What do apparel manufacturers have such high MOQs?
Simple. Apparel manufacturers have high MOQs for reasons of efficiency. The initial communication and setup of a new garment manufacturing order is substantial. There’s all the back and forth discussion about pricing. Figuring out which fabrics will be used and whether they are available. Sourcing zippers, buttons, snaps, rivets, etc. And all the internal details such as scheduling the job, the staffing and all the various overhead that goes into the job. In addition to the garment production itself, there’s also the possibility that the designer still needs to work through all the prototyping and sampling processes, which can take a tremendous amount of time. There are two approaches that new fashion labels typically try when they’re just starting up a new fashion label:
The Big Garment Factory Approach
An apparel manufacturer requires a high enough MOQ (minimum order quantity) to be able to cover their overhead and profit potentially through the garment production itself. They will not typically have budgeted for a great deal of product development work. That helps keep their prices down. However, keep in mind that there are a LOT of positions within the company aside from the sewing factory staff. Here are just a few that have to be considered:
- Human Resources
- Sales & Marketing
- Quality Control
- Delivery & Warehouse
- Supervisors & Floor Managers
Lots of people to consider! Not to mention the electric power, water, supplies, internet, drinking water, and all the other various fixed overhead costs.
Every expense of the company, plus profit, must be covered by the garment manufacturing prices.
With such heavy competition and tiny margins in the apparel factory business, you can easily imagine that it could take quite a few pieces at a significant markup to be able to cover the costs of operating the whole company. Many start-up fashion designers don’t make that connection, at least at first. They’ll often come in not only asking for the lowest minimum AND price, but they’ll also expect the apparel manufacturer to produce prototypes and samples free of charge. If you add the cost of all the staffing AND overhead, THEN add the cost of developing and sampling the product, then it would require a huge order volume to cover the costs of all these services.
For most fashion label startups or small fashion labels, the factory approach to developing a new fashion line is just not going to be feasible. The product development process should be complete and a fashion label should be ready to move forward with the order when soliciting a quote from an apparel manufacturer.
The Fashion Development Agency Approach
The more appropriate approach to developing a new fashion line is through a fashion product development company, such as yours truly. While not strictly an “apparel manufacturer”, a product development company will help move you through the initial steps to prepare your fashion line for manufacturing and will likely be able to assist with either small scale garment manufacturing or at least with sourcing apparel manufacturers who accept small MOQs.
The development process is separate from manufacturing. A fashion product development company will charge for all the time and materials involved in designing and prototyping the clothing products. The costs of prototyping and sampling fashion designs will vary widely, depending on where and by whom you have the work done. There’s no standard pricing for fashion product development. It’s the same as with any design field: you choose the team you’d like to work with based on their portfolio and references and go with it. Price shopping and comparing services is something you’re going to want to do first, before you sign on the dotted line. Once you’ve made the decision to work with someone, you could potentially lose a lot of time, progress and money if you decide to switch to another provider. Again like design, it’s a creative process, so there will be no guarantees. If things aren’t working out as you’d hoped,
Once the fashion product development process is complete, you’re ready for production. If the company offers apparel manufacturing for the type of garment you’re producing, you’re in luck! Oftentimes, however, the product development company won’t offer specialties, such as lingerie manufacturing. For those items, they may either refer you to work with another company. Or you may need to source your own apparel manufacturer. That part can be a challenge! But if you develop your own fashion line correctly, you’ll be able to provide the garment factory with exactly what they need to give you an accurate quote.
How to get an apparel manufacturing quote
Let’s be honest here. If you’re in real estate, the last thing in the world you want to be doing is taking your weekends off to show houses. Especially to people who aren’t actually looking to buy, but who are just “curious about the market”, right? I think we can all agree, in fact, that it’s just plain rude. Asking for quotes from manufacturers whose minimums you can’t meet is much the same thing. Providing an accurate quote can sometimes take hours. Those hours have to be paid by somebody, because the estimator is being paid a salary. So, the more unfair advantage is taken, the less likely an apparel manufacturer is to provide you with a realistic quote when you really need one. This is a very common problem, but it’s one that needs to be taken seriously. It’s unfair to ask someone to work for free if they believe there is a realistic chance of being paid for their time. It’s that simple. But people do it. A LOT.
So, when you’re out trying to price out your collection, you’re going to run into a lot of factories that are reluctant to quote anything for you. If you really need a quote, be honest and respectful of their time. Build some trust. Try to give them the impression that you’ll be a good client for them. Remember always that your relationship with your manufacturer is just that– a relationship. Take good care of your business relationships and they’ll take care of you!