As an Australian company who manufactures in China I wanted to be as involved as I could with the manufacturing process. When I began the process of finding someone to manufacture my designs, I wanted to do it right. It took a lot of patience and time to find the right people who could help me manufacture the Baby Blanks wholesale clothing line as ethically as possible. That meant good working conditions. I did not want to manufacture under what we have come to know as sweatshop factory conditions.
It was partly for this reason that I visited northern China earlier this year. It gave me the opportunity to meet the people who do the hard work of manufacturing my designs and to learn about what goes on behind the scenes. I know that many of you will be interested in this process, so I thought I’d share some of what I learned.
I had never been to northern China and like most people didn’t know what to expect. I visited a number of small factories where Baby Blanks cotton is woven, dyed, cut and sown to make the Baby Blanks design range.
You may be surprised to know that many of the factory workers are actually students, who work during their holidays for extra money. In some of the factories I visited, workers travel home everyday. In other factories, workers stayed in dorms and went home at the end of the week, as it was too far to travel each day. At lunchtime, all the factory workers stop for an hour and have lunch together.
The factories I visited were all professionally managed and clean and safety measures were in place to protect workers. In cotton and clothing manufacturing there is a lot of lint and dust produced that can impact health. Workers all wore safety masks for protection and water lay on the floor under the machines to catch lint and dust, preventing it from floating in the air. Northern China gets very cold in winter. The factory where Baby Blanks clothing is manufactured were all well heated and comfortable.
I really enjoyed meeting and chatting with workers and factory managers. The people I met were very welcoming and talked about their families and a little about life in China. I spoke to parents who told me how China is changing and there is now more money and a growing middle class. They told me young people don’t want to work in factories. They want an education and an office job.
This was the changing face of China that is beginning to impact the size of the population of factory workers. China is no longer just a sweatshop of the West, but has a highly educated and growing middle class.
Baby Blanks cotton jersey begins with sourcing a high quality cotton yarn for weaving. The cotton is dyed first and then woven into high quality cotton jersey fabric, ready for cutting and sewing. The weaving is all done on machines.
After the fabric is woven it needs to ‘rest’. Yes – this is a real thing! It’s an important part of the manufacturing process, because it allows the fabric to return to its natural shape. If the fabric is not allowed to rest for between 24 – 48 hours, and is cut and sewn before it can return to form, it will shrink.
This is a really important stage in the manufacturing process. If you’re manufacturing clothing and want to cut costs and save money, you may skip this resting process, but the result will be some of the typical poor quality clothing consumers experience that shrink and lose their shape after washing.
In the factories I visited, cutting the fabric is done by both machine and workers cutting by hand. The sewing of each garment is done by factory workers sewing on machines. Cutting, overlocking, stitching the sleeves, the pockets, the hood, applying piping or attaching the tag – each of these tasks is done by a different person. A finished hoodie or jumpsuit is the work of up to 20 different people!
Visiting the Baby Blanks factory in northern China helped me to understand the processes that can impact quality control. For example, understanding the time taken from sourcing the cotton and weaving the cotton, to the finished garment, makes a huge difference when planning for fluctuations in orders. I can now better calculate the time it will take for a new order to be completed, as well as better plan for fluctuations in order size, so that I have improved quality control.
When I started the journey to manufacture my Baby Blanks designs in China I wanted to make sure that I did it ethically. This meant I made great efforts early on to find good people that came recommended, and had integrity and had a demonstrated history of doing things in the right way.
When I visited and saw the manufacturing of Baby Blanks designs up close, I found that my hard work and research had paid off. I didn’t find the sweatshop stereotype that has become an image for much overseas manufacturing. Conditions were good for the workers I met and factory safety standards were observed in the small factories I visited. This doesn’t mean that sweatshops don’t exist in China. It just means that the factories I visited that manufactured Baby Blanks wholesale clothing in no resembled what we have come to know as sweatshop conditions.
Manufacturing overseas is not as easy as manufacturing at home, but it is still possible to be involved in the process and as much as possible make decisions about where and under what circumstances your clothing is manufactured.
Find out more about Baby Blanks wholesale blank clothing or shop for our range of wholesale blank kids and baby clothing.