Are you looking for a UK clothing manufacturer for your small business or start-up? Look no further than within the UK.
When it comes to sourcing a clothing manufacturer for your small business there are a whole host of reasons why it’s to your advantage to have your garments made in Britain. (You can read about some of them here).
Read on for the details of how to find UK clothing manufacturers for startups and small businesses.
1. Stop searching on Google for UK clothing manufacturers!
If you are looking for a clothing manufacturer in the UK then Google is probably the last place you should look.
For a start, many of the best factories don’t have websites. And even if they do, they are unlikely to be on the first page of Google.
Secondly, many of companies that do come up under the term ‘UK clothing manufacturer’ actually don’t make in the UK at all! They may have a small office here, with a couple of sales people taking orders. They may even make a few samples here. But as soon as you lay down your hard-earned cash for production, you’ll probably discover that your order is being made in India, and you’ll wait months to receive it.
Don’t be fooled by fancy websites and stock photos of smiling machinists. Always go and visit any clothing manufacturer that you plan to work with – especially if you found them on Google.
Further Reading: Looking for a UK garment manufacturer? Don’t start with Google
2. Make sure you are prepared
There is nothing that screams ‘newbie’ to a prospective manufacturer more than someone that approaches them unprepared. So if you’ve tried reaching out to a manufacturer already and heard nothing back, chances are it’s because you’ve not got all your ducks in a row first.
A manufacturer wants to see that you have already thought carefully about what you want to make, and how you’re going to sell it. So if you’ve not yet sourced raw materials and got a tech pack together, hold off on contacting them just yet.
If you are unsure of how to prep before reaching out to a UK clothing manufacturer, we have a short course that walks you through the whole process step by step. Our How to Launch a UK-made Brand course can be found here.
Further Reading: How to get manufacturers to respond to your emails
3. Visit in-person events
In an age where the majority of connections are made online, you still can’t beat doing business in person, and trade shows are a great way to meet lots of suppliers in one place.
For seven years Make it British ran a trade show exclusively for UK garment and textile manufacturers. Sadly the show has not taken place for a couple of years due to the pandemic. If you want to hear about the next one make sure that you’re on our mailing list.
In the meantime, there are a few other trade shows that you can go to to find fashion and textile suppliers. Bear in mind that these shows aren’t exclusively UK manufacturers, so make sure that you always check where your garments will actually be made!
Further Reading: 5 Reasons why you should meet your manufacturer face to face
4. Check out a reputable directories of clothing manufacturers
Whilst visiting a trade show to find manufacturers would be the ideal way to go, sometimes you just need to find a UK clothing manufacturer sooner rather than later. This is where directories of manufacturers and suppliers can come in handy.
At Make it British we have a directory of our members, many of whom are UK clothing manufacturers. You can find our directory here.
Further Reading: UK Clothing Manufacturers List
5. Ask other suppliers
If you’ve already sourced your materials and trims, you might want to ask those suppliers if they have garment manufacturers that they’d recommend.
If they’re shipping fabric to factories regularly they will know who is based where, and probably also be able to advise who to avoid!
If you’ve not yet sourced your raw materials, read on to the next point to understand why you need to do so.
Further Reading: Fabric & Yarn Suppliers
6. Understand the difference between CMT and Full Service
You may be hoping that you can find a UK clothing manufacturer that can do everything for you – source the fabric, advise on labelling, locate the right trims – even do the printing for you.
The reality is, whilst some manufacturers may be able to offer a full service and source raw materials for you (depending on the product), most UK factories operate as what is known as Cut Make and Trim (CMT) manufacturers. Meaning that they will do the cutting and making of your products, but you will need to find all the raw materials.
To the inexperienced this can seem daunting, which is why we offer coaching to guide you through this process. You can apply for our help here.
Further Reading: CMT or Full Service – What’s the difference?
7. Be realistic about your costs
One of the main reasons that we see brands getting disappointed when they try and find UK clothing manufacturers, is because they aren’t being realistic about the cost of making in the UK.
That doesn’t mean that you should go and source from overseas instead. There are plenty of brands successfully and profitably making clothing in the UK.
You just need to look at costing differently when you make here.
And please, please, please don’t contact a UK clothing manufacturer and expect them to price match with China. They will just tell you to sling your hook!
Further Reading: 11 factors affecting manufacturing costs
8. Approach manufacturers in the right way
Just as you shouldn’t ask a manufacturer to price match with China (see above), there is a right and wrong way to approach a factory.
I won’t dwell on this one too long as we’ve prepared a handy guide to help you with this. Click the link below to find out the questions you need to ask when approaching a UK clothing manufacturer.
Further Reading: 12 Questions to Ask a UK Manufacturer
9. Get a recommendation from someone you trust
The very best way of finding a good and reliable UK clothing manufacturer is to get a recommendation from someone who knows them well.
After all, anyone can put a slick website together with stock photos and look like they have the best factory in the world. But can they deliver?
Network with other brands that you know make in the UK and find out who they using to make their products, or come to us and we will help you.
Having run Make it British for over a decade we know ALL of the UK garments manufacturers, fabric suppliers and how the whole damn industry works, inside-out.
We’ve helped thousands of small businesses to find and successfully work with UK manufacturers, and we’d love to help you.We offer everything from personal introductions (link) to a comprehensive coaching programme, to support you every step of the way.
Further Reading: How we can help UK find a manufacturer
Free resources to download
Hello, I'm Kate Hills
I’ve been passionate about UK manufacturing ever since I had my own recycled clothing company and micro-factory in the early '90s! After 20 years as a designer and buyer developing products all over the world, I launched Make it British to support creative small businesses that want to make sustainably and locally.
Over the last ten years, I've helped 1,000s of businesses to work with UK manufacturers. Now it's your turn!