UK Clothing Manufacturers: How to find the right factory

Finding the right clothing manufacturer for your brand isn't an easy task. There's many intricacies to consider but in this blog, we break down the main things to look out for and how to find the perfect clothing supplier for your business.
5 min read

How to find the right clothing supplier for your brand

Are you planning to start a fashion brand? In this article you will learn everything you need to know to source the the right UK clothing manufacturer; whether that’s for white label clothing, or a full blown custom clothing manufacturer.

To make things nice and easy, we’ll break this down into separate sections;

Section 1: How to find a good clothing manufacturer in the UK
- Product requirements,
- Minimum order quantity (MOQ),
- Fabric availability,
- Ethical certifications

Section 2: White label clothing, or custom clothing manufacturers route
- Turnaround time requirement,
- Ideal price point, or suggested RRP’s,
- Designs and scope of product innovation,
- Speed to market

Bonus content (because we are nice!)
- A low quantity clothing manufacturer,
- How to price your products,
- What the best clothing manufactures do that you can notice from the very beginning

So, let’s jump straight in to section one and answer the question; how to find a good clothing manufacturer in the UK? Or better yet, how to find a clothing manufacturer. Although this blog applies to clothing manufacturers in the UK, the same principle can apply overseas. The same can also apply regardless of what type of manufacturing you’re looking for, although we’ll focus on clothing manufacturers, we will touch base on the likes of CMT clothing factory (which stands for cut, make and trim) as well as one low MOQ clothing manufacturer.

In order to effectively answer this question, you need to consider what it actually is you’re looking for and this is called product scope. Every factory is likely to have a specialism in terms of their style of work… some are great at manufacturing products like Gymshark hoodies, but probably wouldn’t do the best job on denim. The very first step to effectively sourcing a custom clothing manufacturer is to have a clear vision on what styles of products you’re looking for but also be open to recommendations from clothing manufacturers as well.

Following on from that, the next step is to assess how many units you’re going to need per style, per colour. It might be hard at this stage to know what a reasonable MOQ for private label clothing manufactures might be so we’ll give you a guide;

Normal range:

Entire order: 500- 1,000 units,
Per fabric: 250- 500,
Per style: 250-500
Per colour: 200 (some may do 100)

If you’re reading that and think that’s too high, then we’d hate to say that the fashion game probably isn’t for you. Sure, there are ways around that; such as white label clothing routes, which we’ll delve into a bit later but as a rule of thumb- always expect the above as a fairly reasonable MOQ.

Fabric availability:

When it comes to working with clothing manufacturers, there tends to be a couple ways you can approach this. The first is a factory that sources fabrics and imports them into their unit for production, whilst the second route is a CMT factory (cut, make and trim) which is basically where you’ll have to show up and source the fabric yourself. Speaking from experience- the first option is always the more straight forward and cost effective for lower units, but you are limited to available fabric options. I.e. the clothing manufacturer will have an MOQ on the fabric itself, so if you request a fabric that their fabric mill sets at let’s say a minimum of 500 units (give or take) then that will be what the factory will impose for that order. This is standard practice, as it wouldn’t make sense for them to purchase extra fabric just to run the order.

The CMT clothing factory route is one that might make more sense in places like the UK- where fabric is more cost effective overseas. This all depends on the number of units you’re after and how many different styles of fabric you require within a collection however!

Ethical certifications:

This is something we, as one of the UK’s leading clothing manufacturers feel very strongly about. You cannot and should not encourage, support or allow (whether willingly knowing, or not) your supplier/ supply chain to breach any ethical standards. It goes without saying that not only does this carry moral and ethical implications, but also legal ones.

Ensure you’re working with custom clothing manufacturers who carry independent certifications. For example, here at White2Label Manufacturing our ethical promise is simple- we only work with clothing manufacturers who carry at least one of the following ethical certifications- Sedex, WRAP, amfori or ISO. This should be standard practice across the board, but you will find out that unfortunately, it isn’t so please ensure that even if you’re looking for clothing manufacturers for startups that you’re doing your due diligence.

Now, we’re onto the good stuff- white label clothing, or the custom clothing manufacturers route?

Let’s start by delving into the difference between the two. White label clothing is basically where you have a blank and unbranded product that branding is added too. It’s prominent in all in industries and provided it’s done right, it can be an effective way to lower your MOQs, decrease lead times and provide you with more of a range under a fixed budget. On the contrary, going the custom clothing manufacturers route is essentially like what we’ve spoke about above- it’s where products and collections are created to your custom specifications; you have much more freedom in the design and production stages, but it carries a whole list of logistical issues that the white label clothing route avoids.

So, which is better? The truthful answer is- it depends what your requirements are. If your USP is a product/ collection then it’s a no brainer; the private label clothing manufacturers route will most definitely be better for you. However, it’s not to say you can’t use a combination of both!

In most cases, finding UK clothing manufactures who can do both would be ideal and luckily, you are in the right place as that’s exactly what we do. Not only do we offer the most comprehensive white label clothing service in the UK, but we also offer private label clothing manufacturing services for clients who require the creation of products that extend beyond the design capabilities of our white label service… ultimately leaving a fully-encompassing service that ticks all the boxes (if we say so ourselves!)

One thing to consider with white label clothing and with working with any clothing manufactures in the UK is that your cost price will always be higher than going direct to a supplier overseas. That being said, you won’t have any hidden costs/ ones you’re unaware of that’ll creep up and hit you by surprise- import taxes and duties being the main one! With everything kept in the UK, your shipping costs will be lower, there will be virtually no import taxes to consider and your turnaround time will be faster, but all of that will come at a cost. The cost of labour/ machinery is higher in the UK then in places like South East Asia but that being said- things made, or finished in the UK often warrant higher RRP’s, so it often comes down to where you’d like to sit in the market in terms of pricing.

An easy rule of thumb is to establish your ideal RRP and target markup and work backwards from there.

Design scope and production innovation:

Quite possibly the largest downfall of white label clothing is the lack of freedom in the design phase. Sure, it’s a great way to find a low MOQ clothing manufacturer, but you can only do so much. The products themselves are blank templates that you can add branding to/ garment finishing options like woven labels but the product itself is set- you can’t alter the fit, the feel or have any say in what fabric/ weight is used in the product.

This isn’t all bad if you have products in mind that are pretty simple; most brands do! As long as the white label manufacturing company have good blanks (like us!) and again, like us- there is meticulous attention to detail paid to the customisation and garment finishing options then the end result should look exactly the same as you’ve gone down the private label clothing route with the only difference being you’ve saved a lot of money and time!

Speed to market:

Something that’s crucial, but very overlooked. There’s no denying that speed to market will differentiate the best from the great. Being able to have UK clothing manufacturers on hand to quickly put something into production so that you can ride the wave with a fashion trend will be absolutely fundamental to your growth as a business. White label clothing allows you to do this- as the products are already pre-made, you won’t have the turnaround time and shipping wait time for the production, but instead the shorter customisation timeframe, which with us is around 10 working days.

Okay, so now as promised we wanted to ensure this added true value to anyone reading and we’d give away some more information. All of the information we’re about to link is from previous blogs we’ve published and should all be helpful for anyone who’s either looking to source UK clothing manufacturers, or low MOQ clothing manufacturers- either way, it should give you some great insight into what to expect, the process and what to look out for!

A low quantity clothing manufacturer-
How to price your products-

What the best clothing manufactures do that you can notice from the very beginning:

They listen to what you’re looking for. They won’t try to speed up the process and will always ensure you go for a sample. If a supplier wants you to commit to a bulk order without a sample then run as far away and as fast as you can… you don’t want to be stuck with hundreds, if not thousands of units all of which aren’t how you expected.

About the author
Anthony Mellor

Anthony Mellor is a fashion entrepreneur, writer and consultant. Anthony writes in-depth articles about topics related to fashion, business and supply chains.

Anthony successfully scaled and exited a D2C fashion brand at the young age of 20. Since then, he's gone onto start and successfully operate two multi-6-figure clothing manufacturing businesses and currently offers up one-to-one constancy to brand owners.

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