White label, private label, ODM, OEM: what is the difference, and which is best for you?

From Concept to Couture: The Options for Building Your Fashion Empire

The terms private label, white label, ODM, and OEM are often confused. This very understandable since the difference is quite subtle. In the fashion industry, these terms refer to different business models for manufacturing and branding products, with the main difference being the level of customization and control.

What do the terms mean?

Let’s quickly dive into the exact meaning of those terms:

  • White Label: This is when an apparel manufacturer creates non-branded products that retailers can purchase and sell under their own brand. The products are generic and the same item might be sold by multiple retailers under different brands.
  • ODM (Original Design Manufacturer): An ODM company designs and manufactures a product which is then sold by the retailer under their own brand. This allows retailers to sell products without investing in design and manufacturing. In essence, ODM provides a level of design and customization that white label does not, as white label products are usually generic and not brand-specific. ODM products can offer unique features that are associated with the retailer’s brand, while white label products are more about providing a range of standard products (often from a pre-designed catalog) that can be branded and sold by the retailer.
  • Private Label: Similar to white labeling and ODM, but the products may be customized to a certain degree. The fashion retailer still sells these under their own brand, but they have more control over aspects like design, materials, sizing, and production of the products compared to ODM. Private labeling allows for a higher degree of customization and exclusivity for the retailer’s brand, as they can create unique products that reflect their specific vision and brand identity.
  • OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer): In this model, a retailer designs a product and then contracts a manufacturer to create it. The retailer owns the design and the brand, but the manufacturer produces the product.

How do they compare?

Each model offers different levels of control over the product and brand, and the choice between them depends on your business goals, resources, design experience, and the degree of customization you want for your products. When it comes to fashion retailing, each manufacturing and branding approach has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, as well as suitability for different types of retailers or entrepreneurs.

Here’s a breakdown:

ModelProsConsSuitable for
White labelSpeed to Market: Products can be launched quickly as they are already developed.

Lower Costs: Less expensive than developing a product from scratch.
Limited Differentiation: Products may be similar to those sold by competitors.

Less Control: Retailers have less control over product quality and features.
New entrepreneurs or retailers looking to expand product offerings quickly without significant investment.
ODMCost-Effective: Generally more cost-effective than OEM as the design is done by the manufacturer.

Faster Development: Quicker product development since the general design is already available.
Less Uniqueness: Products may not be unique to the market.Retailers who want to offer products with some level of customization but without the need for full-scale design and production capabilities.
Private labelBrand Control: Retailers have complete control over the branding, design, and quality.

Higher Margins: Typically offers higher profit margins than selling third-party brands.

Customer Loyalty: Can build customer loyalty with exclusive products.
Upfront Time Investment: Requires quite some time for the design process.

Inventory Risk: Usually this can only be done in larger batches. This means retailers must purchase and manage more inventory, which can be risky if products don’t sell.
Retailers with a strong brand identity and customer base, such as specialty stores or high-end boutiques that want exclusive products.
OEMComplete Customization: Full control over the product’s design, materials, and specifications.

Brand Exclusivity: Products are unique to the brand, enhancing exclusivity.
Higher Costs: More expensive due to the need for custom design and production.

Longer Time-to-Market: Takes longer to develop and launch products.
Larger and experienced corporations or established brands with the financial capacity to invest in custom product development and who seek a high degree of product differentiation.

Each approach aligns with different business strategies and goals, so retailers need to consider their brand, target market, and resources when choosing the best model for their business.

What does KKAMI offer?

We can basically assist you with all models of manufacturing your own brand.

The most basic form we offer is where we relabel an existing design from one of our Korean brands. This is basically what is called ‘white label’. The design will be the same but it will have your brand name on the tags. Of course, the relabelling will be done with the explicit permission of the original brand and the product is made in that brand’s factory. It especially appeals to shops that have good experiences reselling products from that factory and are happy with the quality and designs. This is an easy and common way for retailers to get started with their own brand.

From there shops will often naturally progress to ODM, usually after one successful season of selling white label products. They want to relaunch the same designs but then with slight variations. The most common is that they want to offer the product in other colors than originally were offered.

More customization is available too, like changing the fit, adding more sizes, changing the length, adding a print, etc. Or customizing the design to be suitable for other seasons, for example by making short sleeves into long sleeves and by using thicker fabrics. At that point we are talking about private label. We support several larger clothing retailers who have been very successful with this approach for several seasons already.

OEM is the least common for KKAMI buyers since it means that the client needs to have in-house design capabilities or has contracted a third-party designer. Although uncommon, we do support OEM projects as well. On those projects we often see that the client already has OEM experience elsewhere and is now looking into moving manufacturing to Korea. Manufacturing in Korea has several significant benefits: learn more about the benefits.

Where to start?

Start with relabelling! Find a design from one of our Korean brands that you like and have it relabeled to your brand. Most brands will be open to this.

The threshold for relabelling is incredibly low. Relabelling can often already be possible at a minimum of 30 pieces per size per color per design. Once it is approved by the original brand the process will usually only take about 3-5 weeks. And there will be only a small additional fee for making labels with your brand name on it.

You have thousands of designs to choose from across 4 distinct seasons. And you are not limited to designs from the new releases because this option is also available for designs from previous seasons and even from previous years.

You can choose based on what our bestselling brands and bestselling designs are. But even better would be to go by your own experiences and pick the designs that do or did well in your store.

Do you want to learn more or have questions about private label or other custom work?

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