Suggestion: Watch the 20 minutes video tutorial before reading this article
In this product guide, we explain everything you must know about Underwear & Lingerie Manufacturers in China, including industrial clusters, supplier qualification and design customization options.
We also explain what you must know about potential quality issues and applicable labelling requirements – and substance restrictions in the United States and the European Union.
Underwear and Lingerie Manufacturing Clusters in China
China’s export oriented underwear manufacturers are largely concentrated in the country’s primary textiles production centers; Guangdong Province, Fujian Province and Zhejiang Province.
If you intend to visit manufacturers in Mainland China, you are likely to find yourself in one of the following cities:
- Quanzhou, Fujian
- Jinjiang, Fujian
- Shantou, Guangdong
- Guangzhou, Guangdong
- Dongguan, Guangdong
- Zhongshan, Guangdong
- Yiwu, Zhejiang
Underwear and lingerie is, in relative terms not a very capital intensive industry. Manufacturers in such ‘low value added’ industries then to be rather unsophisticated, thereby requiring a rigid Quality Assurance (QA) process, managed by the buyer.
The first step of the QA process is, as explained below, to draft a comprehensive product specification. There are, however, certain useful signals for qualifying Underwear and Lingerie Manufacturers:
- Business Scope (As specified on the manufacturers business license)
- Registered Capital (As specified on the manufacturers business license)
- Substance Test Reports (i.e., REACH and Oeko Tex Standard 100)
- Quality Management System / Production Lines Audit Reports (i.e., ISO 9001:2008)
- Social Compliance Certification / Audit Reports (i.e., Sedex and BSCI)
- Environmental Audit Reports (i.e., ISO 14000 series)
What to Include in your Underwear Techpack
a. Design Drawing
The product design can either be based on an existing ODM SKU, or an OEM specification. While you may submit, or submit, reference samples – they are only complementary to the design drawing. These are your options:
- OEM: Design drawing submitted by the buyer
- ODM: Design drawing submitted by the supplier
The design drawing must include all design elements and dimensions.
b. Reference sample
A reference sample is either provided by the supplier (when buying ODM products), or the buyer (when buying an OEM product). As mentioned, the reference sample is only complementary to, and not a replacement for, a design drawing.
The most straightforward method is to order fabric samples, or complete units, from the supplier. The buyer can then freely select the material of choice from the supplier’s standard catalog. Another method is to submit fabric samples, that the supplier can match with a fabric from their own standard catalog – or, in rare cases, weave the fabric entirely according to the specifications of the buyer.
d. Size Table
The size table is an appendix of the design drawing, listing dimensions for each size. ODM products can also be customized by adjusting the size table accordingly. The size table must also be complemented with dimensional tolerance
Underwear and lingerie are subject to general textiles labelling requirements. Said labelling requirements differs between markets, and buyers are unwise to assume that the supplier is aware of the specific requirements in your market. Hence, you must provide ‘ready made’ graphical files (.aiformat) to the supplier. Include the following:
- Label dimensions (i.e., 15 x 30 mm)
- Country of Origin (required in the United States)
- Washing Instructions and/or symbols
- Batch ID
- Logo / Website
The label can be printed on a double folded polyester patch, or directly on the inside fabric.
You should order samples from at least 4 manufacturers. The fail rate (i.e., the number of suppliers that fail to produce acceptable product samples) is normally around 50%. Hence, you need at least a handful suppliers making samples based on your techpack.
Below follows a few examples of what tends to go wrong:
- Incorrect material
- Bad seams
- Bad fit
- Incorrect / missing prints and labels
a. Common Quality Issues
Quality issues in textile manufacturing often stem from an incomplete or conflicting product specification. Below follows a list of common quality issues when buying Underwear and Lingerie:
- Incorrect dimensions
- Incorrect component position (i.e., double fabric)
- Incorrect / low quality materials
- Incomplete seam lines
- Dirty and damages
b. Quality Control
The purpose of the quality inspection is to defect quality issues before the produce is packed and shipped. When buying Underwear and Lingerie from Chinese manufacturers, you must draft a Quality Inspection protocol including the following procedures:
- Visual Inspection (i.e., Dirt, damages, seams and printed labels)
- Dimensions (i.e. Double fabric length)
- Fabric (i.e., Weight and Washing)
Regulations and Compliance Testing
Underwear and lingerie are subject to various substance regulations in major markets, primarily the United States and the European Union. Depending on your market, you need to ensure compliance with one or more of the following:
a. REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals)
- Country / Market: The European Union
- Description: REACH restricts the content of restricted SVHC (Substance of very high concern) in textiles, and other consumer products, sold within the European Union. The list of SVHC includes hundreds of substances, including lead, cadmium and formaldehyde.
- Read more: REACH Compliance Explained: What Every EU Importer Must Know
b. California Proposition 65
- Country / Market: California, United States
- Description: California Proposition 65 restricts more than 800 substances in consumer products. Products must either be compliant (i.e., proven rid of all restricted substances), or labelled accordingly. If your company is based in California, or if you intend to sell to buyers in the state, you must ensure compliance.
- Read more: California Proposition 65 Compliance – What US Importers Must Know
c. FHSA (The Federal Hazardous Substances Act)
- Country / Market: United States (All states)
Description: FHSA restricts various substances classified as, for example, irritants or strong sensitizers. This includes, among other substances, formaldehyde – a substance used by some textile manufacturers. The full list of mandatory bans and restrictions are available on CPSC.gov.
Read more: Regulations, Mandatory Standards and Bans (www.cpsc.gov)
Underwear Manufacturers in Vietnam and India
China is not the only destination for underwear and lingerie Importers. There are hundreds of qualified textile factories in other Asian countries, including Vietnam and India.
Many large brands are already making their products in Vietnam and India, as costs are generally lower. Notice that this doesn’t really apply to smaller buyers, as the lower salaries in Vietnam and India are offset by an increase in shipping costs.
That said, many Importers prefer to work with underwear manufacturers in Vietnam and India, for reasons explained in these articles:
- Clothing & Textiles Manufacturers in Vietnam: Complete Guide
- Clothing Manufacturers in India: Factories, Prices, MOQ & More
Do you want to launch your own underwear or lingerie collection?
It can be hard to go from a design drawing to finished product. To help you manage the entire process – from creating a specification, to sampling and quality control – we created a Starter Package for underwear:
a. Underwear Manufacturer Lists
b. Product Specification Templates
c. Underwear Label Samples
d. Tutorials, Video Walkthroughs and Task Lists that guide you step-by-step through the entire process
In addition, you can also book quality inspections, lab testing and shipping directly from the platform. Click here to learn more.