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T-Shirt Manufacturers - The Ultimate Guide to Working With Them!

by Boris Hodakel  • October 16, 2019 • 9 min read

t-shirt red printing manufacturing

T-shirt businesses have become a huge subset of the fashion industry, and the variety of new and established brands available creates a vast and unique range of designs to choose from. Today’s shopping habits still focus on price point, but in recent years, support for independent brands has grown tenfold as people are looking for clothing that doesn’t imitate everyone else.

Social media has had a huge hand in making t-shirt companies big business, and some brands have grown fan bases into the millions with clever marketing through popular outlets such as Instagram. This growing influence is seeing t-shirt businesses emerging more frequently and the demand for quality products is boosting this niche and providing benefits in t-shirt manufacturing too.

It's not just everyday consumers that are responding to the boom in t-shirt businesses, as the commercial sector has used wholesale t-shirt printing companies to produce a host of promotional products to showcase their brand for many years.

However, the industry isn’t without its threats. As consumers become conscious of the environmental aspects of clothing, businesses have to compete with brands that can produce ‘green’ clothing on a larger scale. So choosing the best manufacturing partner can help to relieve some of these pressures with responsible sourcing and efficient production methods.

tshirts manufacturing green on hanger

The t-shirt industry

The t-shirt manufacturing sector still remains big business, and in a research report carried out by Credence Research, it highlights that the industry is expected to see considerable growth in the future. Personalised and custom t-shirts are amongst one of the most popular products, and as printing methods continue to improve, the quality of finished products will have a positive effect on consumer choices.

With an optimistic outlook in the fashion industry, this could mean a bright future for aspiring t-shirt designers and new brands. If you’ve ever considered starting your own t-shirt business, it could be the perfect time to explore your options. They are several things to consider before taking the leap, and our guide on ‘ How To Start a T-Shirt Business’ will give you an overview of the foundations when starting from scratch. After this initial phase, understanding the process of clothing manufacturing and how to work with your chosen t-shirt factory can help you build a strong partnership to take your designs to the next level.

Check out our guide to working with t-shirt manufacturers and discover ways to bring your finished product to market in a fast and affordable way.

Choosing a t-shirt factory

For any fashion brand, selecting a reputable clothing manufacturer to work with is a vital step in achieving a quality product at a reasonable price for your business. Much like many other clothing manufacturing processes, t-shirt manufacturing is a fast and automated process that enables you to achieve larger order quantities in shorter lead times.

There are many t-shirt suppliers both in the UK and overseas that can produce a variety of styles and designs, and sourcing them on Sewport is an easy way to communicate your ideas directly with t-shirt factories. By creating an account on our platform, you’ll have a personal dashboard that will enable you to enquire and gain quotes, plus place orders and make payments through the portal. This process is fast and simple and allows you to have greater control and open communication with your clothing producer.

Join the Sewport community

tshirt manufacturers factory packaging shipping

Sourcing t-shirt materials

The beauty of t-shirt manufacturing is that generally there are no complicated patterns or styles to produce which helps bring costs down. However, in recent years, the need for eco-conscious and sustainable options has also driven demand for different fabrics, which can make the selection process slightly more complicated. Selecting materials often isn’t just as easy as requesting a cotton t-shirt with a screen print logo either, as different fabrics work better with some types of print or embroidery than others.

There are a number of areas to consider when sourcing the perfect t-shirt material for your new products and that includes functionality, sustainability and availability.

Functional design and wearability

On paper (or CAD designs) your ideas may create the ideal look for your brand, but in reality, if you don’t source suitable materials, your designs may not look right on the product. Thinking about how the material drapes or hangs will give you a better idea of how your printed or embroidered design will look when worn. Sampling is crucial, and this will help you to test the garments before making a commitment to production.

Sustainable and eco-conscious sourcing

The rise in consumers looking for environmentally friendly and ethical clothing should play a part in how you source your t-shirt material. The emphasis on brands being aware of their impact on the planet can help to build a good reputation in the long-term. However, it is worth noting that although sourcing suitable materials is easier than ever before, making sure the material works with your designs is vital for bringing the product to market. There is a range of fabrics to choose from with popular sources such as Bamboo, Jute and Tencel and each has a variety of qualities alongside its green credentials including wrinkle resistance and biodegradability.

Further information: Organic fabrics and eco-friendly fabrics that could change the fashion industry

Availability of fabric

There’s nothing worse than when a brand suddenly changes the fabric of a basic t-shirt you’ve been buying for years, and for some people, this may mean they look elsewhere for their clothing purchases. Changes in fabric type can also prove detrimental to the launch of a new brand when a sampled fabric suddenly changes before production. In some cases, you cannot avoid differences in texture but carefully considering where you source your material will help determine whether it will be available short-term or long-term.

If you plan on creating a signature t-shirt that will be the bread and butter of your brand, ensuring you find fabric suppliers that have sufficient yardage and consistent sourcing methods will help to reduce the issue of significant changes to your t-shirts.

various fabric for t shirt manufacturing

T-shirt manufacturing process

When starting a fashion business, you will often source wholesale t-shirts from suppliers to bring your costs down. However, there are two main types of garment production, and this can mean you design t-shirts from scratch with a clothing manufacturer or use a supplier that has bulk stocks of standard design for direct printing. If you have decided to work with a t-shirt manufacturer to design everything from the bottom up, then creating a tech pack is crucial in ensuring the specifications are met during production.

In short, the manufacturing process is quite simple, and many suppliers are equipped to handle a variety of requests on style, cut, fabrics, assembly and extras such as pockets, printing and labelling. This process is often automated so working with the t-shirt factory to detail your requirements will ensure costly errors are not made.

Printing techniques

Historically t-shirt businesses were popular startups for individuals due to basic printing methods which could be carried out at home. With the rise in competition and quality forcing these home businesses to rethink printing techniques or face a smaller slice of the fashion pie, innovative and high-quality methods were sourced to meet industry standards. Choosing a t-shirt factory that can offer you cost-effective printing and provide wholesale fabric is often a business model that provides faster production and can be tailored more quickly to meet demand.

There are several types of t shirting printing methods to choose from depending on your budget. Take a look at some of the most popular and cost-effective options below:

Screen printing

t-shirt screen printing

This is possibly one of the most popular methods of printing and works well for t-shirt brands that require a high-quality finish. It is most frequently used in bulk production and can be super affordable for designs that don’t need elaborate and colourful prints.

Digital printing or Direct To Garment (DTG) printing

Digital printing is a process that can be used for detailed designs and as the name suggests, this printing technique prints directly onto the garment from a printer that could resemble your everyday office equipment. If you have high-resolution images, this method may not well, as low-quality printing machinery may produce lower resolution dot patterns. Plus if you have dark coloured t-shirt fabric, this printing method is not suitable as it does not apply a thick layer of ink and will not show up on the material.

There are several other types of printing methods including:

  • Dye sublimation – this works well on light fabrics and polyester fabrics and uses a transfer printing technique.
  • Vinyl printing – this method provides an excellent finish with low set up costs and uses a vinyl and heat pressing technique.

More information: Direct to garment printing and other apparel printing methods

Minimum order quantities (MOQs) for t-shirt businesses

During the planning process of your t-shirt business, considering the order quantities of your designs will ensure you get the best price in the long-term. For smaller brands, MOQs can be a real issue, and in the beginning, you may only require smaller runs when you are establishing your brand in the market. In the past, clothing manufacturers had high order quantities due to setting up factory machinery and getting bulk t-shirts at discount prices. But in recent years, there is an increase in t-shirt manufacturers that cater to small business and some boast no minimum order quantity to get started.

With the innovations in technology, digital printing is making it possible for small businesses to test the waters with short runs. This will come at a higher price, but in some cases, these are not as high as you may first imagine, as printing methods are bringing the outlay cost down.

For larger orders, you stand a better chance of negotiating deals, as wholesale pricing brings order quantities in at competitive prices. Plus the more you order, the cheaper each unit cost becomes when you hit a certain threshold. The same can be said for printing on garments too, as bulk orders will enable the manufacturer to do a continuous run and use cost-effective methods to produce the final print.

Further information: Minimum order quantities (MOQ) – what you need to know

Dropshipping or print-on-demand

For small t-shirt businesses that don’t have the space to store large amounts of stock, print-on-demand or dropshipping methods can be used. This process enables you to collaborate with clothing manufacturers or t-shirt printers to print garments when you sell them. This business setup proves more expensive when producing garments for customers but enables small companies to find their feet before committing to large orders.

There is a range of suppliers that specialise in this type of production, and it can be a useful way to build your brand online.

Quotes from t-shirt manufacturers

sewing factory t shirt production

As discussed above, setting your budget and considering costs is a crucial step for determining the type of fabric, quantity and finish you desire. These factors will make up the unit cost of your product, and this should be factored into the price you sell to your customers. By enquiring and gathering quotes from t-shirt factories, you can decide what avenues you can explore with your budget. Getting quotes is easy on the Sewport platform, and by signing up for an account, you can collate the information in one place to make the best decision based on your requirements.

It is important to remember that if you’re starting small, the initial costs may be higher due to lower order quantities and printing techniques. As you grow your business, you will soon be able to take advantage of lower costs based on higher MOQs and choose a variety of finishes to improve your bottom-line.

Starting a t-shirt business

Setting up your own t-shirt business can be a rewarding venture. Once you have considered how you want to work with a t-shirt factory, building your brand plan is the next step. Take a look at the fundamental aspects of starting your own business and how partnering with Sewport can help get you started on your next project:

  • Find your niche
  • Create a brand plan and research your target market
  • Craft your brand designs
  • Source a t-shirt manufacturer
  • Source materials and explore printing techniques
  • Create a tech pack for full t-shirt production options
  • Decide on your sales funnel (online, stores or both)
  • Market your brand

Further information: How To Start a T Shirt Business

Getting started is a simple process, and signing up to the Sewport community offers you a range of valuable resources to source suitable clothing manufacturers and printing professionals.

Join today and take your t-shirt business to the next level.

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About the author:

Boris Hodakel is the founder and CEO of Sewport - an online marketplace connecting brands and manufacturers, former founder of various clothing manufacturing services. He is passionate about e-commerce, marketing and production digitisation. Connect with Boris on LinkedIn.