The question that I get asked the most is “How to find an apparel manufacturer?”. This question is unique as there is no one answer for that question that will apply to everyone since everyone is in different stages of development, technical knowledge and producing different garments. Below I will list a few ways to do so and hopefully will make it a lot easier for you all to choose and also give some insight on what you need to do next.
- Local- Whether you live in a large city or the most remote area, looking local is by far the best way to find a manufacturer. Not only can you save money on shipping your items, it gives you the unique opportunity to see first hand how the production process goes. Depending on where you are located, NY or LA for example, you could have tons of manufacturers to choose from. If you live somewhere like I do, Richmond, VA you may only have a hand full of manufacturers to choose from. Either way, you will have a “direct line” to these manufacturers to be able to pop in and check how things are going and you can get a tour of the facilities. It also makes it easier to convey your message to them when you’re face to face with them. Just because they’re there doesn’t mean that you will want to work with them so its good to get a sense of their character before you hand over your hard earned money. If your’e not good with tech packs and illustration most will help with that as well.
- Google- Google is the godfather of all information and you can find a ton of stuff using it. A quick Google search can give you so many results, your head will spin. Don’t be intimidated though, and be sure that you do as much background research of these companies as possible. Look up reviews, BBB and if possible try to contact people that have worked with the manufacturer that your’e interested in. You may find that a really good manufacturer is only one state over or you may be interested in working with one on the opposite coast.
- Makers Row- Makers Row is a valuable tool to use and can save a ton of time for finding American Made manufacturers. With Makers Row you can set up a project and manufacturers are able to contact you and bid on your projects. These tools come at a price but can save you a ton of time. ( I am in no way affiliated with Makers Row or any of its entities) Starting at $35 a month you are able to create project files, search factories, message factories, and get project bids. For $99 per month you get all of the benefits of the $35 package and it adds 30 minute monthly consultations and personalized industry consultations. They also have a class series and a very valuable community that can answer a lot of questions that you may have. Now, unless you can fit this into your budget and have a solid plan already I would not suggest this just yet as you may be spending money that could be used elsewhere like advertising or put towards your collection.
- Alibaba- A lot of people don’t know this but you can also find manufacturers using Alibaba. Some of the manufacturers here are the same ones that are used by larger brands. Now having said that, most of these companies will require a much higher MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity). This can drive your pricing up and also it takes much longer to get your garments back since the manufacturers are overseas. This means you have to pay higher shipping charges as well as send your garments through customs. Your sizing must be accurate because the sizing overseas tend to be a lot smaller than what we have in the U.S. Alibaba is also a great resource for having samples and patterns made which you can then take to a manufacturer here to be made for production. Long story short, don’t use Alibaba unless you are ready to really scale your business and are able to get a lot of sales. No need in ordering 250 pieces if you can’t move them.
*** BONUS *** Instagram- Instagram can also be a reliable source for finding a manufacturer. Just go to the search function and type in apparel manufacturer or screen printing or something along those lines and several should pop up. This gives you the opportunity to see the garments that they have produced and also some of them will tag the people that they made it for so you can contact them and see how the experience was.
I hope that this has helped some of you and can get you off to a great start. If you found this article useful please share it. If you have anything you would like to add or any questions please don’t hesitate to hit me up.
——The author of this article is Brendon James the Founder of Alqemy Apparel, a streetwear brand based in Richmond, VA.