Recent reporting on the social and environmental impact of the “fast fashion” industry have made consumers more aware of the reality behind that bargain $3 kids t-shirt. We’re now much more aware of the real cost of the clothing we buy and it has also put pressure on many of the big clothing companies to lift their game.
As an Australian family business manufacturing wholesale blank clothing, I sometimes get inquiries from customers who want to buy Australian made and I get asked why I don’t manufacture in Australia. Because this is a hot topic at the moment, and one which I care about, I thought I’d talk a little about the reality of manufacturing in the clothing industry.
The short answer is, unfortunately, it’s not practical to manufacture in Australia. I would love to be able to manufacture here, but the costs associated with manufacturing in Australia and what people are prepared to pay for a blank wholesale kids t shirt, simply don’t match.
The costs associated with manufacturing in China and in Australia are very different. In Australia, wages are much higher than they are in China. In turn our standard of living is also higher. However, while our standard of living is higher, the clothes we buy are very cheap, because most of them are made overseas. As consumers, we’ve become used to the low prices we find at large chain stores and many people are reluctant to pay more.
Baby Blanks designs, manufactures and sells wholesale blank baby and kids clothing to mostly small boutique clothing designers. Our superior quality means Baby Blanks is not the cheapest blank clothing on the market, but our regular customers rely on Baby Blanks clothing because of its quality – making it ideal for a variety of printing applications.
If the same Baby Blanks product was manufactured in Australia it would be at least double it’s current price. This unfortunately would put the cost of Baby Blanks clothing out of reach of most of our wholesale customers.
Most Baby Blanks customers are relieved when they experience the quality of our product, as they have often spent a long term searching for high quality blank clothing. They are happy to pay a little more for a durable, easy to use product for their designs. Despite this, because of people’s expectations of exceptionally low, discount pricing, even at the relatively low price of Baby Blanks, we still get requests for discounts. I’ve written in another blog about why I can’t offer discounts on Baby Blanks clothing.
Some clothing and fashion businesses do manufacture in Australia. They are at the high end of the market and sell expensive one-off pieces that last for many years. Wholesale kids and baby clothing, however is generally not a high end product. Kids and baby clothes are readily available at the main chain stores for bargain basement prices. The often poor quality and short life of these clothes is often overlooked because kids grow out of clothes relatively quickly and they tend to be really tough on their clothes, anyway.
Despite this, many people are frustrated with the poor quality of super cheap baby and kids blank clothing. Many of our customers say to me that they have experienced frustration searching fora business that sells durable wholesale kids and baby clothing. With quality fabric and good manufacturing, kids and baby clothes will last a long time, even after the first child outgrows them. Good quality clothing will be durable enough to pass on to younger siblings and friends.
Quality is what the Baby Blanks wholesale clothing story is all about. We manufacture high quality blank kids clothing that will last a long time and is an affordable price for wholesale customers, who can confidently sell a high quality product to their own customers, and build their own businesses. The only way to achieve this, is for Baby Blanks wholesale baby and kids clothing to be manufactured outside Australia.
For Baby Blanks Clothing to be a success, we cannot manufacture in Australia, but that doesn’t mean that because Baby Blanks clothes are manufactured in China, they have to be manufactured unethically. Because these issues and the way we manufacture is important to me, we did a lot of research to find the right people to make sure Baby Blanks was manufactured as ethically as possible. I wrote about manufacturing in China in a previous blog about my trip to visit our Baby Blanks factory.
The economy in China is growing. The middle class is expanding and wages and the cost of living in many areas are improving (so much so that many companies committed to manufacturing at really low prices are moving out of China to find even cheaper markets!). Baby Blanks is manufactured by workers who are part of the growing middle class, with good working conditions. I saw this process up close on my recent visit to China. The sweatshop image that many of us have in our minds is not the case everywhere.
Manufacturers, retail businesses and consumers are all linked together in a relationship of supply and demand. When manufacturers supply clothing at bargain basement prices, consumers respond favourably and come to expect it. Anything that is priced considerably more, we consider a ‘rip off’. I know, because in the past I’ve done the same!
The truth is that the prices we all like and have come to expect are based on cheaper manufacturing, which unfortunately can’t be done in Australia. There is, though, a way to manufacture responsibly and ethically outside Australia. It’s a harder road, because of language barriers and because of the challenges of manufacturing in a different culture, but it can be done, and that’s the manufacturing journey that Baby Blanks has taken. We’re learning all the time and bit by bit implementing change into our manufacturing processes in order to manufacture as ethically as we can across a number of areas.
As a small business we are continually counting costs – from sourcing materials, to manufacturing, shipping, pricing and sales volume. Ultimately if customers think a t shirt or baby onesie is too expensive and opt instead, for cheaper items, then they’re probably priced too high.
While I would love nothing better than to be able to manufacture our clothing in Australia, the reality is that global manufacturing forces are bigger than me. The cost of manufacturing in Australia and consumer expectations makes it impossible to have a business and manufacture blank clothing that customers are prepared to pay the price for. Until that changes, manufacturers like me will have little choice but to seek out manufacturing options outside Australia.
It’s almost taken for granted that we all want Australian made. But if we really do, then we need to understand that locally made costs more.