The countries in which you source should be countries whose area of expertise matches what your new design concept requires. If beading is on your garment or item, then you could think of India first. If wool suits are what you are designing, consider Italy or Japan, both among the great countries for producing for tailored woolen garments. Many countries, such as China, Viet Nam, and others have many great capabilities to offer. New manufacturers, when considering overseas production, should think about countries the U.S. has free-trade agreements with. Free-trade agreements, while uncertain at the moment, still should be considered and help drive your sourcing decisions, as most likely they will stay in place. There are many free-trade agreements, which are mutually beneficial to the companies in both countries. We suggest you contact the USA-ITA to help you with the ins and outs and all the complicated details of all of the current free-trade agreements in place.
For newcomers, producing domestically (in the U.S.) should be looked at first. Producing here in the U.S. has many advantages. First and foremost, the U.S has many small- and medium-scale factories that do not frown upon orders that are not in the tens of thousands. Many U.S. factories will accept small production orders. Also, there are no costly trips overseas. If something comes up and you must suddenly visit the factory, you can simply jump in your car, or take a quick plane ride, and arrive at the factory same day. Another benefit is you can easily email or call and check your production lot at any time, as there is no time difference, or it is minimal. Proximity allows you to inspect the lot before it leaves the factory. Additionally, speaking the same language is a great advantage. As with no language barrier, there is less room for errors due to misunderstanding. Also with domestic factories, the leadtime is shorter, as there is no need to cross an ocean. You get the merchandise faster, and there are no delays getting through customs, so you can deliver faster. Not to mention, the very important fact, that today’s sustainably-minded shopper has a great appreciation for garments that are made in the U.S.
You will most pay more per item for goods produced in the U.S, as we pay our labor more. However, you will have no costs in duties, customs-brokers, factory agents, and costly overseas trips, so in the end for the start-up company, the costs may end up balanced.
Unfortunately, most American factories do not exhibit at trade shows today. You may walk a production-sourcing show and meet with 300 factories from overseas and only ten from the U.S. The reason is that it is quite costly to exhibit at these events. Another option in finding domestic factories is the Apparel Production Sourcebook, also published by Fashiondex.com, or you can contact the various apparel manufacturing associations.