It is understandable that Wholesale Forum has a dedicated forum for sourcing from China. China has the largest manufacturing capacity in the world and cheap labor, and therefore has many cheap products to offer. I read a lot of posts here about buying ‘made in China’ clothing. But did you consider buying from Korea? I will give you a few good reasons why it is worth considering!

First, duty can make the difference.
Korea and the EU signed a Free Trade Agreement in July 2011 which lowered the duty on Korean clothing and shoes to 0% in almost all cases. Chinese clothes might have a lower purchase price, but when you factor in the duty on Chinese items (average about 12%), Korean clothes can be very price competitive. Of course this requires dealing with a supplier who knows how to provide the proper documentation for your shipment.

Second, in Korea you don’t just buy clothes, you buy fashion.
Korean clothing is much more fashionable. Korea has developed very fast in the past decades and now has a GDP per capita of 30,800 USD (the UK had 37,446 USD in 2012). So Koreans have some money to spend and on top of that are incredibly fashion minded and sensitive to trends. Local fashion brands thrive on this, just as much as imported designer brands do. This has resulted in a booming fashion industry. Korean fashion brands are, just as Kpop and Korean cosmetics, getting more and more international recognition. Even the unbranded/unknown clothing suppliers pay close attention to trends and aim to be fashionable, simply because their Korean customers will accept nothing less.

Why isn’t everybody buying in Korea then?
While some top fashion brands make it abroad, many suppliers for the mid-market remain unknown. They suffer from a too strong association with Chinese suppliers and get generalized as being cheap, poor quality, and fake. But that, in my experience, is only a small fragment of the total Korean market and it won’t last since other Asian countries are much cheaper and much better at making copies.

But the main reasons that the European market is not yet being flooded with Korean fashion are the limited English language skills of suppliers and the different way of working. That is why I believe the best option is to do business through a European (sourcing) agent. Reading on this forum I conclude that this is also common sense in dealing with Chinese suppliers.

Any Korea ambassadors on this forum?
I am curious to hear your experiences with Korean clothing suppliers. I hope some of you can testify to the claims I make in this post. And finally, for inspiration for future posts, I would like to hear what hesitations you might have in dealing with Korean suppliers.