Looking for a clothing manufacturer?

Once more, with feeling.

If you’re looking for a clothing manufacturer, you’ve hit pay dirt. Thousands of clothing manufacturers visit this site every day! But now I have to ask why you want to find a clothing manufacturer. Are you a buyer looking for new suppliers? Are you selling fabric? Are you a sales rep looking for new clients? Or are you a consumer looking to buy clothes? Those are all legitimate reasons to look for a clothing manufacturer. The singular reason you don’t need to find a clothing manufacturer is if you’re looking for someone to sew products for you.

Amongst new entrants, manufacturer is used to mean sewing contractor but that is exactly like saying cyst instead of tumor. If your doctor calls the lab for your biopsy results and the technician says it’s a cyst when it’s a tumor, you could die. If you are looking for someone to sew your products, by definition you are a manufacturer who is looking for a sewing contractor.

Manufacturer is a legal designation that encompasses duties, responsibilities and culpability. The responsibility of the potential of recalls, injuries, law suits, fines etc rests with the party whose name is listed on the label. For example, Toyota -not their brake contractor- is in a lot of hot water legally and in the court of public opinion.

A sewing contractor provides sewing services under contract. A contractor’s liability is limited; noncompliance amounts to a contract dispute between you and them. Toyota’s brake contractor is in trouble with Toyota, not the government.

So, even though a sewing contractor manufactures product for you, contractor and manufacturer are not synonyms. It doesn’t matter how much you dislike the label, the law holds you -the manufacturer- responsible. Failing to use these two terms properly causes distance and a whole host of other problems. Minimally, it’s annoying and annoyed people aren’t known to be helpful. It can also be interpreted as an indirect insult but that’s further down.

Building credibility by using terminology appropriately identifies you as belonging to the in-group. If you don’t, people in a position to help you will think you’re a layman or not far enough along as to make any difference. If you think the meanings of words are interchangeable, how will you understand what people are saying? We certainly don’t understand; if you are a manufacturer, why would you look high and low for a manufacturer? So you can spy on them? These days most of us know what you mean but we’ll also know you’re green and may decline to take you on if we don’t have the time to explain basic terms. Books are useful for the ABCs.

I have come to realize that the word manufacturer holds a negative connotation for some people but that’s an emotional response that has no place in business (even though tumor sounds really nasty, you wouldn’t say cyst instead). This problem with your perceptions could be causing other problems you don’t need, perhaps unknowingly. This from an email I got:

[ ] although I’ve read this on the forum, it didn’t click until you said it the other day. I am the manufacturer – something about that clicked and already I feel like I am making more progress. When I was thinking that they were the manufacturer somehow that made me less in control. I hope this doesn’t sound too crazy but, somehow now that I realize I am the manufacturer, it is changing the way I am approaching everything. I’m glad I realized this before I actually launch -and now I wonder how many other things I don’t yet know

Own what you are. You’ll be the better for it. Be responsible and proud enough of it that you don’t need to couch it in half-truths. If you’re ashamed of being a manufacturer to the extent you have to conceal it, there must be other things going on you don’t want people to know.

If you don’t use the word manufacturer to describe yourself because the word has an ugly connotation for you, what can that say about how you think about service providers? If you’re ashamed of the word when it’s used to describe you, it logically follows that one could imply insult if it’s being using it to describe us. There’s no need to be ashamed of us, most of us think manufacturing is something to be proud of. In fact, some of us find the opposite implication to be offensive. Sure, there’s some rotten manufacturers out there and even rotten contractors but would you hesitate to describe yourself as a mom or dad just because the majority of child abusers are moms and dads? In business you’re allotted one small carry-on. Leave the rest of your baggage at home.

Summary: Using language inappropriately in a given context dramatically diminishes your credibility. Standing in front of a mirror, repeat “I am a manufacturer, I am a manufacturer”. If you find the prospect exciting, something to be proud of and you want to learn more, you’re a credit to the industry. We’ll hold the door open for you.

Speaking of credibility, this study finds that textile and apparel firms that misrepresent their identity, suffer financially. Companies that do represent themselves correctly hire more employees, have higher sales, more production space and a higher credit score.

Note: I promise this is the last time I’m going to make these points, I’m sure it’s boring to the regulars. From here on out tho, I have a post I can link to.

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  1. Kathleen says:

    More on mis-naming comes from the Daily Telegraph which quotes Dick Olver of BAE:

    Britain suffers from a language problem in that the word ‘engineer’ is applied to a lot of different people who do a range of jobs… About 2m people in this country have the job title of engineer, despite having limited technical qualifications. This makes it more difficult to attract people to study engineering at university and enter the profession.

    From US manufacturers face skills shortages (Financial Times)

    Manufacturing companies in the US are struggling to find workers with technical skills even though the sector has shed more than 2m jobs in the past two years. The shortage of skilled staff could restrict companies’ ability to step up production as the economic recovery gathers pace…groups ranging from Boeing [ ] to small companies also said they faced a wave of skilled workers reaching retirement age in the next few years, with a shortage of younger workers to replace them. Manufacturers said the biggest shortages were for engineers and skilled floor workers.

    “It’s difficult to find people for assembly, machining and motor-winding positions – jobs that require maths skills and the ability to read technical blueprints,” said Ron Bullock, owner of Bison Gear.

    I see the above as the consequence of manufacturing being increasingly reviled. It’s not as tho people get props for factory work among their peers or laymen or even sometimes by the people who’d hire them.

  2. BSC says:

    I think the terminology when assigning proper titles can be confusing because of the crossover of skills. A personal pet peeve is when someone is looking for a patternmaker “or” seamstress as if the skills are always interchangable, or a tailor/seamstress. Each one of these positions is very specialized.
    As for the additional comment about the word “Engineer” being very vague, I think the garment industry equivalent for that would probably be “Technical Designer.”

  3. LisaB says:

    Has the word “factory” also become reviled? What word is used today to describe the building/location of those who make things? Usually when I hear “factory”, it’s said with a negative connotation. My MIL is the exception, though. She and her sisters went off to work in the local sewing factory after completing 8th grade. It was just what all the girls did back then. My MIL can use the word “factory” almost fondly when she recalls those days.

  4. Dennis says:

    In the old days a factory was a place whereby one did a job every minute all day long for months on end. It would be boring for most people as well as being a diry. Nowadays, most factories would cross train people on doing different duties. Most factories have CNC machines controlled by computers requiring people having some computerskills whether it be manufacturing toilet bowls, buildings, lamps, atom smashers, etc. The local building job sites require electricians, plumbers and carpenters to know various rules, regulations, math and computer skills. Again, these are not prestigious jobs such as being a lawyer, doctor or banker. Alas, I am only a clerical with some math & computer skills.

  5. Dawn says:

    I agree with Dennis and I think most people think of Dennis’ old days example when they think of “factory” or “manufacturing” – boring, dirty, semi-skilled. In other words, what parents tell their kids to stay in school for so they can avoid.
    Based on some reactions to a blog post I wrote about getting my products made at a sewing factory, I’ve now started referring to it as a “sewing shop.”

  6. Dia in MA says:

    The truth is that most of those Americans reviling manufacturing jobs have no clue what a real manufacturing job involves. Most have never done one. They just “know” they are bad because that is what they’ve been told. I’m not sure the “gamer” generation has the patience to do that sort of work.

    A lot of it is true. The job I had was boring and the work could be grueling. I was a marker (buttonhole and button positions). Yes, the job WAS boring plus the pay was lousy and often late. But darn it, the people I worked with were nice. And the job was no more boring than a lot of so-called “better” jobs I’ve done since.

    There was something pleasant about the routine. I could let my mind wander as I did the job. I have fond memories of that job even as I remember the days I dripped sweat when they ran the steamers on high to fix all the interfacing onto the next job. Sure I’d have liked a job with more prestige (and less sweat), but there were few jobs where I lived and it was not a bad first job.

    American companies also have to face the fact that they have not been training a next generation to take over their low end jobs that require some skill. Apprenticeship was tossed out the window. Community colleges are starting to pick up some of it, but 15 week classes aren’t the same as working next to someone who really knows the job.

    Please note: I am avoiding the terminology discussion so as not to rant endlessly. I worked for 15 years as an technical editor and can go on for a very long time on that topic. One supposedly intellegent person told me: “I can be loosey goosey about my words if I want to be!” We are all paying the price for too many years of loosey goosey.

  7. kristin says:

    As always, right on time with this topic. I’m am looking for contractors as we speak to help with my production needs. However, once of my future goal is to be more vertically integrated (as per a previous article).

    I honestly don’t think that the term “manufacturing” is reviled or seen as ugly anymore. It is so much more complex now; certain job functions require a certain level of skill,education, managerial experience. “Manufacturing” is much more hip now because there is a desire ( in the US anyway) make things again instead of relying on foreign imports. (http://www.metromodemedia.com/innovationnews/Sarahs06.aspx). gov’t, pundits etc have only talked about increase in manufacturing as key to economic recovery. So for anyone to think the opposite would be frowned upon like those who don’t recycle or care about the environment. My own family doctor (and a couple of partners) recently opened a solar panel manufacturing operation in Jamaica. Totally random as he knows nothing about that business yet saw a need and desire to do it to help Jamaica’s economy. Go figure. .

  8. Marie-Christine says:

    :-). Very good to spell things out. And also very good to have a place to point a link to, so you don’t wreck your carpal tunnels repeating it over and over again :-).

  9. Victoria says:

    I actually like telling people that I am a manufacturer…They immediately think I have a large “factory” with hundreds of employees, because we all know that it takes hundreds of people to make one little widget or whatever. I rarely tell them that some days my living room is the factory annex with an production staff of 1…me! The other assumption that seems to follow is that I have reached a certain level of success. I mean, aren’t all manufacturers successful?

    I have digressed. Thanks, Kathleen for such great clarification. I was wondering if we could split a few more hairs? So, are all DE’s manufacturers? That would mean designer = manufacturer and I don’t think that is right, but I cannot seem to find the right words for clarification. I suppose I could design something and never actually go into production, so it would not fall into the manufacturing category.

    Thoughts anyone?

  10. Tom Lo says:

    Yes, I am a sewing contractor, and I have no problems telling people to come to my shop or factory. My workers enjoy the environment, customers (yes, you manufacturers) get that fuzzy excited feel when they see the sewing machines and cutting table, and yes, I do call myself a manufacturer also–semantics and common terminology for lay folks, not my industry specific designation. Anyone looking for a contractor, btw? Check us out…we’d love to chat and talk…

  11. Darlene says:

    Thanks for clarifying this. From reading your book and talking to others, I had decided that I am a manufacturer. However, others’ questioning looks when I told them what I am were beginning to make me wonder. Now I know how to explain it to them.

  12. Sherry K says:

    Can anyone please tell me how to fine out who the makers of names on labels is? for example CARRY BACK, And some call it carry back of California?

  13. Kathleen says:

    So, are all DE’s manufacturers? That would mean designer = manufacturer and I don’t think that is right, but I cannot seem to find the right words for clarification. I suppose I could design something and never actually go into production, so it would not fall into the manufacturing category.

    If designers cause something to be produced and they are an owner of the company, they are a manufacturer. If they are an employee, then they work for a manufacturer even if another party sews the stuff up. Manufacture means to make by hand. If nothing is being made, then no, no one is manufacturing.

    Can anyone please tell me how to fine out who the makers of names on labels is? for example CARRY BACK, And some call it carry back of California?

    Look carefully at the fine print, maybe it’s not on the pretty label but the care label. You’ll find “RN” and a number. With that RN number, you can look it up in the FTC database. This will give you the name of the manufacturer (who owns the label), not the contractor.

  14. Matt P says:

    Regarding the imputed negative connotations of “manufacturing” or “factory” — I think that in the US at least this comes from several generations of upwardly mobile, moving-out-to-the-suburbs striving. Parents told their kids to do well in school, and go to college so that they could get a “good” job and succeed. The implication is that you have to go into a profession or white-collar job to be considered successful.

    As a society we’ve lost the notion of “skilled manual labor”. There are jobs which are truly unskilled labor and anyone with two hands can do them. But there are also blue-collar jobs that require a specific set of skills — and these are not the skills taught in schools (except maybe for technical or trade schools). So, the vast majority of people who have no connection to any sort of manufacturing only think of it as unskilled work and don’t realize that some factory workers have a more specialized skills than your average office worker.

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