We get asked this question quite a lot. We value transparency and have nothing to hide, but to just say ‘made in China’ can be misleading or an oversimplification of our current manufacturing environment. When we see “produced in China”, many of us automatically assume that, as a US company, we are producing in China just to save money and make more profit, all at the expense of the US worker and the US economy. The fuller answer to this question is that China offers a sophisticated manufacturing system that’s been invested in and developed over the past 30 years. China has built a highly trained labor force, a well-financed infrastructure, a superior safety and quality control regimen with excellent transportation and communication points. When you look at other countries, including our own, there are significant barriers to moving production from China. Vietnam doesn’t have the manufacturing capacity and India doesn’t have the infrastructure. The US doesn’t have the skilled labor nor an excess of apparel factories that have the excellent safety and quality control systems we need to ensure that the working environment is safe and that the product meets our quality standards and specifications.
At SheBird, we initially worked with 3 different US factories (2 in Los Angeles and 1 in New York) to get to a solid prototype of our first two styles. We were so excited to get our first production after 2 years of development! Unfortunately, after all the time and money we had invested, the tops were not made to spec – they were all 2” narrower than the approved sample. A few inches might not seem like much, but that margin of error can completely change the fit of a garment. Believe it or not, apparel manufacturing is a highly skilled industry that is unbelievably complex. It takes many steps to complete a garment, which means more margin for error. For example, we found out that the problem on our first run was due to the factory not letting the fabric “rest” before cutting it for sewing. Once unrolled the fabric needs time to return to its normal state and “shrinks” back to size. After this occurs the fabric can be cut correctly. We just point this out to illustrate how skilled the workforce must be and how important a strong quality control system is to getting clothing manufactured correctly. We also required the technical ability to produce our bra layers with bonded or seamless construction and we were not able to locate any in the US. We would’ve loved to have had success with the factories we tried in the US, but needed a true solution.
On the advice of a number of apparel industry experts, we began sourcing in China. After 2 months we received a beautiful sample with bonded construction and meticulous sewing. In order to produce the best products, we made the decision to move to the Chinese factory. This factory is located in the coastal city of Xiamen, located in between Shanghai and Hong Kong. This factory is part of a new generation of Chinese factories that offer pleasant working conditions, reasonable hours and produce beautifully crafted clothes, shoes, and accessories. We made the decision to shift production without truly considering cost because as a start-up, our first priority was to get a product right. Not only were we able to produce a higher quality product, but we were able to significantly reduce our cost of goods even after adding in the tariffs and duties. As a company, we decided to pass these savings to the consumer via better pricing. We just reduced our prices by 15% so our customers can have a superior product at a moderate price.
Beginning in January of 2020, we again tried to place our business with 4 different US based factories and none of the options proved viable. If you know of any manufacturers that you think could be a good fit for the SheBird product line, please let us know! We will continue to explore our manufacturing options and would love to find a US factory that fits our needs. As we grow, our hope is be in the position to invest in developing our own manufacturing facility, enabling us to bring jobs, skilled training and an ethical and enjoyable workplace to people in our own communities.