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Finding a Clothing Wholesaler/Manufacturer (Part 1)

Mark Jackman

Posted on June 14 2020

Finding a Clothing Wholesaler/Manufacturer (Part 1)

Finding a Clothing Wholesaler/Manufacturer

A critical part of any start-up or entrepreneurial venture is sourcing reliable manufacturer or wholesaler to partner with. Finding a supplier that in essence is going to become part of your business is a daunting process and one that can be littered with dead ends, wasted time and unreliable people (we found out about this first-hand). Hopefully, this blog will guide you down the right path.  

Domestic vs. Overseas

Generally, there are two channels to go down when searching for a supplier, each with its own pros and cons:
  1. Source from a domestic wholesaler or manufacturer; and 
  2. Source from an overseas* supplier

*Overseas: Resource-rich low-cost countries like China, Hong Kong and Turkey who are all prominent on Alibaba.

The decision to either stay local or source from overseas is one that most start-ups face. It's common knowledge that manufacturing overseas is almost always less expensive on a per-unit basis, but there is much more to it than that.


Wholesaling or Manufacturing Domestically

We have listed some advantages and disadvantages of using a local company below:-
Advantages Disadvantages
  • More Control 
  • Higher Manufacturing Cost
  • Low Minimum Orders
  • Limited Wholesalers/Manufacturers
  • Low Delivery Costs
  • Limited Product Selection
  • The Ease of Sourcing a Supplier
  • Payment Security
  • Shorter Lead Time
  • Customer Preference
  • No Import Tariffs

Domestic Wholesalers

In my opinion, if you have a limited budget and are just starting out this is the perfect place to start. Low minimum orders, reliable quality and short lead times provide start-ups with a low-risk environment to test the market and determine if it's worthwhile investing more time and money into the business.

There are plenty of domestic wholesalers available within New Zealand but AS Colour easily dominates the basics market. I don't know of any New Zealand business that come close to them? 

Once you have found the stock item you like, there are plenty of subtle ways to add detail and create some variation between labels that use the same stock item. These include prints (screen print, direct-to-garment, heat press and embroidery), re-labelling, hangtags and packaging. We detail some of the suppliers (and others) that we've used in the past below.

Suppliers Printing Labelling Packaging
AS Colour ESP Identity's r3pack
Custom Teez NZ Print Ninja Labels by Shelley Quick Brown Box

I recommend talking to your preferred printer first. They generally have access to better prices (from AS Colour and other suppliers) and some also relabel in house too.

Below we have created a basic budget on what you may expect to pay for a stock tee. We've based our screen print on an A4 size single colour print. 


1) Low risk / low return

Description Price per unit Order Quantity Total
T-Shirt $14.00 12 $168.00
Screen Print Setup $85.00 Unlimited $85.00
Screen Print $4.00 12 $48.00
Clothing Tag and Adjustments $6.00 12 $72.00
Hang Tag $1.50 12 $18.00
Total  $32.58 12 $391.00


2) Medium risk / medium return 

Description Price per unit Order Quantity Total
T-Shirt $11.50 100 $1,150.00
Screen Print Setup $85.00 Unlimited $85.00
Screen Print $2.50 100 $250.00
Clothing Tag and Adjustments $4.00 100 $400.00
Hang Tag $1.50 100 $150.00
Total  $21.35 100 $2,035.00


Domestic Cut-and-Sew

An alternative to sourcing stock items from a wholesaler is to manufacture locally. By using a cut-and-sew business it allows you to have far more customisation of your garments. 

There are plenty of businesses that do cut-and-sew services within New Zealand. In general they require you to do upwards of 30 garments per type. Cut-and-sew businesses usually require you to supply the fabric. In my experience, finding the exact material within New Zealand has been the most difficult part of the process.

Finally, before you contact a manufacturing business, make sure you know what you want. Everything becomes clearer and more efficient when you can relate to the manufacturer your exact requirements.


"Know what you want. Everything becomes clearer and more efficient when you can relate to the manufacturer your exact requirements."  



In part 2 of this blog I am going to discuss how we found (Alibaba) our current hat manufacturer in China and some of our learnings along the way.  

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, we appreciate the support.


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