Should You Manufacture Overseas Or In The USA?

Exclusively Kristen is proud that we manufacture our garments in the USA.  However, there are pros and cons to both manufacturing overseas and in the USA, which I will highlight below.

Manufacturing Overseas


  • Cost: labor is much cheaper
  • Cost: textiles are cheaper and so is shipping textiles from one developing country to another
  • Raw materials are usually in-house or they can be easily and cheaply sourced 
  • Manufacturers tend to go out of business less
  • There are an abundance of manufacturers


  • Language barrier
  • Less oversight 
  • Extra costs such as tariffs and international shipping to and from the USA
  • Lower/different manufacturing and labor standards
  • Delays in shipping due to customs
  • Damaged goods due to issues that arise when shipping long distances
  • You have to give a 30% deposit to start
  • You have to pay in full before it leaves the port
  • Delays in production time due to waiting for samples to arrive in the mail
  • High MOQ (minimum order quantity)
  • Less reliability: delays in shipping and/or production can make it difficult to meet deadlines

Manufacturing In The USA


  • Low MOQ
  • Easier to identify reputable manufacturers
  • Quicker turnaround and quicker shipping
  • More oversight
  • Higher manufacturing and labor standards
  • High intellectual property right protections
  • No upfront deposit unless the factory provides fabric


  • Much higher costs
  • Tend to go out of business more
  • Usually the raw materials (fabric, hang tags, labels, etc.) are not provided by the factory
  • Materials can be out of stock (with no notice)
If you are just starting out, it is better to manufacture locally because you have more oversight and can make small production orders to test in the market.  My advice is to not spend too much on inventory but instead manufacture small quantities that can be tweaked as you get feedback from customers.  It is easier to tweak a sample when you can have face to face meetings with the manufacturers, which will be difficult and expensive if you manufacture overseas.  If you choose to manufacture overseas, I recommend visiting the factories (you should do this domestically as well) so that you get a sense of the quality of the workforce and machinery, and can discern whether they have ethical labor practices (accessible bathrooms, no child workers, building up to code).  You can lose thousands of dollars and time (remember that time is money) by dealing with a low quality manufacturer.  If the building looks unsafe, your goods and reputation will go up in flames with it.  Remember the factory that collapsed in Bangladesh and tragically killed over 1,000 workers?  And the subsequent backlash against the primarily American and European companies that used the factory?  Once you've been in the fashion game for a while you will find quality overseas manufacturers and independent inspectors through word of mouth.  There's no need to rush into overseas manufacturing for the sake of saving a few bucks because in the end, if you choose the wrong manufacturer,  you will end up losing a lot more money (and time) than you saved by manufacturing overseas.
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