How to search for clothing manufacturers

Rather late in the game, I’ve discovered flow charts. A recent post to the F-I Facebook page inspired this one on how to search for clothing manufacturers. Said one visitor (in response to my news that domestic apparel production continues to increase for the third quarter in a row and is now at 20%!)

It sure would be nice if there was a list of manufacturers in the USA. It’s pretty difficult to figure it out. Have any recommendations for women’s wear?

I’ll give the redux of my response to her below but back to the cheat sheet I made on how to search for clothing manufacturers:


If you’re new to these parts, the cut to the chase summary is that instead of looking for a clothing manufacturer, you should be looking for a sewing contractor. And to find a sewing contractor, you need to first find a pattern maker who will hook you up with a contractor. This is pretty basic stuff; the A of the ABCs. May I suggest reading a book about it? It’ll make a world of difference.

I’ve been working on another flowchart -do you find this sort of visual helpful?- which explains the various options you have when considering how to go about producing your collection. Specifically, the difference between hiring a full service contractor, going with private label, versus managing your own product development. I had hoped it would be done today but no such luck. Sheesh, writing entries takes less time. That sounds negative; in truth I’m rather hopeful and excited about the possibilities.

[Making the flow chart was a little harder than it looks because I have an ancient version of Excel (2003). I can’t upgrade easily because the newest version needs a newer OS version (I’m still running WinXP). The latest and greatest PC flavored OS requires a 64 bit system and mine is 32. Wah! When I bought my server in 2007, it was so super-duper it was supposed to last me forever! Don’t you just hate migrating? Enough griping. And don’t tell me to migrate to Apple because I’ll throw a virtual chair at you. Very few of my programs will run on the super-duper MacBook Pro I (also) bought.]

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  1. Prasanta says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    It is a brilliant work. But I did not understand – How one could get the name (list) of clothing manufacturers by just going to a market. Do you mean ‘clothing manufacturer’ as small boutique or tailors shops in the local market? (I see things in Indian context)
    From the title I thought, this chart will help me to get a list of export order clothing manufacturers,that buyers look for.
    By the way, I got a new idea to find answers of a question — A Flow-Chart.

  2. Prasanta,

    In this case, “market” is a tradeshow where manufacturers show their samples and take orders. You can see discussions of some of them here:

  3. Julianne says:

    It’s quite possible that you can install the 64-bit OS on the 2007-era server. The 32-bits vs. 64-bits come from the OS itself, not the hardware. The Microsoft website should have a hardware compatibility assessment tool that you can run on your server to know for sure.

  4. Donna says:

    I did my field work at TALA, Textile Association of Los Angeles when I got my degree in Fashion Design. They publish a very large directory that lists just about every industry, service, etc. related to the business of fashion. DE’s came in regularly to get references and sources. I don’t remember the cost to join but it wasn’t outlandish. The fee gets you the directory and access to the website, Their offices were in The Mart and I was amazed at the connections to people in the industry that I made just being there. My guess is that New York probably has similar organizations. This is just one more tool that seems valuable to have if you are in the industry even if you don’t live near the source.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Prasanta: Between Asia and the US, we share the same terms but we assign different meanings to them. This is made clear in the first entry I linked to.

    Legally (it’s a federal and tax distinction), a clothing manufacturer is someone who causes a product to exist as opposed to someone who produces it (a contractor). A manufacturer stipulates all the elements that go into the product. If an Indian “manufacturer” (as defined there) were to relocate to the US, they would quickly become a contractor or become exposed to a lot of potential liability. All of the liability (consider children’s wear-CPSIA etc) rests with the manufacturer. If you as a contractor didn’t meet CPSIA standards, that amounts to a contract dispute between you and the manufacturer (what you call a “buyer”). However, if you were the manufacturer, you could go to jail, be fined or your factory shut down if you did not comply.

    A buyer for us is someone who buys wholesale goods. Someone who does not dictate garment specifications but buys goods as-is (for the most part).

    Another example: in India, the word “apparels” is used frequently. Here, that is awkward at best because it is presumed to be plural as it encompasses a whole category. It would be like saying “clothings”, “automotives” or “agricultures” etc.

    Julianne. Interesting. I’ll look into that. I need a larger hard drive or another one as it is.

    Donna: Tala is a great resource if one is sourcing in California. I know I’d use it if I lived there. The individual membership is $150 per year, businesses pay $250-$500+ depending. New York does have similar resources, some are free (listed on my resource page). On the eastern seaboard, there is SEAMS, ACA and SPESA. There is also the AAFA which is national. All of those are fee-based. And lastly is F-I which is only $45 and unlike all the others, assists in providing not only referrals but copious and detailed advice on starting, operating and improving one’s company.

    I admit to being confused as to why you’d recommend a fee-based service. At one time you said that having to pay to be an F-I member was akin to having to pay to use the library -maybe because the forum is so robust that it amounts to an encyclopedia and encyclopedias belong in a library? I don’t know.

  6. Eric H says:

    I believe that you can only run 64 bit Windoze on a 64 bit processor. You should be able to run 32 bit Windows on a 64 bit processor, but then you don’t get the full advantage. 64 bit OS on a 32 bit processor is either not going to work, or it is going to require work-arounds that make it actually slower than the 32 bit OS. I would look to Stu to clarify or correct.

  7. Kathleen says:

    I searched for the tool (here, if anyone else needs it). After install and running it, it still referred me to the computer manufacturer (Dell) but the tool was still useful because it scanned my peripherals, some programs and gave me the direct win7 link to Dell. Summary, Dell says my model isn’t compatible so I do need a new computer. Darn it all. It seems I am compelled, forced really, to buy a NEW lightening-fast, sexy and shiny NEW piece of technology. Woe is me that such is my lot.

    I am running one 64 bit suite on this machine (CS5x) but it is not optimal, some features in some programs are unavailable etc. I’m more concerned about whether my CAD program is ready to go on a 64 bit system as well as whether drivers are available for the digitizer and plotter.

  8. I used Office 2003 until just a few months ago. We have only just switched to Office 2010. It’s a corporate environment and we’re very risk-averse: we don’t upgrade anything until we’re sure all the bugs are well-understood and dealt with.

    Anyway, while I prefer Visio there isn’t much difference between flowcharts in Excel 2003 and Excel 2010. Don’t upgrade for that.

  9. Kathleen says:

    All? No.
    My guess is that at least half of DE apparel manufacturers don’t categorize themselves with the correct SIC/NAIC code when they filed for their business licenses so they’d scarcely be included. That said, US business census data and state filings would turn up the majority of established firms. It’s a tremendous amount of research work to compile it. And then once one did, most people these days think it should be free (then again, 95% of this same group should be looking for a contractor instead) so there’s little or nothing to gain from having done it. Davidson used to put one out but it is no longer profitable to do so.

  10. Prasanta says:

    Alison: Thank you Alison for the clarification you did for me.

    Kathleen: Thank you for your discussion on various terms used in two regions. We do lot of exports in USA but don’t bother much on the correct terms. It may be due to most of the communication happen by e-mail with customers (buyers).

  11. Karmi says:

    Hi there:
    I am looking for a manufacturers in India who can produce a clothing line for kids.
    Can someone sent me the list or names of them?
    Thanks much.

  12. Elizabeth Dominguez says:

    I believe I have a one of a kind article of clothing yet I don’t know how to go about it, who can make it for sale for me. If you have any ideas I would love to hear them. If you can HELP! I would really appreciate it soo much. Thank you,
    Elizabeth Dominguez

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