any prospective manufacturers if they’re not able to contact and communicate with you clearly and in a timely manner.
When choosing a clothing manufacturer, the second factor that you need to consider is location. The location of your manufacturer will impact both your manufacturer’s perceived communication skills and the cost of your product.
By working with a manufacturer located within your country, you are ensuring that you’re working approximately the same work hours. This means that you shouldn’t have a big time lapse after you ask questions, and you should avoid receiving the answers in the middle of the night.
Plus, with a nearby manufacturer, it’s easier to answer some difficult questions face-to-face. When significant manufacturing questions arise, a nearby manufacturing site makes it easier for you to visit and explain. Often, face-to-face interaction helps create better understanding between people and prevents confusion in the future.
This confusion could be costly. If your manufacturer misunderstands what you’re wanting, your samples could have errors. With too many miscommunications, the cost may start to add up as the manufacturer remakes your samples.
Suggested Interview Questions
- Where do you manufacture? They might have a couple of locations. For example, the business may be based out of one location and manufacturing might be based out of another location.
- Can I take a tour of your facility?
- A precise location for manufacturing.
- An invitation to tour the facility before you even ask.
Your prospective manufacturer should be proud of the facility and should invite you out for a tour before you even mention it. If your contact seems hesitant to have you come out or discourages you from coming by, that is a huge red flag. You should immediately pass and move on to the next prospective manufacturer on your list.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to run through your numbers so that you’ll immediately know whether a manufacturer’s bid is feasible. Here’s a simple formula to help you determine your price:
(labor + materials) x 2 = wholesale price
Wholesale price x 2 = retail price (MSRP)
By ensuring your numbers are correct now, you make it much less likely that you’ll operate at a loss when you’re in production.
Suggested Interview Questions
- What is your minimum order? It’s important to know whether your minimum order applies to all of your items or just items of a certain size or color. For example, is your minimum order for 500 shirts of all sizes and colors or 500 black size small shirts? This answer could make it cost prohibitive to make your full line with this manufacturer.
- What are average prices?
- Do you have credit terms?
- A clear understanding of the prospective manufacturer’s policy for minimum orders.
- Whether the average prices match your needs.
- An understanding of their credit terms and an opinion about whether or not they’re reasonable.
Before you commit to working with a clothing manufacturer, you want to make sure that they do quality work. One way to verify is to ask colleagues who make items similar to yours. Be aware, though, that they might curb their praise or be hesitant to share information with you. Finding a good manufacturer is like finding a good spouse, so people are sometimes hesitant to share.
You can also get an idea about the quality of a manufacturer by checking websites such as ApparelSearch.com or ABetterLemonadeStand.com’s directory. They do their best to keep an updated list of US-based manufacturers, what they manufacture, and their contact information. Although finding your manufacturer listed on one or both of these websites is a good start to ensuring that you’ll receive a quality product, that’s not the end of your work.
Suggested Interview Question
To verify the quality of a manufacturer, make sure to ask for some prior customers or referrals that you may contact. The manufacturer should be forthcoming with this information, and you should contact these referrals to ensure that these other customers had a good experience.
If you’ve decided that you want to work with this clothing manufacturer, send them your drawings, fabric swatches, or whatever you think they might need to recreate your item. Once the sample arrives, look it over to make sure that it is exactly what you want.
Once You’ve Decided
Once you’ve decided on a clothing manufacturer, you’re ready to go. Read and sign any contracts that may be necessary, then move forward with the creation of your new clothing line!