Things to Know for an Aspiring Fashion Entrepreneur
You've decided to start a clothing business! That's great!
But before you get too excited, you should think about who will be responsible for all of the important details that go into it. You might think that all you need to do is start designing and then send your designs to a factory and they'll make the clothes for you. But there are actually a lot of steps that happen between designing your first piece and having it in your customer's hands.
Like, what kind of fabrics are you going to use? What are the different finishes available? What's the minimum order quantity (MOQ)? How many sizes do you need to produce? And what about colors and prints? Do you want to stick to one color, or do you want to have a variety of options?
You'll also need to consider things like lead times on merchandise, up-front deposits, duties and type of costing. Who is responsible for freight internationally and domestically once it reaches its destination?
Don't worry—we're here to help! We've got tons of information about how to start a clothing business and how to work with a factory. Clear details like these will ensure that everyone is on the same page from day one—and that your new business gets off on the right foot.
In this post we will break down some of the commonly used words when it comes to sourcing apparel no matter the country you decide to import from.
The most important is MOQ which stands for Minimum Order Quantity and is going to help determine if working with a certain supplier is worth everyone’s time. Bigger suppliers will generally have much higher MOQs making it harder for someone starting out to work with him. Purchasing high quantities when starting out is risky for several reasons. The lower costs at higher quantities (economies of scale) is tempting for anyone starting out that wants to maximize revenue but at what costs? It’s not safe to assume so much inventory when starting out, giving you no margin for error in testing products in your markets, getting feedback, and iterating on a better product. Finding a supplier with a low MOQ but higher costs may end up saving you more money in the long run by allowing you to test your products at a much lower sunk cost. A MOQ will typically be listed on any Alibaba profile and any sales rep at a tradeshow will have the answer to that question ready at any given moment. If you’re not finding MOQs low enough for your budget, then your best bet may be to purchase wholesale from a domestic supplier.
The sampling process is typically the hardest, especially when it’s your first time working with a specific factory. Some crucial things to identify during the sampling process are type of fabric, size charts, colors, prints, and turnaround time. Some of the most commonly used fabrics are Cotton, Rayon, Polyester, Linen, Spandex, Viscose, or a blend of any of these. Even after fabric type, there are more details to consider such as percentage blend and GSM (grams per square meter). The higher the GSM the heavier the fabric feels. Size charts must clearly be communicated and providing detailed measurements is the only way to avoid disappointments later on. Color and prints are approved through swatches, lab dips, or pantone colors that provide a specific number reference to your desired color.
Finally, the most important negotiation point is cost and payment terms. Most factories will require a deposit to cover costs of raw materials at the time of purchase order and the balance at the time of shipping. However, over time more favorable terms can be discussed once trust and reputation is built. Costs may make or break your ability to ultimately sell that product so it is a good idea to compare costs across at least 3 different factories and understand the cost differences and how they affect the quality of the product, Having three concurrent discussions with factories can be exhausting but it provides the entrepreneur a clear picture on all of the variable that drive the costs up or down. For example, Factory A may be cheaper but they are using a lighter fabric measured by GSM. Or, Factory B may be cheaper but their labor practices may seem questionable. These are all types of factors that can affect the bottom line of your business and it may be in your best interest to partner with an auditing agency to determine the supplier's compliance with your requirements.
Our goal with this post is to give you a better idea of how the process works, so that when you're ready to start designing your own line, you'll know exactly what to expect! At Advance Apparels, we have 20+ years of experience in sourcing clothing from India for entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes. We’ve done custom orders from 500 units to 120,000 units and we treat each client with the same level of attention and respect. We operate out of our two factories that we own in India and have impactful partnerships with factories in Thailand, China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. So if you’re a fashion entrepreneur with a vision, or an established brand looking to diversify their apparel supply chain you can rely on the sourcing team at Advance Apparels. Contact us at email@example.com or call us at 212-481-7246 and ask for Akash!