Guide to garment manufacturing overseas – The Do’s and Don’ts

Joshua GranathIt was a rainy early evening when I met with Joshua Granath. We arranged to meet at the Gazebo Wine Bar in Elizabeth Bay. Well spoken and extremely well mannered, Granath is highly astute for someone who has over only 6 years in the industry.  His experience working with large chain stores, gained him some valuable experience in dealing with China, as well as sourcing for his own label.

Based in Sydney, he cut his teeth working with Akira Isogawa; moving on to source, develop and manufacture product for some of the larger chain stores in Australia. He has also designed and manufactured his own women’s wear labels, locally and offshore. Ask most people in the industry about manufacturing in China and they tend to be rather hesitant about divulging any information. Joshua, on the other hand, lends his time working with a Sydney-based textile design company and offers young labels assistance with manufacturing their product in Asia.

With so many emerging labels in Australia and a huge shortfall in terms of local manufacturers, he thought it important to share his knowledge with young designers on how to streamline their production process, reduce their manufacturing costs and increase their sourcing abilities, while maintaining quality.

He found local manufacturing to be a costly, inefficient and tedious process. Starting out small and working with low unit indent orders, he always held the belief that he was not able to meet minimum order requirements to move production offshore. However, after a little digging, he found the process to be cost effective, expeditious and the quality of production at a much higher level than that of local manufacturers.  While many operators who wholesale are experienced with dealing with China, for retailers wanting to do a bit of manufacturing, here are some of the things you need to know when dealing with China for the first time.

phoebe_soloPhoebes Garland is a Features Writer for EXPOSED Online and co-owns Garland & Garland Fashion with Robert Garland, a leading fashion agency based in Sydney. Phoebe also owns Fashion Initiative an online fashion destination covering business of fashion, fashion, luxury and events. Described as a” Power Agent” by Ragtrader magazine. Between the two of them, Phoebes & Robert Garland have over 50 years sales experience in fashion, publishing and advertising. Garland & Garland Fashion is a respected leading boutique fashion agency based in Sydney, and they are regularly sought for comment from various media and the fashion industry on business fashion topics, fashion and issues.

Which country should you choose to produce your garments, and how do you find a good quality factory that you can trust?

Like factories, some countries are better at producing different things. Indonesia and India can be great for cost-effective cotton garments and screen-printing.  Indians are masters at dying and embellishment, while China is a hub for sourcing the most innovative textiles, trims and all types of garment manufacturing. Choose a city or region that is known for what they do.

Trusting a new factory with your business is always a risk. Firstly, establish contact and make a few inquiries. Have they worked with Australian designers in the past? If so, who?

Request some examples of product that they have manufactured – photos or garment samples to assess the quality; most factories are happy to provide this. If this product looks similar to what you are aiming to produce, there’s a good chance that this factory will be able to meet your needs. It’s also a great idea for your first production run to meet your new factory in person, if possible.

I have found this step extremely helpful in terms of establishing a rapport with the factory, explaining exactly what you are looking for in terms of sourcing/manufacturing, and establishing a long term working relationship. Most factories will appreciate the face-to-face contact and be happy to accommodate you when visiting their city.

stock-footage-close-up-side-view-of-industrial-sewing-machine-in-garment-factory-with-worker-s-hand-feeding-blackDo you need to produce hundreds or thousand of garments to manufacture in Asia?

There is a common misconception that designers have to have enormous quantities to produce offshore. Of course there are factories that will only accept large orders and are used to working with commercial retailers such as Gap, River Island or Topshop; but many smaller factories are willing to look at producing smaller productions runs of 50-100 units for a number of reasons.

They may be looking at developing business in general in Australia or they will accept a surcharge to produce a smaller run. If the factory can establish that you are a growing business and that you may be placing an order for more units in 6 or 12 months, they may be happy to accommodate your smaller orders. Try to keep your size range and colour-ways to only two or three sizes/colours when you are starting out; this saves the extra cutting/grading time for the factory and they may be more willing to help you out.

Do you need a paper pattern or a sample to send to my new factory?

The more straight forward you can make things for the factory, the better. If you have a sample or a paper pattern, by all means, send it. The one thing that you will definitely need to send is a detailed garment specification sheet. This is crucial and will act as your contract.

Once your fit samples arrive, you will need to compare them to your initial spec and ensure that your factory has followed your measurements to achieve the desired fit. The fit process usually takes two or three samples before you can approve bulk cutting/making, depending on your style.

How much should you be paying for your garments when producing offshore?

This is a difficult question to answer, as all styles are vastly disparate. The rule with sending you garments to be manufactured offshore is, “Can I make this garment more cheaply and easily than if I was to make it locally?” Your offshore quotes should be around less than half the price of your local manufacturing prices. Also, consider that your garment will arrive from overseas finished with a care label, garment label, swing tag, pressed in a polyurethane bag ready to send to stores. When manufacturing locally, consider the cost of your pattern making, grading, fabric, machining, care and main labels, pressing, QC etc.

Also factor in the time that it took you to collect the cut work and deliver it to the makers, then deliver the made garments to the pressers, hang the labels on the garments and pack them for stores. The price quoted by your factory should include all of these things and not only save you money, but save you time. Be aware of FOB ad FIS prices. FOB prices exclude freight and local taxes; you have more control over your freight method (sea or air) here, which could save you money, but you might need a freight forwarder to help bring the order into the country. FIS should include all freight and local charges, but the factory will choose their preferred freight carrier. Be clear with the factory exactly what their quotes price includes: fabric, print, trims, labels, packing etc.?

closeup of zipperHow do you find fabrics and trims overseas?

If you can get your hands on a fabric, zipper, button or toggle in Australia, chances are that you will be able to source 20 similar options in China. If your factory is based in China, they will be able to help you source the trim or fabric that your are looking for. There are gargantuan textile halls and markets in China, which offer an enormous choice on the fabrics you would get in Australia. If you do have the chance to meet with your factory face-to-face, ask them to take you on a sourcing journey as it’s often difficult for westerners to navigate those environments, but it’s certainly a worthwhile exercise.

How long will my garments take to arrive?

This will depend on your factory. When dealing with China, first fit samples should be ready within one week plus shipping time. Depending on your fabric, whether its stock, printed or being woven, this may take weeks. It is important to ask your factory for all lead times before you confirm the order. Also be aware of local holidays such and Chinese New Year and Eid in Muslim countries. The city and ports could be in lockdown for days, which could cause huge delays for your orders. Also be aware of air and shipping times. This is the difference between days or weeks. If the factory is at fault and late with their order, they may often air freight your order at their cost.

Is the quality better than producing locally?

Again, this will all depend on your factory. There are great quality makers abroad and there are poor quality makers abroad; much like the Australian makers. Conduct a thorough assessment of your factory before you hand over a large order, and ensure that you are checking the quality along the way with your fit samples, pre-production samples and bulk samples. If you can get a recommendation from a friend or colleague regarding quality factories, this is invaluable information.

What can’t I make overseas?

Of course you can make any type of garment that you wish in Asia, however when starting out, you will be somewhat restricted due to your small minimums. Developing new denims, for example, may require you to order 5000 meters or more, or even dying small runs of fabric or ordering prints could prove difficult. As your factories for stock fabrics, colours and trims; there will still be a lot of options available here.


  • Do convey a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve. Whether it’s providing clear photos of a type of stitching that you require or colour chips for a textile print, this will help your factory no end. The most mistakes occur when the information provided is vague or unclear.
  • Do create clear and accurate garment specs
  • Do communicate regularly with your factory to monitor production and sampling
  • Do ensure that you have costed your styles efficiently. Have you accounted for import tax, freight and the exchange rate?
  • Do request accurate lead times from your factory


  • Don’t expect offshore production to be all smooth sailing. Production issues and faults will always occur, locally and offshore. Assess if your product will be straight- forward for a third party to understand and produce – if not, you may be better off producing locally.
  • Don’t expect your production to be perfect. You will still need effective quality control procedures to be in place.
  • Don’t expect to pay the same garment/manufacturing price that you may have paid last season. Yarn prices, labour prices and exchange rates are always fluctuating which will affect your costings.
  • Don’t fall short in terms of detail. Just because something is simple to you, it may not be as easy to understand for a maker. Be as clear and concise as you can with your patterns, specs and sourcing requirements.
  • Don’t be too aggressive in terms of price. When you are doing smaller runs of 50 units, you will most likely have to accept the first quote price that the factory offers you. Once you build up your units, you can start bargaining.

The Australian International Sourcing Fair is on tomorrow until Friday 15 November at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

For all information and to register to visit; sourcingfair.com.au

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2 thoughts on “Guide to garment manufacturing overseas – The Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Great interview and I think Joshua makes some really great points. One option that wasn’t mentioned is finding an Australian manufacturing services provider who can help manage the manufacturing process for you. I think many brands would be surprised at how much easier and better value this provides. You get all the advantages of local service/contact and also all the advantages of offshore manufacturing – it’s a great hybrid for brands that want a manufacturer who understands the product and the market.

  2. Pingback: The great divide between Made in China & Made in Australia | Exposed online

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