What is apparel OEM (production)?

On this page, AGLUCA, which operates an apparel sewing factory, explains the process of making clothes for those who are launching an apparel brand for the first time (beginners) and those who are considering requesting OEM (sewing) from a sewing factory for the first time. We will explain the concept of estimation.

What is Apparel OEM (Overview)

OEM (OEM, British : original equipment manufacturer ) is a contract in which an external company undertakes the production of clothing on behalf of an apparel manufacturer (brand).

1. When the apparel manufacturer (brand) handles the design of the clothes, and the subsequent processes (procurement of fabrics and auxiliary materials, patterns, samples, mass production, etc.) are outsourced.

2. When an apparel manufacturer (brand) prepares designs, patterns, fabrics, and auxiliary materials, and only samples and mass production (manufacturing) are outsourced.

The scope of outsourcing differs depending on the company, but the common thing is that the apparel manufacturer (brand) handles the design in-house.

Therefore, the scope of outsourcing is different from ODM .

Apparel OEM flow (clothing manufacturing flow/process)

1.Decide/prepare the clothing design
2.Determine the fabric, thread, zippers, buttons, and other secondary materials
3. Create a pattern (clothing blueprint)
4. Creation of sewing specifications
5.Sample (prototype) creation
7.Mass production

1.Decide/prepare the clothing design

For apparel designers

I draw an image, create a collage, etc., and convey the image to the pattern maker, who then applies it to the pattern.

For directors, etc. (non-designers)

We prepare a large number of reference photos, magazine clippings, and clothes that we own, and then convey to the pattern maker the image of the clothes we want to create, and create a pattern.

The sleeves are like ●● in this photo.

The collar is like ●● of this dress I brought with me.

Please prepare some reference information for each part of the clothing.

Please be prepared to bring everything you can, such as photos, cut-out drawings, reference clothing (actual clothes), etc., to ensure there are no discrepancies in understanding, including size.

Points to note when conveying design images to external companies and pattern makers

・It will go a lot smoother if you prepare the details in advance, such as buttons, thread colors, front fabric, lining, etc., when conveying your design image.

・Please note that the reference images and actual clothes you have prepared will be left with us until the pattern making is completed.

2.Determine the fabric, thread, zippers, buttons, and other secondary materials

・Buy it yourself (advantages and disadvantages)

If you prepare your own auxiliary materials such as fabric (including lining), zippers, buttons, etc. and supply them to the sewing factory.

For the general public (first-timers), you can purchase it cheaply at Yuzawaya and Tokyo's Nippori Textile Town. However, it is not possible to know how much fabric is required for each garment until the pattern (paper pattern) is completed for mass production. Please be aware that in the case of specially priced or rare fabrics, there is a risk that the fabric may not be available at the time of mass production.

・Request purchasing (advantages and disadvantages)

When purchasing from a garment factory or apparel OEM company

Unlike purchasing by yourself, you can check with the fabric store about their inventory and purchase, so there is less risk of not having fabric at the time of mass production. You can also purchase fabrics with unusual patterns that are not commonly available, such as Takisada Nagoya, which is famous, and materials with special functions such as deodorizing and antibacterial properties. However, the disadvantage is that it takes time to negotiate with the fabric store, shipping costs, and order sample fabrics, so the unit price is higher than purchasing the fabric yourself.

I think that both garment factories and OEM companies will be able to handle either ``buying it themselves'' or ``requesting someone to buy it for you.'' (For us at AGLUCA, either is fine)

Precautions regarding fabrics

Fabrics may shrink or stretch when sewn or pressed (ironed). Therefore, even if you cut and sew the fabric according to the pattern, it often doesn't turn out exactly as planned. Please be aware that if the fabric changes, the pattern or specification sheet will have to be recreated from scratch. (Additional costs will apply)

Points to note when requesting a garment factory

fabric thickness

Although technically it can be sewn, it may not be possible depending on the thickness of the fabric.

Sewing machine settings differ depending on the sewing factory, such as sewing machines tuned for thick fabrics or thin fabrics.

For example, in the case of silk and denim fabric, the thickness of the fabric is completely different, so you may even need to use a different sewing machine. Also, most sewing machine tuning requires you to visit a sewing machine shop and pay a fee to change the settings, so it is not easy to change the settings.

Therefore, before consulting with a sewing factory, you must first decide on the fabric to be used, or you may not be able to sew the item in the first place, so be very careful.

In our case (AGLUCA), as of January 8, 2022, our sewing machine is tuned to suit thin fabrics (thickness of cotton, silk, etc.), so sewing may not be possible depending on the thickness (ounce) of the denim. there is.

3. Create a pattern (clothing blueprint)

It is common to create patterns using software called CAD. Also, before CAD became popular, patterns were created by hand.

My personal feeling is that it's 80% CAD and 20% handwritten. When I ask people why they don't switch to CAD, I hear they say ``I'm more familiar with handwriting and it's faster,'' so I feel like almost all pattern makers in their 20s and 30s use CAD. (Just my personal opinion)

Types of CAD

1. Toray “Claire Compo”

2.Former Asahi Kasei “AGMS”

3.Free software “Dressmaking CAD”

The one most used in the field is Toray's Clair Compo. (This is just my personal feeling based on my conversations with business partners and pattern makers during interviews. Several of them said they were using AGMS.) *We at AGLUCA are Toray Claire Compo.

Pattern delivery format

Data delivery. We will deliver the CAD data via email, etc. However, you cannot open it unless you install CAD software on your PC. Also, CAD is quite heavy, so you need a certain level of PC specs.

*Toray's Claire Compo costs tens of thousands of yen per month.

Can you make clothes without a pattern?

Conclusion It depends on the item (product), but there are some things that can be made without a pattern.

However, we do not recommend producing without a pattern (=clothing blueprint). Although you can make a simple tote bag without a pattern, you cannot make shirts, pants, jackets, etc. without a pattern.

The importance of pattern making

The comfort of clothing, the nuances of its design, and the silhouette it expresses all depend on the pattern. What is important is the "pattern".

We understand the designer's design intent (for this, of course, it is necessary to know the latest designs and various brands of clothing and trends), and we create a pattern by taking into account comfort, ease of putting on and taking off, and the scale of the fabric. The task of perfecting the details is a ``craftsmanship'' that can only be performed by someone who perfectly understands everything about making clothes.

Personally, I think the profession of a pattern maker, as well as designers, should be respected a little more, and the average price of pattern production in Japan is too low.

What is toile production?

Toile (French: Toile) is the process of making temporary clothing (sewing) using a temporary fabric called sheeting to check whether the pattern (design of a garment) is almost completed and it looks exactly as you imagined. It's a thing. It is sometimes expressed as "making a toile."

Toiles are not always assembled for every pattern, but are created by the pattern maker independently to check the degree of completion.

The fabric is a beige plain material called sheeting that can be easily cut by hand, so in actual fabric, the fabric will shrink or stretch when pressed or sewn, so assemble the toile → follow the pattern to make the actual fabric. Even if you sew with fabric, the product may not turn out exactly as you imagined. (That's how difficult the job is)

About size development and patterns (grading)

Patterns, which are blueprints for clothing , must be created for each size, such as S size, M size, women's size, and men's size.

Creating this pattern for each size is called grading.

A person who does this grading for a living is called a grader.

Pattern making (paper pattern creation) costs and prices

4. Creation of sewing specifications

The basic pattern (pattern) and specifications are made and delivered as a set.

Specifications are sewing instructions that summarize the points to be noted when sewing based on a pattern. It describes how to sew and what to be careful about when sewing.

Can you make clothes anywhere if you have specifications and patterns?

It depends on the thickness of the fabric mentioned at the beginning of this page (of course, the sewing level of the sewing factory is also important), but as long as you have these two things, you can sew (make clothes) at any sewing factory that meets the technical level. *If you have the sample (prototype) described below, you can definitely create it without any discrepancies.

By the way

If you look at branded clothes every season, the patterns are the same, but there are also many clothes that are released every year with different fabrics and secondary materials (buttons, zippers, etc.).

Therefore, we recommend that you keep the patterns and specifications carefully as they are assets.

5.Sample (prototype) creation│What are first and second samples?

Once we have the pattern and specifications, we can finally create a sample (prototype).

・First sample

・Second sample

There are cases where you want to correct ●● after the actual clothes are made, so depending on the brand, a second sample (second sample) is created by slightly modifying the size (pattern) and fabric based on the first prototype. ) may also be created.

The clothes lined up at the exhibition are first samples and second samples (and occasionally third samples).

You may sometimes hear the name "sample sale", but it refers to samples (=prototypes).

Also, due to budget constraints, we may display the first sample at an exhibition instead of making a second one, and it may be verbally explained to us that the specifications of ●● will change during mass production.

6.About sewing (and cutting) estimates

By making the sample, we can calculate the time it took to sew and the time it took to cut the fabric, so we can finally give you a sewing estimate.

We often receive requests for estimates in advance, but we cannot provide a detailed estimate because we do not know how long it will take to sew unless we make a sample.

The estimate we give you in advance is a "rough estimate" calculated based on past experience.

How is the sewing fee calculated?

As mentioned above

Calculated as production time x hourly price.

As of October 9, 2021, the minimum wage in Yamanashi Prefecture is 838 yen per hour.

Q: If it takes a total of 3 hours to sew and cut the shirt, what is the sewing cost?

A: The sewing fee is 3 hours x 838 yen = 2,514 yen! ! ! ! !

Hourly wage + transportation expenses + various social insurance + factory rent + utility expenses + recruitment expenses + training expenses + equipment purchase and maintenance expenses such as sewing machines + company profits

Adding these together is the cost of operating a seamstress for one hour. Also, even if the skills of seamstresses have improved, are they still being paid minimum wage?

Furthermore, how many Japanese people are willing to pursue a career as a seamstress because they can earn the minimum wage? They may have a family and it's not a luxury, but how do they earn a salary that allows them to live a normal life?

*If this issue cannot be resolved, there will be no sewing factories in Japan. It will collapse.

Details of clothing making estimates are released.

Why are the sewing charges different even though the pattern and specifications are the same?

Sewing time varies greatly depending on the fabric.

If there is a pattern match

For patterned fabrics such as stripes and checks, we will match the pattern. Since it takes more time, the sewing fee may increase.

For fabrics that are difficult to sew

Thin, smooth fabrics such as silk can be difficult to sew, and even experienced sewing staff may not be able to do it in the first place, and additional time may be required.

→Sewing unit price for sample sewing and mass production (price list)

7.Mass production

Mass production begins after the pattern, specifications, samples, estimate, and order amount are finalized.

The "intermediate iron (press)" is very important for sewing.

In addition, if the number of mass-produced items exceeds our in-house cutting capacity and we foresee a delay in delivery, we will ask an outside cutting shop to help with the cutting.

Sewing mass production process

・Reading the specifications together

・Fabric cutting


・Intermediate iron

・Finishing iron


・Meter reading

・Packaging (hanger or cardboard packaging)

*Time taken for the above process x hourly unit price = mass production cost


・Delivery on a hanger

・Delivery in cardboard packaging

Most are of these two types. Logistics companies such as Yamato, Sagawa, and Fukutsu are often used to deliver mass-produced items, but due to shipping charges, you may have to come directly to the garment factory to pick up the item.

Apparel OEM challenges

Even though we delivered the product after confirming the pattern, specifications, first sample, second sample, etc. during the process of pattern, specification, sample, and mass production. In rare cases, sewing may need to be redone. It's also free.

In most cases, this happens in the commercial chain: brand → OEM company → our garment factory.

This intermediate OEM company may not communicate well, and there may be a lack of confirmation somewhere along the way, and problems may be discovered after delivery. In most cases, the person responsible for this and all costs are left to the garment factory.

Even if the brand offers reasonable sewing wages, the OEM company takes a middle margin, and I was once forced to sew a garment that took about 2 hours for 1,300 yen.

So, is the existence of intermediary companies such as OEM companies and trading companies all bad? →I cannot say that this is completely true.

If you search on the internet, you can find many reasons why a trading company is generally necessary. Furthermore, many of the managers of garment factories are in their 70s and older, making it difficult for them to understand the latest design specifications. Communication may be difficult in the first place, such as having difficulty exchanging patterns, etc., not being able to use email, or having difficulty hearing. Intermediate OEM companies and trading companies act as hands and feet for these aging garment factories, and in some cases, they have staff who stay overnight to help with shipping, making them an indispensable presence for garment factories. This is a very difficult problem for a number of reasons.

Review of OEM process

1.Decide/prepare the clothing design
2.Determine the fabric, thread, zippers, buttons, and other secondary materials
3. Create a pattern (clothing blueprint)
4. Creation of sewing specifications
5.Sample (prototype) creation
6.Mass production

AGLUCA is a sewing factory, but also specializes in apparel OEM. We also help individuals, sole proprietors, and small businesses with sewing. We also accept small lots (men's and women's).

→We are a sewing factory that helps launch apparel brands.

Please contact us https://agluca.com/pages/contact