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How do streetwear manufacturers make comfortable clothes?
The answer is simple – they use soft and stretchy materials. Fabrics with a lot of fluff and buttery feel are brushed french terry and fleece. They are the most popular fabrics for hoodies and sweatshirts. Great streetwear manufacturers should be able to offer you those fabrics in many different weights.
The connection between softness and fabric weight
Materials like brushed french terry will pack more of that fluffy inner part as their weight increases. Therefore, the equation is simple – heavier material means more comfort. The most popular fabric weight for hoodies and sweatshirts is 340 gsm but feel free to go higher if the next-to-skin comfort is your goal.
Your ideal streetwear manufacturer should have those readily available as well as the machinery to process them properly. That means that you should aim for a supplier with a knitting mill.
Cutting heavier fabrics the right way
The thing about 340 gsm soft brush french terry or similar fabric is that it takes up a lot of space on the cutting table. To cut it perfectly, clothing manufacturers must use CNC fabric cutters.
If they used manual cutters, the bottom layers wouldn’t have the same shape as the top layers. As a result, you might end up with faulty clothes that stretch unevenly. And even if you notice the badly-cut pieces, you’ll surely lose time waiting for proper replacements to arrive.
Add stretchiness for better mobility
If the design of your streetwear piece traces the body even slightly, make sure to ask for materials with elastane. Even 5% of it would improve the mobility and comfort of the people wearing your brand.
Skin-contact area comfort
Whenever you’re sure people will wear your clothes next-to-skin, one thing you must insist on is flat seams. The seam is a line where streetwear manufacturers sew together two or more layers of fabric. With special machinery, they can make them flat to prevent chafing.
How do streetwear manufacturers make practical clothes?
The practicality of a streetwear piece can be something as simple as its zippability or pockets of a specific size and position may be connected to practicality too. A weather-resistant jacket as a part of your streetwear brand is also rather practical.
To achieve these goals, a clothing factory you get in touch with should be able to make custom clothing. In other words, they should be able to work off your tech packs. If they only offer white label, template clothing, steer clear of them. They probably haven’t set up their production for customization.
The complete customizability of clothes is especially important for the self-expression element of your brand.
How to achieve self-expression with streetwear
Full customization of garment manufacturing is necessary for achieving originality. That applies to even seemingly simple products like t-shirts. If they are to customize garments, manufacturers must be able to work off various tech packs, create multiple samples and recreate existing garments. Simple as.
Ask the manufacturers if their sampling department recreates other garments and/or works with clients’ tech packs. If they don’t, they’re not the right fit.
Unless the originality of your brand focuses on graphics. In that case, other things start to matter more. When you have incredible illustrations that would look great on textiles, then a variety of printing techniques from the manufacturers’ part can play a major role in your quest for brand originality.
Different printing techniques to achieve uniqueness
To get you fully covered, streetwear manufacturers that you plan to work with should offer both screen printing and dye-sublimation printing. We say this because screen printing works better with cotton and natural fibres. On the other hand, dye-sublimation provides the best colour transfer on polyester fibres.
This way, you’ll be able to transfer your graphics and illustrations to any fabric.
What else makes a great streetwear manufacturer?
Other than being able to make comfortable and practical streetwear that stands out in a good way, clothing manufacturers should be ethical, sustainable, and transparent. You can take the easy way like so many modern-slavery-benefiting inhumane huge brands and flat-out lie about being sustainable and ethical.
Or you can do the right thing and actually find a factory that ticks all the boxes when it comes to fair working conditions and a positive impact on the environment.
How to spot an ethical streetwear manufacturer
If the manufacturer is really ethical, their workers should have enough free time to have a life outside of work. Regarding compensation, they should be paid at least the national minimum wage of their respective country. Also, they should receive bonus rates for overtime and work during weekends. That’s a bare minimum. You’d be surprised how often this isn’t the case.
This is where we as streetwear manufacturers believe to really stand out. All our workers:
- Earn at least 20% more than the Serbian national minimum wage
- Work eight-hour shifts
- Receive overtime bonuses (which is a legal requirement often overlooked or misrepresented in the textile industry)
- Receive childbirth, and marriage bonuses (not a legal requirement in Serbia)
How to spot an eco-friendly clothing manufacturer
Ideally, the manufacturer would either have the ISO-14001 standard or a social compliance certificate. Standards and certificates guarantee that all the processes in the factory are carried out in a way that’s safe for the environment.
But even without certificates and standards, a streetwear manufacturer should still find a way to stay sustainable. They can handle wastewater safely and handle textile waste so that it doesn’t end up in landfills. Ideally, have an alternative source of energy like wind electrical systems or solar panels.
This is another field where we believe what we do stands out from the usual practices in the textile industry because:
- We handle our wastewater with a certified wastewater system
- We give all our excess textile from the cutting room to a local sports equipment manufacturer that makes boxing bag fillings out of it
- We have a solar power system in our factory in south-eastern Serbia
- We operate under the ISO 14001 standard
Transparent streetwear manufacturers
There are many garment factories out there with all kinds of social compliance certificates and ISO standards and they still break almost every certification rule. If it weren’t that way, a tragedy like Rana Plaza would have never happened.
The thing is, many social compliance audits are carried out in a way that gives the manufacturers enough time to cook the books and intimidate and train the employees to lie during interviews in order for the company to obtain the certificates.
Once they do, they have a perfect smokescreen for whatever happens behind closed doors.
Don’t get us wrong, there are definitely clothing factories that deserved all their certification. Such a clothing factory would welcome visitors, be it existing or potential clients.
If a clothing manufacturer you get in touch with acts evasively to the mention of a factory visit, that’s a major red flag and you should run away from them as fast as you can. It’s likely they’re doing something wrong, even if they boast with shiny certificates attached to their name.
Factory visits at FUSH˚ are a common occurrence. What’s more, we have five apartments in the factory complex so you could spend days immersing yourself in the clothing manufacturing experience. For those of you eager to visit us this very moment, there’s a virtual tour of our clothing factory in Oraovica, south-eastern Serbia.
Once we start cooperating, we’d even film the manufacturing process of your product so that your brand can really benefit from the radical transparency which is an ever-growing trend in fashion.
In order to make comfy, practical, and original pieces of streetwear in an ethical and eco-friendly way, a clothing manufacturer must tick many boxes. Modern machinery, skilled and well-paid textile experts, sustainable factories, and radical transparency are some of the must-haves for any manufacturer that can actually help your streetwear line outshine other brands. If they lack one, that’s one too many so brace yourself when you decide to go manufacturer hunting, it might take a while.
Unless you want to give us a try. To do so, fill out the contact form below the FAQ excerpt. If you can, provide as many details about your potential order as possible.
- What is the cost range for manufacturing streetwear items?
- Are there any specific materials commonly used in streetwear production?
- How do I protect my designs and ideas when working with a manufacturer?
- What challenges do brands often encounter when partnering with streetwear manufacturers?
- Are there any industry standards or certifications I should look for in a streetwear manufacturer?
What is the cost range for manufacturing streetwear items?
It can range from €5.10 to well over 30€ per piece, depending on complexity. A simple cotton t-shirt of regular 180 GSM* weight with a small print or embroidery can cost around €5.10, while a heavy 400 GSM sweatshirt with an intricate design and a bigger embroidered patch can cost over €30. The pricing also depends on quantities. At FUSH, the €5.10 price point is achievable for orders of 1000 pieces or more.
*GSM means grams per square meter
Are there any specific materials commonly used in streetwear production?
Because the main feature of streetwear is comfort, cotton is the most commonly used material for this type of clothes. Especially heavy cotton (350GSM and above). However, not all cotton is good for streetwear.
A more expensive and probably even more comfortable variation would be Tencel and Modal, cellulose-based fabrics that give clothes a silky feel. A halfway point would be a cotton-Tencel blend.
How do I protect my designs and ideas when working with a manufacturer?
Send the manufacturer a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before sending them your designs or tech packs.
A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a promise between two or more parties to keep certain information a secret, in your case, your designs. This prevents manufacturers from using your designs to their own advantage.
It’s best if you get a lawyer to draft an NDA for you rather than making it yourself (unless you are a legal expert).
What challenges do brands often encounter when partnering with streetwear manufacturers?
- Minimum order quantities (MOQs)
- Delivery times
In our experience, the main challenge is agreeing on an MOQ. Especially if a brand is a startup. Most manufacturers, especially the cheap overseas ones, demand MOQs of 1000 pieces per design and more.
For the same reason, pricing may be an issue for startups planning to run a high-quality brand. High-quality clothes use expensive materials and processes (mercerisation of cotton, sustainable fabrics like Tencel, etc).
Delivery time discrepancies are another challenge streetwear brands often face with manufacturers. This is because most manufacturers source fabrics instead of making them so there’s often a lot of time lost in waiting for fabrics to arrive. Other reasons could be poor time management on the part of manufacturers, especially the ones that offer lower prices. Such manufacturers usually take on more work than they can handle.
If you choose to work with manufacturers that offer almost unrealistically low prices, you’re most likely choosing overworked textile professionals that will make mistakes because they’re at their physical limit. A factory can only make a profit if it overworks its employees in a scenario where it offers low prices.
Are there any industry standards or certifications I should look for in a streetwear manufacturer?
For a streetwear brand, a guarantee that their clothes are made from organic cotton is highly important. That’s why you should start your search for streetwear manufacturers in the certified suppliers database of Global Organic Standard (GOTS). Clothing with the GOTS label is the best way to prove to your customers your clothing is organic.
Another certificate that you can use when labelling your clothes is OEKO-TEX. This one guarantees that no harmful chemicals were used in any stage of making your clothing. It’s easy to check whether or not the label is genuine by visiting OEKO-TEX’s label check page.
For you as a brand owner that wants to work with well-structured and ecologically conscious manufacturers, companies holding ISO certificates like 9001:2015, 14001:2015, and 45001:2018 are the way to go. Unfortunately, there’s no centralized database for ISO-certified companies.
We’d say social responsibility certificates like BSCI and SMETA are also important but knowing that a Bangladeshi factory owning a social responsibility certificate was responsible for over 1000 deaths of its workers due to a building collapsing, you might want to skip these entirely.
They obviously aren’t a guarantee of anything other than the corrupt nature of rampant capitalism.