I had a call from an entrepreneur in New York over the weekend. She has a succesful online apparel business and for the last three years has been using a supplier in Dongguan to make her products. She is about to head off to China for a few weeks, first to the Canton Fair and then to visit her supplier and other prospective vendors in and around Guangzhou. She is doing the right thing by heading over there, to discuss issues with her current supplier and to scout new suppliers as her business expands.
She asked me if Guangdong Province was the right place to be looking for apparel suppliers. It is a good question. I replied to her that historically much of the textile industry has been up north in and around Shanghai, in places like Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces. If I were doing apparel or home textiles heavy in design I would target these areas. About 50 % of the machinery in textile plants in Jiangsu meet international standards and design is probably more sophisticated given the province’s proximity to Shanghai. Having said that, Dongguan is home to over 6000 textile companies (about ¼ the number of textile enterprises in China ) and is probably as good a place as any to get started. If you are looking for a supplier then Dongguan is going to give you plenty of options, albeit much of the apparel production in places like Dongguan or Guangzhou is low value added product. Nevertheless I have known apparel companies over the years that locate their production in the south, where labor costs and the costs of getting goods to port have always been lower.
One trend now is that more and more companies are beginning to source in Central and Western China as labor and operating costs in coastal and Eastern China go up. So in recent years one sees more and more textile production occurring in places like Henan, Hubei, Jiangxi et al. And more low value added production is moving out of China to SE Asia and India so Chinese companies can concentrate on more sophisticated product.
Another thing to consider, if you are doing apparel or home textiles, is if there is a major fabric market near your vendor. If there is not your vendor may have trouble sourcing specific fabrics. In any case, it is good to do a little research to see where might be the best region to make your product. There are a lot of resources online and the better you understand China, and how different regions may meet your needs, the more smoothly your production will go. As they say in China 量体裁衣, “ liang ti cai yi trans. cut the garment according to the figure.