The process to find ethical clothing manufacturers can be a truly daunting task. With millions of listings on directory websites like Alibaba or IndiaMart, and countless reports of unethical factories and fraud, how will you know if you’re choosing the right clothing manufacturer for the job?
In this post, we’ll highlight two of the options you have. One of these methods will make life easier and get your production under way faster.
In a Perfect World
One of the best resources we always have access to is, people.
Whether you’re in school and can speak with professors or fashion design students, or perhaps you’re a stay-at-home dad and you’re inspired to make a new line of stay-at-home men’s activewear, you can always ask those around you for referrals first.
Who knows, right? Maybe they know someone that can help.
One of the easiest ways to get the word out is to post your enquiry to your Facebook network. With so many people connected to so many more people these days, you may not realise how well connected your network of friends truly are.
A referral is also possibly one of the most reliable ways to connect to any business. I ask you if you have a referral for an ethical t-shirt manufacturer, and you say, “I’ve got the perfect one, and their quality is top notch!”
The fact this referral came from a friend means we’re more likely to get a trustworthy contact, who will possibly give us that extra nice touch since they’re a contact of a friend.
But be warned. What you think is quality and what your friends think is quality can be two very different things. Always test your manufacturer by producing samples with them first.
Search the Internet to Find Ethical Clothing Manufacturers
Without a doubt, the first thing any designer or retailer should do is go on Google, and type in a search that describes exactly what you’re looking for.
If you are a swimwear designer, then in Google, use search terms such as “Indonesia ethical swimwear manufacturer” or “Bali ethical swimwear factory”. This will bring up search results that are more specific to your requirements.
You can localise your search by typing the name of a country or city into your search. The search results will show you those websites first. This is great if you know you want to produce your bikini’s in Bali or activewear in Cambodia, or whatever country you prefer.
It’s important to still test the manufacturers you find online. Sometimes, they may simply be better at online marketing with slick looking websites instead of clothing manufacturing. Yes, it happens.
Since 1999, Alibaba has been the leading portal that shows product listings from all types of manufacturers, not just clothing.
Predominantly focusing on Chinese manufacturing, this website boasts that they can put you in front of hundreds of millions of products from millions of suppliers and manufacturers. And it’s true.
Just click the Apparel category and you are automagically transported to the neatly organised realm of millions upon millions of products, suppliers, and manufacturers.
Let’s let that sink in for a moment.
- So, you’re looking to get your production off the ground and have your patterns and samples made for a photo shoot in a few months.
- You’ve got your tech packs ready and know exactly what you want to make.
- Or you don’t yet have tech packs and you’re going to need to whip them up to be able to engage reputable manufacturers.
- And now you’re going to have to sift through millions of listings, contact [some crazy huge number] of suppliers and manufacturers, start vetting them to test their quality / service /ethics, wait for all that communication to take shape hoping they speak your language, and still sample and test in time for the shoot?
Online search clearly has its limits; which is its sheer amount of selection, most of which you need to filter.
Firstly, there are a lot of charlatans out there. Everyone is going to want your business and will say whatever you need to hear, in order to get it.
Perhaps some of the companies you found on Alibaba are a fake? Perhaps they also have a boat load of fake buyers with fake reviews? There are actual websites dedicated to exposing fake company profiles and scammers just from this directory.
Perhaps a boutique factory you find in Bali shows logos of huge brands like Hurley but can’t actually prove this connection through any official contacts at Hurley.
Conducting research to find ethical clothing manufacturers will no doubt require a quick learning curve for the sake of your business.
So how can you trust that you’re going to get exactly what you want?
Find Ethical Clothing Manufacturers Through an Agency
One of the biggest known secrets in business is that, to succeed and grow, business owners must outsource their responsibilities so they can focus on the growth of their business – replicate themselves, divide, and conquer.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just have someone else, who is experienced in clothing manufacturing and fashion design, take care of your entire production for you?
Reputable clothing manufacturing agencies are designed to do just that. As agencies, our prime directive is to facilitate the sourcing and ethical manufacturing needs of our clients.
But here is the key. The right agency will have an already established network of high quality manufacturers that have been vetted for quality, ethics, and production prices. They must know what you need, know how to provide it, be able to do it consistently, and do it fast.
There are far less agencies out there than manufacturers, and even fewer reputable agencies who have the knowledge, skills, and service capabilities to provide what you need. Using agencies can drastically decrease the time it takes to find ethical clothing manufacturers. And it will also help you avoid working with inexperienced or unethical businesses.
While manufacturers have been known to push smaller productions back in the cue in place of more profitable projects, when you work with agencies, this should never happen. With the right agency, it won’t.
Agencies play a critical role within the manufacturing community as well. Because we provide them with a steady flow of relevant clients they too can focus on doing what they do best.
What do we mean by relevant?
For example, swimwear manufacturers like to work on swimwear, right? So when they work with agencies like us, we know their expertise, and we only ever approach them with the right clients. We don’t waste their time, we bring hundreds of relevant clients to our network each year, and all the confusing communication and miscommunications are avoided by outsourcing all this work to the agency.
For you, this is great news. Now you get to have a skilled clothing manufacturing company working for you on the ground. You get one point of contact to work with every step of the way, and you never have to leave your own home.
- They ensure that your chosen factory is ethical, treats is workers right, pays fair wages, helps their surrounding community to grow, has positive environmental policies.
- The agency sources everything for your production and knows how to make educated recommendations.
- They ensure your patterns and samples are to your specifications.
- They ensure everything is in order and production schedules are kept on track as your garments are being produced.
- They ensure the quality control process is handled correctly.
- They ensure that everything is safely packaged and ready for shipping to you.
- They communicate everything with you, at every step, and are honest.
That’s a lot to do isn’t it.
Now imagine trying to travel abroad, meet countless manufacturers and test / vet them, sometimes need to conduct business in a language other than yours, pay for your travels / accommodation / food, on your own?
Financially speaking, the math generally doesn’t favour the DIY approach. But time is also money.
One path will lead you toward endless lists of manufacturers whom you don’t know and may not be able to trust. The other path lets someone else do everything for you while you focus on your business.
But ultimately this decision is yours to make. Regardless which path you choose, there is an adventure waiting for you in the fabulous world of clothing manufacturing.