How to Choose an Apparel Factory in 10 Easy Steps

What to Consider When Choosing an Apparel Factory?

If you’re a new brand searching for an apparel factory or an experienced company considering a change, finding a trustworthy supplier can be difficult and confusing. The manufacturing process can define the design, quality, and delivery of your products, all of which directly impact your brand’s reputation.

With so many choices out there, it’s important to figure out the steps on how to choose a manufacturing partner. In this guide, we aim to help you understand how to check out different factories and ask the right questions. Our goal is to provide you with a reliable plan, ensuring that your brand achieves the best possible results.

1. Determine MOQ

Asking for an apparel factory’s minimum quantity requirements for your most common items is an obvious starting point. The ability to do smaller reorders for new players is often a requirement for teams before placing an order. 

Ensure you ask specifically for each item instead of asking generally. Many overseas manufacturers prefer to answer questions vaguely to leave room for negotiation or changes later. Ideally, they will provide you with a spreadsheet that lists the minimum quantity for each product. Also, ask if they can do lower than that minimum quantity for an additional per-item fee.

It’s also a good idea to ask how often they take low-quantity orders from their other clients. If they aren’t regularly taking smaller orders, they may change their minds or make it more difficult after you’ve given them your business.

Key questions to ask:

  • Do you have a spreadsheet of your products with the minimum quantities for each one?
  • Is there an additional fee for small orders?
  • Do you regularly process low-quantity orders for other clients?
  • Are there any other conditions or restrictions for small orders?

Sphere AdvantageSphere Sport has no minimum quantity on all sublimation items and no small order fees. 

Evaluate turnaround times graphic

2. Evaluate Turnaround Times

Similar to minimum quantity, average turnaround time can be harder to nail down than you might think. It’s common for custom apparel factories to overpromise and underdeliver in order to nail down your business.

After learning about their average turnaround time, ask lots of questions to ensure you’ve understood correctly. For example, if they list a production time of one week, ask how soon production starts after you place an order. There usually is a several-day process for quality control, and creating the print files. 

Additionally, it’s important to know how long it takes them to ship out your products after production finishes. Lastly, check the average shipping time from the factory to where you and/or your clients are based.

Calculate lead time to set your expectations and meet your business demands.

Key questions to ask:

  • Do you have a spreadsheet of your products with the average turnaround time for each one?
  • How long does it take after an order is placed for it to go into production? How long does production typically take?
  • What is the average shipping time from their factory to [your country]? After production is finished, how long does it take to ship out? 
  • Do they have a busy season or a long holiday where the turnaround time is longer?

Sphere Advantage: Sphere Sport’s team offers a 2-4 week turnaround on all products with 5-day international air freight shipping. We are very clear about providing details about our busy season, holiday schedule, and processing time. 

3. Consider Pricing & Payment Terms

Apparel factories should be able to quickly provide you with a quote listing all their product prices by quantity. There is often some wiggle room to negotiate prices, so you don’t necessarily need to consider this quote final. A lot depends on how often and in what quantities you’ll be ordering.

In addition, these lists may not include shipping costs which can be significant from overseas. You’ll want to find a factory with priority pricing from a major shipping company like DHL or FedEx

It’s also important to inquire about their payment terms. Because you will likely be sending money to a foreign bank account, you’ll have to pay wire transfer and currency conversion fees which add up over time. Try to negotiate paying in lump sums at longer intervals to minimize these costs. 

The manufacturer may try to charge you additional hidden fees down the line that weren’t disclosed beforehand. Make sure to ask a lot of questions beforehand about additional costs for set-up, designs, and new styles.

Lastly, don’t forget to find out if there are trade restrictions or tariffs between the apparel factory’s country and your own that might cut into your bottom line.

Key questions to ask: 

  • Can you provide me with a spreadsheet with all your product pricing by quantity for DAP and EXW
  • What shipping provider do you normally use? Can you provide me with a list of the rates you receive from them by weight?
  • What are your payment terms? What country is your bank located in? 
  • Are there any additional fees associated with ordering products or payment? (Ex. small order fees, holiday fees, rush fees, design fees, etc.)
  • Can I see an example of an invoice for an order of 10 sublimation tees?

Sphere Advantage: Sphere Sport can quickly provide a spreadsheet of prices for each product by quantity, including EXW and DAP, along with our priority FedEx rates. We offer flexible payment terms as well.

4. Asses Customer Service

If you’re providing custom team uniforms to your clients, you’ll want to especially prioritize finding a factory that is easy to work with. It’s a good idea to assess a number of factors to ensure their customer service meets your needs.

Key questions to ask:

  • How would you assess their overall customer service quality? What is their email response time like?
  • Is it possible to talk on the phone or via video chat with them?
  • How is their English level? Do they understand your questions clearly? Have there been any miscommunications thus far?
  • Are communications with them generally professional and clear or are they pushy, vague, and hard to get answers from?
  • Ask them how they handle issues with delivered orders such as misprints or wrong sizing. 

Sphere Advantage: Sphere Sport’s is directly managed by Australian founder Sam Clay who lives in China near our factory. Sam understands the needs and concerns of western companies and is directly involved with each of our clients.

Checking quality control procedures of an apparel factory

5. Ensure Quality Control Procedures

To protect your brand and best serve your customers, you want to ensure that what you order from the factory is what your customers get. A lot can go wrong when creating custom apparel from mixing up names, numbers, and sizing to forgetting a shirt to sending it to the wrong address, among other things. 

Ask the apparel manufacturer how they limit mistakes. They should be able to give you a document that lists their workflow and where QC checks happen at every point. Also, ask their policy for fixing orders they mess up.

Will they take care of it for free or charge you for the additional items? You’ll want to make sure the process clarifies your responsibility to confirm orders and where their responsibility lies.

Key questions to ask:

  • What is your workflow process from start to finish?
  • When do quality control checks happen at each point? What happens if a problem is found?
  • What types of mistakes will you pay to fix on delivered orders?

Sphere Advantage: We’ve implemented industry-leading quality control checks at every step of the order process.

6. Ask Material & Print Options

You’ll want to make certain they offer the print options you need. Typically, this is not a problem. Generally, they should be able to at least do embroidery, screen printing, sublimation, and heat transfer. Also, inquire about whether there is a difference in production time between each print option. 

Regarding material options, it’s good to consider the number of fabrics and their quality. You’ll especially want to see a variety of sublimation materials at various weights. Typically, the product sheet should list the material type for each offering.

Ask the apparel factory whether or not they allow you to switch out sublimation material types for different clients without additional fees.

Also, check if they offer eco-friendly materials such as REPREVE recycled fabric. Green products are gaining popularity as teams and organizations try to align their wear and gear with their values. 

Key questions to ask:

  • What sublimation materials do you offer? What screen printing materials do you offer? 
  • Can I switch sublimation materials for each product? 
  • Can you provide me with a fabric swatch to test each material?
  • Do you have fabrics to match the ones we already use on our current products?
  • Do you offer any eco-friendly materials?

Sphere Advantage: Sphere Sport’s apparel factory has over 100 material options, offers a wide range of printing techniques, and offers the eco-friendly brand REPREVE fabric

Sports Uniform Manufacturing Built Around You

We specialize in B2B teamwear manufacturing with pro-grade apparel quality, Western customer service, and a wide range of value-added offerings to help your brand thrive. 

7. Check Garment Styles & Sizing

Many factories require you to use their styles and sizing. You’ll want to make sure these fit your customer’s needs. Compare their sizing and dimensions for your desired product against your current sizes and/or preferences.

Will each size match your customer’s expectations? Are the sleeves long enough or too long? Are they willing to adjust the sizing for your orders?

Your goal should be to have as much control over the apparel you offer your customers. Sometimes, they may allow you to change sizes but charge a per-uniform fee. 

Ideally, the factory will be willing to work with you to develop new styles and adjust their sublimation items to your sizing. However, be sure to ask how long this normally takes and how much they charge for this service.

Many apparel factory managers are reluctant to add complexity to the manufacturing process by allowing too much customization across their clients.

Key questions to ask:

  • Are you restricted to their sizes and styles? If not, is there a fee to adjust it for your orders?
  • Do their styles and sizes also meet your customers’ needs? 

Sphere Advantage: Sphere Sport offers all clients free or low-cost garment style development and custom sizing. Whether you want to adjust a style we already have or develop a kit for a new sport, we’ll work closely with you to create it quickly and exactly to your specifications. 

We aim to customize our products and services to our client’s needs rather than asking them to conform to our own.

8. Inquire for Other Support Services

Although not absolutely necessary, it’s useful if your apparel factory offers auxiliary services so that you can limit the number of overseas companies you have to work with. These services include in-house designers, custom promotional products, logistics support for large orders, offshoring support, and general sourcing and procurement. 

Key questions to ask:

  • Do you have in-house designers? Is there a fee for using their services?
  • Do you offer bespoke promotional products?
  • What other services do you offer?

Sphere Advantage: Our sports apparel factory offers free use of our in-house uniform designers, along with custom promotional products, logistics and offshoring advice and support, and general sourcing through our sister company Sphere Resources.

9. Check Online Presence & Reviews

Most apparel factories do not have much of an online presence. They rely on sourcing companies, sales staff, and sites like Alibaba to bring in new business. Most overseas factories are not known for embracing long-term strategies or new technologies.

If you find a factory that has well-developed digital marketing, it can indicate its commitment to long-term strategies and willingness to innovate. Practically, this could mean they aren’t willing to cut corners with their quality.

A simple Google search should bring up their website and social media accounts. Are they being updated regularly? Is the content useful and relevant? How is the English-level? Finally, it’s a good idea to look if they have an account on sites like Trustpilot, so you can see what their clients have to say about them.

To learn about us, we are listed in Clothing Manufacturers Directory and blogs directory.

Key questions to ask:

  • What do their clients say about them? Their review rate?
  • How do others review them based on their experiences?
  • Check their social media accounts. Do they have followers on their social media accounts? Are they actively posting on their social media platforms?

Sphere Advantage: Check out our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn social accounts and Trust Pilot reviews to learn more about what’s important to us and what our clients have to say.

Sphere Sport has invested heavily in creating innovative solutions that add value to our clients. These include custom uniform designer software, production photos, 3D mock-ups, and more.

apparel factory fabric swatch

10. Request Samples & Fabric Swatch

After checking all the above boxes, it’s time to request a sample pack. It’s a good idea to include samples of various sizes and with different materials, along with a fabric swatch and color sheet.

Since you’ve already done all other due diligence, you can feel good about paying a couple of hundred USD for this package as the last check before giving them your business.

After you receive the package, be sure to voice any concerns you have with the delivered items, along with any problems you might have encountered with shipping or payment. It’s important to work these out ahead of time before giving them your business.

Sphere Advantage: Along with a custom sample pack and fabric swatch, we also prepare a 5m x 5m colour matching printout on sublimation material, so you can ensure the colours you design match the printed result. 


By covering all your bases, it should become clear which apparel factory meets your brand’s needs and which does not. The more time and resources you can allocate to this process, the more likely you are to find a supplier that adds significant value to your business.

If you’re interested in learning if Sphere Sport is a good fit for your brand, we’d love to connect. Contact us today to get started or send us an email at for a free consultation.

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