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.
Why don’t I manufacture in Australia?
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.
Manufacturing in Australia
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.
Manufacturing Baby Blanks wholesale blank clothing
Baby Blanks designs, manufactures and sells wholesale blank baby and kids clothing to mostly small boutique clothing designers. Our regular customers rely on Baby Blanks clothing because of its high quality fabric, which makes it ideal for a variety of printing applications. The superior quality means Baby Blanks is not the cheapest blank clothing on the market.
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 delighted with our product and are happy to pay a little more for durability. Nevertheless, even at the relatively low price of Baby Blanks, we still get requests for discounts (I’ve written about why I can’t offer discounts on Baby Blanks clothing).
Understanding the market
There are some clothing and fashion businesses that do manufacture in Australia. They are at the high end of the market and sell expensive one-off pieces that will last for many years.
Wholesale blank kids and baby clothing 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.
But many people are frustrated with the poor quality of super cheap baby and kids blank clothing and want something more durable. With quality fabric and good manufacturing, kids and baby clothes will last a long time and can be passed on to younger siblings and friends when they are outgrown.
This is what Baby Blanks wholesale clothing is all about: manufacturing high quality blank kids clothing that will last a long time and is affordable for wholesale customers, who in turn will be able to sell their finished designs and build their own businesses. The only way to achieve this, is for Baby Blanks to be manufactured outside Australia.
Is all manufacturing outside Australia unethical?
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 recently took a trip to China 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 cheaper markets!). Baby Blanks is manufactured by workers who are part of the growing middle class, with good working conditions. The sweatshop image that many of us have in our minds is not the case everywhere.
The global market
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 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.
Running a successful business
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 most 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.