Private Label vs Wholesale Clothing


Understanding the key differences between private label and wholesale clothing is an important consideration for any business looking to enter the fashion and apparel industry. With the right information, companies can determine the best route to meet their business goals, target audience, and budget. This article will provide an overview of private label and wholesale, compare the key differences, and factors to consider when deciding between the two models.

Private Label Clothing

Private label clothing refers to apparel that is designed, produced, and sold under a retailer’s own brand. The retailer handles all aspects of the process from design, manufacturing, quality control, marketing, and sales.

Business Model

With private labels, the retailer owns the entire process and has complete control over the final product. They work directly with factories to produce clothing customized to their specifications. The retailer owns the brand and handles all distribution.


  • Full creative control over design and quality
  • Build and own an exclusive brand identity
  • Higher profit margins by cutting out middlemen
  • Customization to target demographic
  • Exclusive products not available elsewhere


  • Large upfront investment and risk
  • Overseeing production and manufacturing
  • Building brand awareness and marketing from scratch
  • Limited flexibility or minimum order quantities


Wholesale Clothing

Wholesale clothing involves reselling apparel purchased from a manufacturer in bulk quantities at a markup. The wholesaler has no direct involvement in the design or production process.

Business Model

Wholesalers buy finished goods in bulk from clothing manufacturers to resell to retailers. They act as middlemen connecting factories and retailers.


  • Lower upfront costs and minimums
  • Gain access to many brands and a variety
  • Low risk compared to manufacturing
  • Focus on sales and distribution


  • Lower profit margins
  • Limited brand control or customization
  • Reliant on suppliers for inventory
  • Lack of exclusivity


Key Differences Between Private Label and Wholesale

Key Differences Between Private Label and Wholesale

Control and Customization

A major difference is the level of control, customization, and exclusivity possible with private-label clothing. Retailers can create customized products to differentiate their brands. Wholesalers are limited to what manufacturers produce.

Manufacturing Process

Private label retailers are directly involved in the manufacturing process. They oversee production, and quality control, and work closely with factories. Wholesalers simply purchase finished goods in bulk.

Brand Identity

Private label allows for building a unique brand image and story. Wholesalers rely on the brands they carry to attract customers. They have little ability to differentiate.

Marketing and Distribution

Private labels sell directly to consumers through owned stores or e-commerce. Wholesalers focus on marketing to retailers who will resell to consumers.

Factors to Consider

Evaluating the following factors can help determine if private label or wholesale is the best fit:

Business Goals

Private label allows full control to bring a brand vision to life. Wholesale offers faster startup selling proven products.


The private label requires significant upfront investment and risk. Wholesale has lower minimums and inventory costs.

Target Audience

Private labels can fully customize products catering to a target consumer. Wholesalers are limited to available inventory.

Growth Potential

Private labels own their brands allowing limitless scaling. Wholesalers rely on supplier relationships and availability.

Case Studies

Private Label Success: Everlane

Everlane demonstrates how a retailer can find major success with private-label clothing. They focus on high-quality basics marketed as premium essentials. By controlling design and manufacturing, they create elevated basics compared to mainstream brands. Their direct-to-consumer model allows price transparency and cuts retailer markups. Everlane has built a loyal following and grown into a recognizable brand.

Wholesale Success: Dressbarn

Dressbarn originally found success in the 1960s as a wholesale women’s clothing retailer. By reselling recognizable brands at affordable prices, they grew quickly with limited risk. Focusing on sales, marketing, and strong supplier relationships allowed scale. Dressbarn reached over 650 locations at its peak demonstrating wholesale’s potential despite its disadvantages.

Future Considerations

Some key trends to consider include:

  • Consumer demand for quality and sustainability – Private label allows control over ethical and eco-friendly practices.
  • Price and inventory competition online – Wholesalers must differentiate beyond bulk pricing as consumers price shop.
  • Diminished brick-and-mortar relevance – Direct-to-consumer private label e-commerce provides better margins.

The apparel industry will continue evolving. Businesses must adapt their strategies to emerging consumer preferences and technology.


The major considerations for private label clothing versus wholesale come down to control over branding and customization versus lower risk and investment. There is potential for success in both models. Conduct thorough research and make strategic choices aligned with your specific business goals and resources. With a balanced assessment of private label and wholesale clothing, each offers unique advantages as pathways to start or grow in the fashion industry.