import clothing from china

Import clothing from China : prices, MOQ, labelling and more

You want to import clothing and textiles from China ? This is not easy and requires rigour and rules to respect, before, during and after your order. SINO Shipping tells you everything.

1/ Sourcing Suppliers in China : What to look for ?

1.1 Product range

The product range is the main criterion for selecting potential clothing manufacturers. Clothing factories are specialized in the manufacture of certain types of clothing, which is also reflected on their subcontractors and their machines. You will get an idea of a supplier’s product range by quickly browsing their website or supplier page on Alibaba or Global Sources. However, the scope of the company’s activity, as specified on the supplier’s commercial licence, may be even more revealing. Below is an example: Weaving, dyeing and finishing of high quality fabrics; clothing, textile products in the production, processing, sale of the company’s products, and related products intended for export.

We can say, from the above scope of activity, that this supplier is an export-oriented textile fabric manufacturer. If the terms “production” or “manufacturing” do not appear anywhere, the supplier is probably a trader. This category of suppliers also tends to offer a very varied range of products.

1.2 Compliance monitoring

Buyers in many markets, mainly in the United States and the European Union, must ensure compliance with various product standards and regulations. When it concerns textiles, there are a variety of restrictions in terms of components used, limiting the content of formaldehyde, lead and AZO dyes – among others.

However, few clothing manufacturers can provide compliance documentation (i.e. test reports). It is therefore difficult to assess a clothing supplier’s ability to produce compliant goods.

Instead, compliance documents are much more often held by textile subcontractors and foreign buyers, rather than by the garment factory. However, our experience tells us that the risk of non-compliance (i.e. a product failing compliance tests) is low when importing clothing from China.

Our customers have regularly passed REACH and California Proposition 65 tests in recent years, and very few have failed.

However, there is one exception : coated fabrics. Buyers of waterproof fabrics with TPU or PVC coatings should be very careful, as the coating may contain phthalates and other restricted substances.

1.3 Quality Management System and Social Compliance

A quality management system (ISO 9001 : 2008) has been established to allow precise monitoring and limit manufacturing defects.

Among clothing manufacturers, not all suppliers hold QMS certification. Clothing importers should not rely on suppliers to manage quality, but rather should set up their own quality monitoring procedures.

Compliance rules have been a hot topic in the industry in recent years. Especially since the collapse of Rana Square in April 2013. It happened in Dhaka, Bangladesh, not China. The (general) level of occupational safety is higher in China than in other manufacturing countries in Asia.

However, a supplier capable of providing compliance reports should be chosen. Look for suppliers with BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) and SEDEX certification.

  • For more information on the BSCI, consult their online PDF directly here: BSCI
  • More information on SEDEX, visit their website directly : Sedex

2/ What to include in the Techpack

2.1 Fabric characteristics

Fabric specifications can be based on an existing “standard fabric” or an OEM specification. The latter can lead to a considerable increase in delay and QOM. We’ll come-back to the MOQ later. Here is first a list of fabric specifications :

  • Composition / fibre (i.e. 98% cotton, 2% spandex)
  • Weight (e.g. 240 g / m²)
  • Number of wires (ex. 40 x 40)
  • Wire type (e.g. combed)
  • Colours (Pantone or RAL)
  • Treatment (e.g. flame retardant)
  • Coating (e.g. PU coating)

Note SINO : Note that clothing factories generally purchase fabrics from textile manufacturers. Most clothing suppliers can provide lists of generic cotton and synthetic textiles through their network of subcontractors. However, if you have specific fabric requirements (for example, bamboo fibre, organic cotton or OEKO Tex Standard 100), you should contact a textile manufacturer directly.

2.2 Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)

When importing clothing from China, the MOQ is generally set at about 500 to 1000 pieces per product. There is a reason for that. Clothing manufacturers must purchase a certain quantity from fabric and component suppliers.

This quantity requirement is then reflected on the QOM that the garment manufacturer must define.

Clothing suppliers not only define MOQ requirements by product (i.e. design), but also by colour, fabric and size. Therefore, clothing importers must apply for the following MOQs from potential clothing manufacturers :

  • MOQ per fabric
  • MOQ by reference
  • MOQ by color
  • MOQ by size

For more information on the QOM structure, here is an example:

  • MOQ per fabric : 1000 pieces (fixed by subcontractor)
  • MOQ per SKU: 500 pieces (indirectly by subcontractor)
  • MOQ per colour : 500 pieces (fixed by subcontractor)
  • MOQ per size : 250 pieces (fixed by clothing supplier)

Clothing suppliers are generally more able to offer a lower MOQ when they themselves have control over quantities. As we see in the list above, the SKU MOQ is often based on the MOQ by color.

Note SINO: This is even more evident when you look at the MOQ by size, for which the supplier can afford to be more flexible.

import process from china

Importing from China – Step by step

Reduce the minimum order quantity (MOQ) required when importing clothing

Today, 500 pcs per SKU (storage unit) is no more considered as a very large volume. That is barely enough to run a medium-sized garment factory for more than two hours.

However, most brands are not limited to a single product. Therefore, a MOQ requirement of 1000 units per product is multiplied by the number of SKUs in your catalog.

Startups and small businesses have two options :

  1. Reduce the number of SKUs
  2. Reuse the same fabrics and colours on as many SKUs as possible

Option 2 allows the supplier to agree both with the MOQ requirements set by the subcontractors, while offering its foreign buyers a reduced MOQ. Apparel manufacturers can afford to be a little more flexible when it comes to processes they manage in-house. For example, cutting and sewing.

However, it is expected that a reduced volume will result in an increase of the unit price.

This strategy offers another advantage. The costs of substantive testing (i.e. REACH and California Proposition 65) are largely based on the number of fabrics and colours. Therefore, testing costs can be significantly reduced by limiting the number of fabrics and colors used per order.

Note SINO : Most countries only require the importer to provide material test reports (if components are restricted), rather than product-specific test reports (with the notable exception of children’s clothing).

2.3 Sending textiles from China

Clothing is a product that is often purchased in large volumes. As air transport costs are increasing rapidly due to “volumetric charges”, shipping by sea is the only viable mode of transport – except for sample deliveries (low volume).

Note SINO : Shipping charges are based on three factors : Incoterm, volume and destination.

3/ Textile and clothing fairs in China and Hong Kong

3.1 Global Sources Fashion Fair

Location ? When ? Website ?
Hong Kong January (autumn / winter) and July (spring / summer) Global Sources

List of products you will find there:

Bags and luggage Fabrics, lace and trimmings
Fashion jewellery Sweater and mesh
Scarves and gloves Everyday Clothes
Belts and shoes Sportswear
Accessories Underwear and sleepwear
Socks Down jacket and tracksuit
Children’s clothing Swimwear and beachwear

3.2 Canton Fair (Guangzhou)

Location ? When ? Website ?
Guangzhou April / May & October / Novenber Canton Fair

List of products you will find there:
import clothing from china

  • Clothes men/women
  • Children’s clothing
  • Underwear
  • Sports and leisure wear
  • Furs, leather, down
  • Fashion accessories
  • Home Textiles
  • Raw materials and textile fabrics
  • Carpets and tapestries
  • Footwear
  • Office Supplies
  • Cases and bags
  • Sports, travel and leisure

3.3 Hong Kong Fashion Week

Location ? When ? Website ?
Hong Kong January (autumn / winter) and July (spring / summer) Fashion Week

List of products you will find there:

  • Clothing for women
  • Clothing for men
  • Babies and children
  • Sportswear
  • Lingerie
  • Swimsuit
  • Evening Clothing
  • Handbags
  • Footwear
  • Fashion jewellery
  • Fabrics
  • Buttons
  • Labels
  • Inspection, testing, certification and verification services

You know now how to import furniture or textiles from China. Do not hesitate to contact a SINO Shipping expert for any additional questions!

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