The process for finding ethical clothing manufacturers can be challenging and time-consuming. With so many listings on the internet, how can you tell if you’re choosing the right one? Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure that you’re working with manufacturers who follow ethical procedures.
The first part of your research involves using the right resources. As you find the right manufacturer for your fashion brand, you increase your chances if you use ethical online resources. Some online platforms provide all of the world’s best clothing manufacturers to you in one place.
If you’re not familiar with the terms that most manufacturers and retailers use, then it’s important to brush up on these terms before you begin your search. Sewport CEO, Boris Hodakel, suggests using Google as part of your research. You’ll read on a wide variety of topics such as ethical farming practices and organic certifications that can help you make the right decision.
Use Directory Website
Alibaba has been the leader for listing global clothing manufacturers. While this website is focused on Chinese manufacturing, they can still put your fashion brand in front of millions of suppliers and manufacturers. While directory websites have their limits, they have a vast amount of choices, most of which you have to filter.
You also need to be aware of the shady manufacturers. Some people just want your money and will say anything you want to hear, in order to get it. There are websites dedicated to exposing those scammers on Alibaba and other directory websites.
Conducting additional research to finding ethical clothing manufacturers will take a bit of learning curve, but it’ll help you get what you want.
Use an Agency
An agency can take care of your production for you. There are ethical and responsible clothing manufacturing agencies that know what you need and can do it fast. It’s important to find an agency that has the knowledge, skills, and service to provide you with the products you need on a consistent basis. This can also prevent you from working with unethical or shady businesses.
Agencies play an important role in the manufacturing process. Since they work with a steady flow of clients, they focus on doing what they do best. Working with agencies dramatically decreases the time it takes to find an ethical clothing manufacturer. They’ve already been heavily vetted for their ethics, pricing, production, and quality.
Visit Trade Shows
While searching for ethical clothing manufacturers online is one of the best ways to find one, you’ll never know how a fabric looks or feels. In this case, you’ll want to visit a trade show. Trade shows have dramatically changed over the years.
While sustainable fashion is the main focus of these events, eco-friendly fashion is in, and almost every trade show has featured ethical clothing manufacturers who are looking to work with designers and retailers. If you want to work with an ethical clothing manufacturer, know that you have plenty of options.
Some of the most popular trade shows include the Ethical Fashion Source Expo, Neonyt, and San Francisco Sustainable Fashion Week. There are plenty of opportunities to find out more about sustainable fashion and to meet some competing fashion brands in the industry. If you like using an online platform to find an ethical manufacturer, it’s still good to use fashion trade shows for networking opportunities.
Learn the Details
Since eco-friendly and ethically sourced fashion is on trend, there are manufacturers who are jumping on the bandwagon. Some of these clothing manufacturers have no idea what they’re doing. Just because a label read “eco-friendly” or “organic” means that it is. It may still not be safe enough for your customers and the environment.
You have to learn the details behind the fabric before making your decision. If the fabric you want is organic, look for the Global Organic Textile (GOTS) certification. If you want to make sure that farmers and textile workers were compensated fairly for their work, then you’ll have to look out for the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) certification.
Global or Local Certifications?
Speaking of certifications, most of the certifications you want to see should come from local governments. Most of the major manufacturers have global certifications unless they’re within the European Union. That shouldn’t discourage you from your search though. You should take the time to learn about the local requirements as well as the testing and inspection requirements.
Ask the manufacturers about their own policies and processes. How do they communicate with their employees? Do they actively walk the floors? Do they inspect the work as well as the facilities? Find out if this manufacturer actually follows ethical and environmentally responsible practices.
Supplier or Supply Chain?
At this point, you may have found a clothing manufacturer you want to work with. But you still have to closely monitor the supply chain. Even if the manufacturer you sign a contract with has all of its certifications and commits to sustainable practices, it does not mean that all of the members of their supply chain does the same. Sometimes there are multiple parties involved with the supply chain.
Find out if the clothing manufacturer works with a single supplier or a supply chain. It’s rare to find one who works with a single supplier. That one could be part of a bigger chain.
Contributor Writer: Tom Smith Content Outreach Manager