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Shipping from China to US (Sea Freight)

How to Import Clothes from China – The Ultimate Guide

China is fast becoming a production super power, manufacturing a hefty proportion of the world’s consumer products. Importing from China has proven a successful tactic of global sourcing for many businesses. This presents a fantastic opportunity to you as a buyer and reseller.

However, it is not an easy task, especially for the newbies. The importing process can be extremely complex, confusing, and costly. Expected gains can often be erased by long transit times, rising or fluctuating delivery costs, regulatory fees, and unexpected delays.

Here’s a step by step Guide from the view of us, a local freight forwarder serving the exporters in China and importers worldwide for years. Let’s check out how to import from China, and what you can do to make the process more smoothly and efficiently.

1. How to Quick Find Clothing Manufacturers in China

Here are 3 ways to help you quickly find clothing manufacturers in China.

You’ll be able to see which method is most suitable for your current circumstances.

China Clothing Markets & Fairs


It’s easy to directly list out the top 10 clothes wholesale markets in China, but some of them are useless for importers because:

  • They have a high second-hand price and
  • Inconvenient transportation (no international airport, located far from port)

So I’ll only show you the clothing markets that are suitable for importers.

Tip: China clothing markets are only suitable for importers that aren’t looking to customize their orders.

Typically, these suppliers only focus on the domestic market, so unless you’re dealing with a factory-direct sales booth (with past export experience), don’t customize your order.



(Don’t try to customize ODM order in the wholesale market)

Garments MarketMain TypeFeatures
Hangzhou Si Jiqing Market (Hangzhou city, Zhejiang Province)All types, women, men, children clothingTransportation: convenient
Price: middle and high-end
Combined with e-commerce best among these wholesale markets
Guangzhou Sha He Market (Guangzhou city, Guangdong Province)Cheap women clothing, jeans, men clothing, children clothingTransportation: convenient
Price: low
If you want cheap clothing, this is the right place.
Guangzhou Shi Sanhang Market (Guangzhou city, Guangdong Province)All types, especially popular Korean women clothingTransportation: convenient
Price: middle and high-end
Combined with e-commerce well, styles update very quickly in this market, follow the trends well.
Beijing Dong Wuyuan Market (Beijing, the capital of China)All types, women, men, children clothingTransportation: convenient
Price: middle and high-end
It is the biggest clothing wholesale market in the north of China, but noticed market location start move to new market from 2016.
Guangzhou Bai Ma Market (Guangzhou city, Guangdong Province)All types, especially the high-end women clothingTransportation: convenient
Price: High-end and middle
The head of the Guangzhou clothing market, old market. In Chinese eyes “High-end go to Bai Ma, middle go to Shi Sanhang, Low go to Sha He”.
Dongguan Fu Ming Market (Dongguan city, Guangdong Province)All types, especially the popular women clothingTransportation: 77km from Guangzhou, high-speed rail station
Price: low to high-end
Have rich factory resources here, many HK and surrounding countries source from this area.
Shanghai Qi Pulu MarketAll types, especially for high-end popular women clothingTransportation: convenient
Price: middle to high-end
The market always can follow or lead the trends.
See also  Sea freight from China VS Air freight from China



(AU visit china clothing fair)

For more information of China clothing fairs, you can get to know the China Apparel & Clothing Events in this website.

Industrial Estates

You may have noticed that all of these market distributors have the same thing in common: They’re either on or close to an industrial estate.


(Humen clothing estate, these buildings are for trading clothing online)

The most ideal choice has a complete industry chain, and with plenty of factories competing against each other, you can secure great prices while still maintaining top quality workmanship.

Tip: An experienced translator is necessary if you need to visit these clothing suppliers by yourself as they can assist you with producing the schedule.

Furthermore, most of suppliers can’t speak English unless they have international trade department.

The infographic below shows you which industrial estate you should visit to import either kid’s clothes, women’s clothes or men’s clothes from China.



Wholesale Clothing from China Online


(Some famous Chinese business portals)

Nowadays, we can easily search for suppliers from online Chinese marketplaces, such as Alibaba and Global Sources.

The advantage is obvious, you don’t need to come to China, and doing business with Chinese clothing manufacturers is just a click away.

You just need to bear in mind that you will be investing many hours filtering suppliers of similar products until you find some suitable candidates, then communicating with each one, arranging samples from them, testing etc.

These are common issues for all online wholesale clothing importers – not efficient enough.

It’s for this reason that some people consider visiting China directly.

2. Should You Import Clothes Online or Visit China? What’s Best to Grow Your Business


You need to make the right decision based on the circumstances of your business: import clothing online or come directly to China?

Start-up business

There are two reasons why you shouldn’t be too hasty in coming to China.

Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)

In general, when ordering from a verified medium-sized Chinese manufacturer, the MOQ is 500pcs (pieces) per style.

Requesting two colors in four sizes is a typical reference if you’re in touch with an ODM (Original Design Manufacturer).

Ordering any less than this won’t garner you any business with a medium-sized manufacturer, even if you come to China, as their attitude is that this is the minimum requirement.

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(Medium-sized Chinese manufacturer, around 100 workers)

Time and Cost

If you’re a start-up then you can save the money you would otherwise spend on transportation, accommodation, and translator’s fees, and instead purchase many more samples from Chinese suppliers online.

There are several online wholesale marketplaces for you to explore, such as: Alibaba, Global Sources, DHgate, and Aliexpress.

Medium Clothing Buyers

Have a stable distribution channel? Then don’t hesitate to come to China.

Get inspired

Visit the Chinese clothing market, factories and clothing fairs by yourself, and you’ll not only discover more supplier options, but also a rush of inspiration and excitement by seeing and experiencing a different culture, novel goods, and ways of conducting business.

Build a relationship with suppliers

Getting face-to-face with the supplier can help you better understand each other’s conditions and requirements, and you can build trust with the supplier, giving you peace-of-mind and strengthening your relationship.

As a result, not only will they provide better prices, but the service can also be more personalized.

Big Wholesalers & Brand merchandisers

Broaden your horizon, don’t just search in Alibaba or visit China.

Ask your cooperating quality inspection company

For big companies, there is always a need for Chinese clothing manufacturers that have previously been verified by BSCI, DISNEY, TARGET, SEDEX, etc.

If the search you’re performing doesn’t seem efficient, think how to maximum the use of your current resources.

A professional QC company always has a database of factories and they know exactly which manufacturer has already passed the tests.

If you’re working with a QC company, they can give you a list of manufacturers that meet your standards much quicker than you could vet them all yourself.

Look for more possibilities in your native country

It’s not easy to communicate with Chinese suppliers when you have many highly-specialized requirements, and sometimes the language and culture barriers can create unexpected problems.

If you absolutely want to avoid these issues then let a clothing importer from your native country help you.

The price is higher than dealing with a Chinese agent, but the trade-off is being able to communicate without barriers and drastically reducing the possibility of mistakes being made with your order.

3. How to Save Time and Money When Custom Apparel Manufacturing in China

Order Season:

The apparel manufacturing price fluctuates by season, and ordering at certain times can cut your costs and save you time.

Off season: May to September

Peak season: October to January

China has a big traditional festival — the Spring Festival.

The factories take a long break because the workforce go back to their hometown to celebrate the festival with their family.

If you delay your production after October the price will be higher and production time will be harder to control.

See also  Why is MOQ Important when Importing from China? how to bargain with supplier?

Whenever possible, arrange production from May to September.


(For most of factories, it is closed one month during Spring Festival)


Use the manufacturer’s stock styles to produce, labeling with your own brand.

The MOQ is around 100-200pcs, which is acceptable for most small to medium sized Chinese clothing manufacturers.

The advantage is obvious, low MOQ, in current popular styles, with easy order processing.

The disadvantage is that Chinese suppliers only allow slight modifications.



(make the paper pattern)

When you have your own brand and you need to massively scale your production, you can see the manufacturer as your own Chinese workers, with the core specifications of the product provided by you, which they then process.

Prepare the samples, size measurement chart, vector artwork files, list out the detailed requirements for woven label, washing label, package, accessories etc, and the Chinese manufacturer can help you make it happen.

If your design is original, you should sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement) with the manufacturer, otherwise they may recommend your styles to another client.

4. Avoid Package and Test Mistakes When Importing Clothing from China

If your own country or customer have requirements, such as the fabric being eco-friendly or the safety of accessories, obviously you mustn’t ignore this.

You can ask the manufacturer or find a third-party to do this.


(Suffocation warnings)

Clothing is packaged in polyethylene bags, and in some countries a printed suffocation warning sticker and an air hole is also needed.

Amazon sellers should check the packaging and prep requirements.

5. How to Ship Clothes from China Cost-effective?

For shipping we have: sea freight < air freight < express, with the price dictating the speed.

Because most clothing is a volumetric item, the best way for bulk shipping is via sea freight.

Express such as DHL, FedEx is best suited for shipping samples and small quantity light-weight goods.

If your order is of a medium quantity and want to move cycles quickly, then air freight is the best way, being more economical than express, and much faster than sea freight.


Quite frankly, my article can’t fully cover every angle and tell you the best solution because every person who wants to import clothes from China has different conditions.

The rule of thumb is to find a reliable supplier who has good communication, high cooperation, and a good production capacity.

You can try to find them online, at markets, fairs or the industrial sector.

Try more channels and conclude the most efficient and economical way.

Don’t let your fear failure or issues stop you, as running into problems is part of the natural process.

Nobody was born with the knowledge to import clothes from China without any problems!

If you have any questions about importing clothes from China, please feel free to reach me and we’ll aim to reply within 48 hours.

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