Manufacturing clothes in the UK: Is this viable for start-ups?

In this blog we discuss using clothing manufacturers in the UK and if it's viable for startup brands.
3 minute read

Is manufacturing in the UK viable for small clothing brands?

As a clothing manufacturer, we have a lot of newly established brands reaching out to us and requesting we work with them through one of our UK clothing manufacturers. This is absolutely fine as we accommodate each client based on their requirements, however, what often ends up happening is when we delve into the specifics about UK manufacturing, they get put off.

In this blog, we’re going to cover the key areas you need to consider when searching for clothing manufacturers in the UK and considering whether it’s right for your brand from the get-go. These include the following;

  • What MOQs to expect,
  • What are the production times (these vary!)
  • What’s different about UK clothing manufacturers, compared to custom clothing manufacturers overseas,
  • The hidden logistical costs

So, let’s start by touching point on the most common question we receive- what are the MOQs?

This will vary from factory, to factory and also be heavily dependent on the design and garment itself; for example- you’re likely to have a lower MOQ on a basic tee than you would on a padded winter jacket. However, as a rule of thumb and based on experience, it seems that the lowest viable MOQ in the UK for a basic product- I.e. a t-shirt is around 300pcs per style.

How does this compare to custom clothing manufacturers overseas? Well, in most instances, it’s pretty much the same. That being said, our bespoke overseas service allows us to offer MOQs of just 100pcs per style, per colour for bespoke work, so it really varies on who you know and how low the factory you work with can go, or are willing to offer you. This often comes down to buying power, which, unfortunately, is something a newly established brand won’t have.

Next, the common question would be- what are the production and sample lead times?

This is where UK clothing manufacturers come out on top, because although their production times might be slightly longer than those of overseas factories, you save a lot of time on shipping. In the current climate, we’re quoting around 95% of clients a train shipment option from our suppliers which usually comes in around 35-40 days… a long time to wait! This isn’t the case with UK clothing manufactures, so even if the production time is double that of overseas, you’re still going to get your product in around the same time-frame.

One thing to note when discussing lead times is that this will massively vary from month-to-month depending on how busy things are, the overall order value and number of units, as well as the style of product. It’s therefore much easier to comment on this once clients come to us with tech-packs and then we can discuss how to go about it from there.

What are the main differences from UK clothing manufacturers, to those overseas?

The main difference between these two is that the majority of clothing manufacturers UK are actually CMT factories (cut, make and trim) and this means that they simply cut the patterns and sew the garments together- meaning you have to source and supply the fabric, as well as all trims and embellishments and then print/ brand up the garment.

This is a huge thing to consider for start-up brands, as it goes from paying one unit cost for a full process manufacture who will handle everything for you, to now having to logistically piece together the production for your own collection… something that can be extremely confusing and difficult if you’re not experienced and have no contacts in this industry.

This leads us nicely onto the next point, which is - what are the hidden logistical costs?

Let’s consider the fact your UK clothing manufacturer quotes you £4.50 for a CMT service and the fabric costs around £6 p/ unit (taking into account wastage) - your unit costs is £10.50 excl. VAT right? Nope… not quite. You have to factor in the fact you’re going to be shipping a lot of heavy fabric from a mill to the factory, so add on £100 overall… oh, and your embellishments- they cost £200 + shipping. Then you have the cost of shipping the finished product back to your facility- add on another £100. It might not seem like a lot at face value, but these logistical costs now turn your £10.50 p/ unit product into something that’s now £11, or £12 and so on.

In conclusion- is manufacturing for your clothing brand in the UK for a start-up viable? It can be, if you have the funding to meet the MOQs, but most importantly, you’re able to shift the stock- the las thing you want to do starting out is overstocking. I suppose the answer to this depends on your situation. If you’re a start-up brand with barely any funding, or no means to move hundreds of units in stock and not very well connected, then I’d say either go for a white label clothing service, or a bespoke one overseas- this will lower your risk of overstocking and allow for a much easier and less stressful process. There’s nothing stopping you eventually moving your production to a UK clothing manufacturer later down the line!

As always, we massively appreciate you reading the content we put out and if you have any questions about the services or products we offer clients, leave your details below and one of the team would love to reach out and discuss how we can potentially help you with your custom clothing manufacturing needs!

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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