What Is a Sample Order

And Do All Chinese Clothing Manufacturers Offer One?

Now that you have completed your new fashion garment design and put together your tech pack, you’re ready to find a manufacturer. But wait, you’re getting ahead of yourself. Finding a manufacturer is easy. Finding a reliable manufacturer a little less so. And, a reliable and good one, even less so.

A very large proportion of the world’s clothing is made in China and most of it is of perfectly good quality. However, there are still enough companies that will produce poor quality to maximize margins. You need to qualify your manufacturer before you entrust him with your order. This is why you need to start with a sample order.

What is a sample order?

sample order

A sample order is an order that you place with a supplier or manufacturer for samples of the goods you plan to buy or have made. When you’re setting out to have a large batch of clothing made, this is an imperative first step.

In the fashion industry, a sample order can, potentially, mean several different things. There are 12 recognized types of samples in the full manufacturing process.

  • Mockup
  • Proto sample
  • Digital sample
  • Fit sample
  • Size set sample
  • Salesman sample
  • Garment Performance Test (GPT) sample
  • Pre-production sample 
  • Sealed sample
  • Top of Production sample
  • Shipment sample
  • Press sample

The average customer is likely to only be concerned with a few of these types. At the very least, you would want a proto sample to see that the design works and that the manufacturer has understood the brief correctly.

You would most probably now place the order for the manufacturing. Placing the order doesn’t mean that the production will start though. You will still go through more sample orders to ensure that every detail has been covered. The fit sample is an actual garment made according to the tech pack to ensure that the garment fits as it was designed.

There are other sample types before and after pre-production but they would apply only in certain circumstances. The pre-production sample is an exact replica of the final garment as designed or amended during the sampling process. This is the template that will be used for the production run.

Do all Chinese clothing manufacturers offer samples?

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Most Chinese manufacturers would offer samples prior to commencing production on a large scale. As much as the customer will suffer losses through mass production of a faulty garment, so will the manufacturer. 

In the event that a potential manufacturer declines to produce samples, strike them from the list of candidates. That would be a very big red flag. Clothing is just simply not made on the fly. Samples are not negotiable.

The manufacturer may charge a nominal fee for the samples as a token of commitment from you. Depending on the number of garments and samples to be produced, this may be considered to be fair. 

Bear in mind that the manufacturer may go to a great deal of effort and expense to produce the samples. He needs to source fabric that is sufficiently like the final fabric. He may interrupt other orders to make room for the production of your samples. 

It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind that you will get what you have designed.

Where and how to get samples?

sample order

The most likely place you will look for potential suppliers is on one of the larger B2B platforms. The majority of suppliers in China will be registered on at least one of these platforms. These platforms give suppliers the option of having themselves verified. The verified suppliers are identified by a symbol confirming this status. This gives you, the customer, the assurance that the supplier is a legally registered business.

Another significant benefit is the fact that these platforms offer buyers protection. Suppliers who participate in the buyer protection programs have to enter into an agreement with the platform that binds them to possible arbitration by the platform. In case of a dispute, the platform will mediate if an amicable solution cannot be found between the buyer and the seller.

In order to place the sample order, you would proceed as follows:

  • Access the platform – let us use Alibaba as an example. Search for clothing manufacturers. Check for the symbols for supplier verification and buyer protection.
  • Once you have identified a list of suppliers you would contact each of them directly to initiate your inquiry. 
  • Provide the supplier with the tech pack, quantities, desired delivery schedule, and any other information they may request in order to provide a quotation.
  • Typically, the supplier will provide you with a quotation for the final production of the garment. This may or may not include the cost of the samples. Make sure that you understand the quotation. Don’t make any assumptions. Misunderstandings are common due to the language barrier.
  • Negotiate the quoted final cost, lead times, payment terms, and the like. Everything is negotiable. Do not accept anything as initially offered.
  • You may want to do your due diligence to check the supplier’s credit rating and financial stability.  
  • Once you have clarified all your concerns and agreed to all the terms and conditions, you can select a supplier with confidence.
  • You will now proceed to place the order for the production. An integral part of the order is an agreement. This agreement will set out, step by step, every phase of the project, including all of the different samples.

You should now be armed to find a reputable and willing manufacturer and be able to confidently place your sample order.

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