Return to Blog Page

White vs. Private Label Clothing

This article was contributed by our exhibitor Private Label Clothing LLC. Learn more about their business here!

White label being a newer service in the apparel industry, there is some confusion with private label. Although similar, these are two distinct services with distinct applications.

White label clothing is when a manufacturer produces their own designs in large quantities and leaves all the branding out. They then sell their premade clothing to stores or wholesalers in small quantities and apply their branding. This practice is still rare in the garment industry, most factories are not capable or willing to manufacture inventory. Sure you can find many white label t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, that sector always operated with a white label business model. Good luck finding jeans, jackets, dresses or skirts though. Here in Los Angeles, clothing store owners and buyers seeking other than t-shirts, sweat suits and hats turn to wholesalers and jobbers in the fashion district. They can buy jeans, jackets, dresses, sweaters, even lingerie and swimwear with someone else’s brand. They then find a local garment finishing service to remove the existing brand labels and replace them with their own. Many people call this private labeling although, it’s not what private label means. Maybe it should be called gray label or label whitening.

Garment contractors perform only part of the manufacturing process, be it cutting, sewing, laundry or finishing; production plants that offer all of these services under one roof are scarce. Even those that do, rarely have design or product development departments. These companies exist to service clothing brands. In order to manufacture, brands need to have their in-house design, technical and production teams to take care of all the details.

Private label clothing is when a company offers to act as a production and technical team for brands, retailers, designers and anyone who wants to manufacture garments and lacks these functions. They will use their in-house expertise and connections with local garment contractors to make the customer’s designs come to life. They will cover the patterns, sample making, fitting, fabric and trim sourcing and all pre-production needs. They will take care of the production aspects to deliver finished garments according to the customer’s specifications. The learning curve to properly manufacture garments is steep. For someone who doesn’t have experience, the task could seem as complicated as producing and directing a movie or flying the space shuttle. What’s more, the MOQs (minimum order quantities) are often large. This puts private label manufacturing out of reach of many retailers and aspiring clothing brands.

Private label customers spend more time manufacturing their designs, a sample could take 8 weeks and production up to 10 weeks, especially if they use an overseas factory and ship by boat. In the end, they get exactly what they want in the finished product. White label clothing is ideal for retailers, brick and mortar and online alike. Since the goods are already made, all one needs is to have a label design and some branded trim; the delivery can happen in as little as 1 week. The cost is usually lower than small batch private label, since the manufacturer produces thousands at a time. There are white label manufacturers that offer minimums as low as 1 dozen

It goes without saying, those who want to make clothing for niche markets like tall and petite, those with particular designs like pants with gun and ammo pockets or nylon reinforced motorcycle jeans, would have to take the private label route. There is much to be said about the control over the fit; especially when it comes to jeans and denim related garments. The apparel industry is an old giant, resistant to change. It is slowly realizing the needs of retailers are changing and microbranding is the way of the future. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to high demand for small private label quantities, we see an increase in companies offering full package private and white label clothing, the MOQs have been getting lower in factories all over the world and prices have been going down. Manufacturers that used to require 3000+ pieces MOQ are now asking for 500, there are even factories that will cut and sew 50 jeans at a time. It’s very likely we will see private and white labels as mainstream items in more apparel sectors in the next few years. We should even see more fashion manufacturers cater to online clothing retailers by offering white label garments with dropshipping services.

By Rony Cohen

Private Label Clothing LLC


See Private Label Clothing LLC at the White Label World Expo, happening on September 1st & 2nd at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Register for your free tickets today!