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How to find the best sportswear factory

Finding the perfect factory for your brand is a daunting task. There seem to be thousands of factories out there that all seems to produce amazing kit for leading brands, however, look a little deeper and the opposite could be closer to the truth.

There are several sourcing websites that promote and advertise sportswear and activewear suppliers and factories who simply complete their company profile and then showcase the styles and brands they have worked with. You need to take this with a kilo of salt and ask yourself, why would ADIDAS, Nike, Lulu Lemon, North Face etc etc. allow their supplier to advertise they make their product. Well, the truth is, they don’t. All established brands forbid their suppliers to advertise they make for them and they are all under contract to not promote or showcase any product they have produced for their brands. It’s how they protect their brand and supply chain.

Our factories who all produce for quality, established brands completely hide the brands they work with and many of them don’t advertise or promote themselves at all. In fact, most of them have terrible, 1-page websites that never promote the styles they have made.

Some factories have separate buildings or floors they keep for a particular brand with a closed door policy, only letting employed staff from that brand enter.

We pick up lots of new clients that have been dupped by the false promises and fake production they claim to have made for established brands. Quite often these clients work it out before too much money and time have passed but we recently picked up a client that received average samples that were promised to improve once she placed her bulk order. They paid the requested 50% deposit of the bulk order across a range of 10 styles and hoped to then receive further samples using the correct fabrics and components to sign off before production started. Instead they heard nothing more from the factory who have fled with the deposit.

Transparency is also becoming a huge factor for consumers to understand where their goods are being produced. With “factories” on search engines are actually trading companies that don’t actually produce the garments. They pass themselves off as a factory and quite often include photos of a factory with rows of machinists and boxes of goods to ship, however they simply take your styles and place them in a local factory. I remember visiting a potential new supplier many years ago on a sourcing trip and when I turned up to the factory, the factory sign looked brand spanking new, yet the business and building were established over 20 years ago. On closer inspection, the sign was blue tacked over the actual factories sign and was there to dupe me to believe that the factory was in fact owned by the supplier I was talking to.

With Covid-19, travel restrictions and therefore no way to physically visit your future supplier, you need to be more careful than ever to make sure who you are dealing with are legitimate. Getting a reference is one option, but again, do you really think a factory that makes for Nike will ask the purchasing manager from Nike for a reference so they can produce for a potential competitor.

Recommendation is the best bet. Try to work with a sportswear factory who has a proven track record or has been recommended by someone you trust, otherwise tread VERY carefully. If it sounds too good to be true, the chances are it is.

Also note that nearly every decent activewear factory won’t work with start-ups. They already have a cliental of established brands that they produce for season after season who place normal MOQ’s across multiple styles and ranges. Sportswear factories get several enquiries a day from start-ups, looking for tiny orders and they therefore have a policy to ignore these as they cannot complete the due diligence to make sure they have potential on all of them. The way most factories get around this is to ask for a minimum order of say $150,000+ starting order, doubling year on year for the first 2-3 years.

Luckily, we work with a lot of start-ups and great factories that believe in us and our clients. They know we only work with start-up brands we believe in and think have potential to grow and therefore accept our developments. This allows us to place small orders in some of the best sportswear factories around the world without the need to place a minimum order value of $150,000+.

If you have a start-up and are looking for a great supplier, then get in touch and lets discuss your project. If we believe in it then we might be able to help.