Complexities of Offshore Apparel Production: Italy vs. China

MakersValley Blog: Complexities of Offshore Apparel Production: Italy vs. China
Mia McCarthy

Mia McCarthy

Fashion is as changing as it is multifaceted and intricate. With many manufacturer options readily available for garment brands worldwide, the decision process of which to work with is not an easy one.

Here, we delve into the battle between the most prestigious apparel sourcing designation, Made in Italy vs. the most popular apparel sourcing designation, Made in China. As price and quality are primary points of consideration in evaluating where to manufacture clothing, footwear, and accessories, the choice of where to manufacture heavily determines your business trajectory. How do Italy and China compare in terms of the offshore production process? Let’s take a look.

The Cost Savings of Internationally Sourced Fashion

There is a vast difference in manufacturing costs from country to country. Whether that’s due to a lack of regulatory compliance or unbelievably high taxes and tariffs, there’s also underlying benefits that come with outsourcing to global manufacturing as compared to staying domestic. The shift of major brands’ apparel manufacturing to offshore partners can sometimes afford brands access to lower labor, material, and utility costs. From an economic perspective, we see the emergence of absolute advantage, where the producer, region, or country is able to manufacture products using fewer resources or less time than its competitors. The convenience that comes with this automatically results in the luxury of mass production with a shortened lead time, but at what cost?

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The Fashion Manufacturing Process in China

From a global perspective, it’s important to understand that the majority of clothing is made overseas in countries like Bangladesh, China, India, and Vietnam. These four serve as the largest garment exporters, heavily contributing to the rise in offshore fashion manufacturing. In terms of mass production, the advantages these countries have over the rest of the world specifically relate to cost and capacity. However, most of these countries have also been caught up in controversies of labor rights and environmental issues. As more consumers become aware of unethical labor and sourcing practices that occur in these countries, that creates a negative perception of the brands that manufacture there and the consumers who support it. From the legalities of labor laws and greenhouse gases emissions, there’s a dismissive story behind why these countries are so successful at what they do.

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The Appeal of Made in Italy Apparel

On the other hand, clothing with the prestigious “Made in Italy” label signifies a uniquely luxurious brand. Think about worldwide designer brands that shoppers see as luxury must-haves. Companies like Gucci, Versace, and Prada chose Italian manufacturers for a reason. Made in Italy has a strict focus on quality garment production while incorporating luxury-level creative designs and patterns. As opposed to the mass production, fast fashion route that China has taken, Italy has remained true to its craftsman legacy and maintained a traditional role in the fashion industry. Another thing to consider is the time value of money. When looking at manufacturing in countries like China, Bangladesh and India, you’re looking for both cheap labor and materials resulting in immediate savings for the company. However, take a second to think about where you want your fashion brand to be five years from now, post-COVID. When considering countries like Italy and France, you’re looking at a long term investment emphasizing the importance of consistency regarding quality and connections.

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The Importance of Maximizing the Benefits of International Clothing Production

While offshore production comes with pre existing challenges, forward looking luxury brands are tackling these using a mix of digital-assisted sourcing platforms, data driven trend forecasting, and creative supply chain delivery solutions. Due to price differentiation, cultural barriers, and time, brands’ manufacturer relationship and labor investment requires a lot of background research, validation, trust, and global market fortune-telling. As this industry constantly evolves, it’s important for both producers and consumers to recognize the variability between manufacturing in China vs. Italy. While it may seem as simple as differences in quality, there’s a much bigger picture to acknowledge, particularly for those at the forefront of tomorrow’s fashion industry.


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