So your product has taken off online (or maybe it hasn’t) and you want to look into manufacturing because you a) can’t keep up or b) don’t want to get to that point of stressfulness. Or maybe you’re just interested in a different path to wholesaling or drop shipping.

Being an e-commerce start-up has led me to do lots of research on this topic so I am going to attempt to offer up a few points with regards to clothing manufacturing.

  • Will you produce locally or offshore?
  • Are you seeking to take an ethical or fair trade stance?
  • How many garments do you need to produce?
  • What is your budget?
  • Are your products fabric intense or detail intense?
  • If producing offshore what are your shipping strategies?
  • What is your time frame?

If you’re in a Western country then local manufacturing costs are generally going to be higher than producing in Asian countries.

However, there are government grants to support local production (i.e. AUSTRADE).

There are also certain market demographics which will pay more for a product if they know it is produced in Australia. If you are targeting one of these demographics then it may be more successful for your business to manufacture in Australia and use that as part of your USP.

This will also come into play with:

  • Ethical manufacturing
  • Fair trade production

Western society is becoming more socially focused and there is a growing market for ethical products. It is a given that product costs will be higher, but once again certain demographics are willing to pay higher prices for ethical and environmentally sustainable items.

It depends on your budget as well as your output of products. Asia is less expensive but cost per item is also reduced as total output increases. Product quality and processes can be hard to control especially if managed from another country.

If manufacturing offshore, fabric intense garments are better off being outsourced to China as fabrics are cheaper. For detail intense garments (i.e. lots of beading or embroidery) then it may be better to outsource to Indonesia as labour costs are lower than China. A trip to the factory you are employing is a necessary investment so that the end product is just as you want.

Websites such as Alibaba and Craigslist are to be treated with care as sizing and instruction can be easily mistranslated as can fabric types and colours. There are options to manufacture offshore through someone based in your home country who either has a factory offshore or liaises with one. This hedges the risk but there will most likely be a premium.

Lastly, you’ll need to consider shipping costs and couriers in addition to the garment cost. International shipping has varied elements of risk so be sure to compare couriers and their prices. Products can get damaged or lost or have delayed arrival if specific instructions aren’t given to the couriers.

Sampling takes approximately 4 weeks while production takes around 6-8 weeks (up to 3 months altogether) so having additional delays in getting your products/stock isn’t ideal.

Research both local and international manufacturers and compare prices and services. Call them to discuss and see what they’re like to liaise with. View this relationship as long-term as changing manufacturers halfway through the process is going to be difficult and pose various obstacles.

Get it right the first time. Have a list of questions ready and if you are unsure of anything be sure to ask and be upfront about it. Investigate whether it’s worth having a confidentiality agreement so that you are protected as a business.

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