Clothing Manufacturing in China: An Introduction
China is the world’s biggest supply market and the first country that comes to people’s minds when discussing manufacturing. Clothing is one of the main strengths of China, with the main export market for Chinese clothing products being the U.S, EU, and Southeast Asia.
In this article, we give you an overview and trends in the clothing manufacturing industry in China and review the clothing products and the regions in which they are produced the most. We will also tap into the advantages and disadvantages of sourcing apparel in China.
We finalize the article by suggesting some alternative destinations in Asia for clothing products.
China’s Clothing Manufacturing Industry
As the world’s largest clothing manufacturer for more than a decade, China accounted for more than half of the global apparel production. The country has a revenue of 303 billion USD in 2021 from the apparel market.
Guangdong province is the hub of clothing production, with more than 28 000 exporting enterprises located here. In solely the first quarter of 2022, the province’s clothing manufacturing already contributed 6.3 billion USD value of export.
However, since 2015, the clothing sector of China started to show a more sustainable trend, slowing down its expansion on the scale and focusing more on technology to raise productivity. The main motive behind this shift is the rising labor cost, which forces businesses to transform from labor-intensive practices to better-automated ones.
Another significant trend in China’s clothing industry is the growth of domestic demand. Thanks to rising income, Chinese consumers are now more willing to spend more on clothes and to buy from local brands. Therefore, the Chinese clothing manufacturers are also seeking more opportunities in the domestic market rather than depending on exporting.
Cities and Regions with Clothing Manufacturing in China
It’s not an exaggeration to say that almost all clothing products are made in China. There are around 50 textile clusters in China. Guangdong, Shandong, Zhejiang, Fujian, and Jiangsu are the 5 provinces that account for 70% of the country’s total textile production. In this article, we will list out the main manufacturing regions for clothing and the most produced products in those regions so that you can save time when searching for suitable suppliers in China.
Guangzhou is a city in Guangdong province. The city has had its reputation for apparel for a long time with a large fabric market – The Guangzhou International Textile City. In Guangzhou, you can find suppliers for men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel, trousers, sportswear, and even replica clothing. In adjacent to Guangdong, Nanyou also possesses a wholesale clothing market for high-end ladies’ clothing.
Xintangzhen is a town in Guangdong province where you can find a great number of suppliers for jeans wear. More than 5,000 denim clothing enterprises and factories are located here. It is estimated that the daily output of the town is 2.5 million pieces of jeans wear. This number is equivalent to 60% of the whole country’s denim production capacity. Products from Xintangzhen are exported to the U.S, E.U, Russia, and many other countries.
As mentioned, Guangdong province is a big hub for apparel, and Dalangzhen is another town in Guangdong with a reputation for clothing. The specialization of the town is knitwear. The largest wool wholesale market in China is in Dalangzhen, with more than 17 000 wool market entities operating in the town. One in every 6 sweaters in the world comes from Dalang, so if you are looking for a good factory that can provide sweaters, cardigans, socks, or woolen mufflers, Dalang is the right place to start.
Huzhou city is in Zhejiang province. Zhili town in Huzhou is home to the largest children’s wear industrial zone in China. The town currently has more than 14,000 children’s wear companies. In 2020, the annual output of children’s clothing in the town exceeded 1.45 billion sets, generating about 10 billion USD in sales revenue. Generally, the children’s clothing of Zhili focuses on low and middle-income households, but it is also not hard to find high-end children’s clothing manufacturers here.
Suzhou is a city in Jiangsu province, and the Huqiu district in Suzhou is famous for making wedding dresses. Roughly 90% of wedding dresses exported from China are from this district. There is A Wedding Dress Market here, with good quality products and diverse designs for any brides to choose from. Experience shows that it is cheaper to come and buy directly in the district than to shop online. Besides Suzhou, Xiangcheng and Jinchang city also provide wedding clothes.
There are other cities in China that you can also refer to when looking for clothing producers, such as Hangzhou (in Zhejiang province), Humen (in Guangdong province), and Shishi (in Fujian province). They are mostly located in the East coast regions of China.
Benefits of Sourcing Clothing Products in China
Sourcing clothes from China gives businesses multiple advantages. We will explain some of the main reasons to find your suppliers in this big market: good experience and capacity, customization ability of suppliers, and an established business eco-system.
Experience and Capacity
Chinese clothing producers, with often 10-15 years in the industry, are very experienced in both manufacturing and exporting. You will not find difficulties in looking for a well-built factory with an understanding of the U.S and EU markets’ standards and certifications, as these two markets have long been the main markets of Chinese clothing products. The factories are mostly built for scale with good equipment, and the capacity for large orders.
If you do not specialize in designing, it’s important to find a supplier that can customize their products based on your rough ideas, or you might waste a lot of time and money explaining back and forth with the traders and the traders may misunderstand and deliver a different idea to the factories they find. Wholesale clothing manufacturers in China usually own a professional research and development team. Therefore, you can discuss your product concepts with them directly and it is much easier to work on adjustments later. The ODM and OEM services are available in most Chinese factories.
Mature Supply Chain and Business Eco-System
As a result of its long clothing manufacturing history, China has an ecosystem of businesses. If a manufacturer needs to import or source its raw materials and machinery from far away suppliers, the shipping cost will add up significantly to the final product’s price. Moreover, the lead time will be longer with the risk of disruption in the supply base. Factories within one industry are often placed close to each other. Therefore, it’s undeniable that the availability of components, the supporting systems, and the maturity of the supply chain are the advantages that no other country can compete with China.
What are the disadvantages?
In recent years, wages are higher in China and increase at a faster pace than in its Asian peers. In Vietnam, salaries are around a third on average compared to China and increase slower.
A second issue is a long transportation lead time to Europe and the US, and the currently high freight costs. Due to recent supply chain disruptions and the COVID pandemic, some companies find it unbearable to produce in Asia, turning to nearshoring, at least partly.
The ongoing trade war with the US has hurt both countries. Imposed tariffs have encouraged foreign companies to look for alternative markets, and to outsource at least parts of their production.
Alternative Markets for Clothing Manufacturing in Asia
With those concerns over sourcing in China, many enterprises now consider moving their production facilities or changing to suppliers in other countries in Asia. With clothing products, the most suitable alternatives are Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh.
Vietnam hosts the facilities of Nike, Adidas, and The North Face; a large percentage of Mango, G.A.P, H&M, and Zara clothes are also made in Vietnam. The country has the advantage of low labor costs, proximity to China for raw materials, favorable geographic position for shipping, and multiple free trade agreements for tariff exemption.
India, with a population of 1.3 billion, has a massive pool of workforce to support manufacturing industries. The country is also big in raw material production as the second-largest player in the world cotton trade.
Bangladesh has the lowest wages of these 3 countries. Workers are experts in processing bulk orders and fast delivery, explaining why fast fashion brands like Zara prefer Bangladesh. The industry benefits from the domestic supply of cotton.
China has maintained its position as the world’s manufacturing hub of clothes for decades. This has allowed the country to build up superior supply chains and a business eco-system that is hard to relocate elsewhere.
Different regions of China specialize in different clothing products, so knowing the right regions will save you a lot of time and effort when searching for suppliers.
The manufacturers are moving towards more automated manufacturing and focusing more on domestic markets, yet there is still ample room for exports.
If you consider diversifying your supply base and being less dependent on China producers, we recommend considering Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh for clothing products.