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Buying wholesale clothing from China
Clothing and textiles manufacturers don’t keep products in stock. Instead, they offer production as an ‘on-demand’ service. Some suppliers don’t even keep fabrics, zippers and other components in stock – but procure materials as needed, for each new order that comes in.
The only exception is products made for the domestic market. Some Chinese textiles suppliers make their own products for their own domestic markets. The “problem”, for overseas importers at least, is that ‘domestic products’ are not labeled according to US, EU or Australian textiles labeling requirements. As a result, importing wholesale textiles is not even an option for most importers.
So why are importers still interested in clothing wholesalers? The reason is that manufacturers have a minimum order quantity (MOQ) requirement, while wholesalers don’t.
How to find a good clothing manufacturer in China
Not all Clothing and textiles manufacturers are equal. Making a random factory selection online, without verifying that the supplier is able to reach your quality requirements, is likely to end up in disaster. Below follows an introduction to the three main factors that really matter, when selecting clothing manufacturers in China.
1. Product scope
All suppliers are specialized in certain product categories s, and sometimes even materials. If you plan to import GOTS certified organic cotton t-shirts, you need to look specifically for suppliers manufacturing GOTS certified organic cotton t-shirts – not just suppliers making ‘cotton t-shirts’.
This also applies to print techniques and other technical requirements. If you intend to import DTG printed t-shirts, for example, it’s essential to only shortlist suppliers that already offer DTG printing.
2. Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) Requirement
All suppliers have a MOQ requirement. For example, if the suppliers MOQ is set at 500 pcs, you must purchase at least 500 pieces – or they cannot accept your order. In the textiles industry, there are 3 different MOQs to keep track of:
MOQ per order: Normally 500 – 1000 pcs
MOQ per fabric: Normally 250 – 500 pcs
MOQ per color: Normally 250 – 500 pcs
MOQ per size: Normally 100 – 250 pcs
Notice that the MOQ often reflects the minimum amount of fabric the supplier must purchase from their subcontractors. As such, you can reduce the overall MOQ by using the same fabrics and colors on more than one product.
Further, custom colored fabric (i.e., according to a certain Pantone) tends to have a higher MOQ, compared to the supplier’s standard fabric colors.
3. Test reports
Clothing textiles are regulated in most countries, including the United States, Europe, and Australia. Most applicable safety standards, such as REACH (Europe) and California Proposition 65, restrict chemicals, heavy metals, and pollutants.
Most Chinese manufacturers, especially the smaller ones, are not aware of the substance contained in their textiles.
It’s a deeply rooted issue that goes way beyond the manufacturer. All clothing manufacturers purchase fabrics and components from subcontractors. The number of material subcontractors can range from two or three to the hundreds.
Ensuring that non-compliant materials don’t slip through requires the supplier to test a large number of samples, which most small factories consider too expensive and time-consuming.
For importers based in Europe, America, Canada, and Australia, it’s critical to select a supplier that can demonstrate a compliance track record in terms of test reports, issued by an accredited third party such as SGS or Intertek.
4. Fabric quality
Before you get started, you need to get your fabric specifications in order. Never assume that a Chinese clothing and textiles manufacturer is specialized in making items matching your quality requirements.
5. BSCI and Sedex Audit Reports
BSCI and Sedex are membership organizations for manufacturers, performing regular social compliance audits in factories throughout the world.
Apparel factories that already are BSCI or Sedex audited tend to be better managed than those that lack such audit reports. There are various reasons for this, but BSCI and Sedex (SMETA) audit reports are among the primary selection criteria we use when sourcing textiles factories in China, Vietnam, India, and other countries.
Source: Fredrik Gronkvist