How to Find Quality Clothing Suppliers

How to Find Quality Clothing Suppliers for Your Boutique (USA)

If you want to find quality clothing suppliers for your boutique store, there are basically 2 types of suppliers to look for:

  • Clothing Manufacturer (could also be called Apparel Manufacturer)
  • Clothing Wholesaler (could also be called Apparel Supplier)

FindFashion Rep maintains a large collection of brands (which may or may not be the manufacturer) you can browse to find that right line for your store.

If you’re looking for dirt cheap wholesale suppliers, just search Google, you’ll find a ton.

But, if you want a curated selection, then keep reading as I’ll tell you how to find higher quality suppliers on your own.

If you are a planning to open a retail boutique outlet involving clothing, accessories, and jewelry, one of the most important things for your store will be maintaining a fresh supply of brands for your shoppers.

At FindFashion Rep, we maintain a large list of fashion brands (over 4000) by fashion designers from the US and Europe and we are slowly making it available.

Difference Between Manufacturer, Wholesaler, Supplier, and Designer

Before we delve into this article, it’s best to understand the difference between the terms manufacturer, wholesaler, supplier, and designer.

First of all, the clothing supplier is the general term for some entity that can provide you with a supply of apparel or accessory. It could be the designer, the manufacturer, or the wholesaler.

The difference between these terms: designer, manufacturer, and wholesaler is not always apparent and an entity can be all three or just two or just one of these terms.

Let’s look at the designer. This is the person who architects the clothing or accessory. The designer may also be big enough to manufacture their own supply and wholesale it to retailers.

The clothing manufacturer is the one who makes the clothing or accessory. It’s quite possible and common for a designer to contract out the manufacturing of their design to a manufacturer.

The wholesaler is a type of supplier that does not make the clothing or accessory. They buy their supplies in large quantities from the manufacturer so that they can resell it to retailers who may not be able to buy it in large quantities from the manufacturer.

The manufacturer is a type of supplier as well. They make the clothing or accessory and will only sell their lines in large quantities.

The designer is also a type of supplier if they also manufacture their own lines. Large designers may own the manufacturing facility or own the process so no one else has access to it. Thus, they may act as the manufacturer and wholesaler.

Apparel Sales Reps

Apparel sales reps aren’t clothing suppliers, but, they can connect you with one. That’s their job. At least, that’s the point of view from the boutique. From the designer’s point of view, you want a sales rep to help you sell your brand.

When starting off, a brand may act as the clothing wholesaler, manufacturer, and the retailer. It’s tough work when starting off!

Later, as the brand develops, many brands sell through designated apparel sales reps or showrooms who are specialized retailers usually seen by appointment only. They are often former fashion designers themselves and have changed careers to offer consulting services as well.

If you connect with the sales rep, then you can connect with the brand or supplier behind the brand, if you’re a retailer. If you are a designer, then the sales rep will help you connect with retailers.

You can find sales rep and showroom contact info from our US apparel sales rep contact lists. These sales reps manage the wholesale (b2b) sales for many brands.

For the retail distribution, the brand or designer may use their sales reps to find retailers to market their clothing or accessory lines.

So, if you’re a boutique retailer looking for some brands to sell, hopefully a sales rep will find you. But, when you’re starting off, they obviously won’t. That’s why you can seek out sales reps and let them know you’re looking. They’ll be glad to meet with you and show you what lines they are selling.

The alternate way to do this is to look at brands you like and then ask the brand how you can buy from them.

For brands starting off with no sales representation, you can often deal directly with the brand or designer behind the brand.

Apparel and Fashion Accessories Trade Shows

Another way to find clothing suppliers or wholesalers is to attend apparel and fashion accessories trade shows where mostly designers and brands get together to showcase their clothing or accessory lines.

In the United States, there are 12 major fashion apparel hubs across the country. Each hub has a territory name and generally includes one or more surrounding states with respect to the fashion trade.

Each hub may have local trade shows you can attend. Trade shows are like goldmines! You can find new brands and designers, manufacturers, sales reps and sales agencies, and much more at trade shows. You can develop contacts and make deals right there on the spot.

Definitely attend a local trade show when starting off in the business. And attend an appropriate trade show to find the right type of apparel supplier. For example, finding mens clothing suppliers can be difficult. Everywhere you go, apparel advertising and marketing is generally geared for female consumers.

So, knowing that the Cobb Trade Show specializes in mens clothing is more beneficial to you than going to most other apparel trade shows. Other trade shows may have mens brands, but, this trade show only has mens brands.

Below, I have summarized the 12 fashion hubs across the United States.

Table of Fashion Hubs

Territory NameAreas Included
(Can vary)
AtlantaGeorgia, Alabama, South & North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi
BostonMassachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, upstate New York
ChicagoIllinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio
DallasTexas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas
DenverColorado, Utah, Kansas, Maryland, MIssouri. North Dakota, South Dakota
Los AngelesCalifornia, Nevada, Arizona
Mid-AtlanticNew York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia
MinneapolisMinnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin
New YorkNew York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania
San FranciscoCalifornia, Oregon, Nevada
SeattleWashington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Alaska

There are important trade shows for each of the fashion hubs.

If you want to find out the trade shows in each of the fashion hubs, register for access to my site.