Fabric Sourcing for Fashion Designers: How to Find the Magic Touch
Fabric selection is one of the most alluring parts of the fashion design process. It involves touching, testing, and imagining all the elegant, exquisite fabrics you’ve seen at fabric retailers on your real-life designs. But as enthralling as fabric selection can be, fabric sourcing can be an exhausting and complicated process that many fashion business owners feel unqualified to handle.
If sourcing fabrics is a foreign concept for you, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will teach you the ins and outs of where to search for fabrics, selecting the right type of supplier, reducing fabric costs, and avoiding beginner mistakes throughout the entire process. Once you’ve gained a knowledge of who to work with, what to look for (and where), you’ll be set to embark on your journey of creating your own fashion line.
Finding Your Fabrics
The first step to selecting the perfect fabric for your clothing line is knowing where to get it. While ordering online is always an option, there’s no way to assure that the fabric will actually look like it does online. You’ll want to touch and see the fabrics, compare pricing, and get input from the fabric suppliers themselves before ordering. This is where trade shows come in.
Trade shows are fabric sourcing fairs hosted in large metropolitan buildings or convention centers. They’re a place where hundreds of fabric suppliers gather to show off their fabric offerings and network with fashion brands like yours. Here, you can browse selections of a myriad of fabric types, learn about fabric suppliers from across the globe, and potentially place orders with them. Texworld and DG Expo in New York are two of the biggest trade shows in the U.S. Internationally, Premiere Vision in Paris and The London Textile Fair are also great trade shows to visit.
If you don’t have access to large textile shows, your next best bet is to get in touch with fabric representatives whose job it is to connect designers with fabric suppliers. Reps have an acute knowledge of the fabric sourcing process and will give emerging designers advice on finding suppliers for their specific fabric needs. They are masters at negotiating minimums and will make sure you’re not overcharged on fabric orders. Fabric reps will also help coordinate your fabric deliveries so that they arrive within your sampling and production schedules.
Choosing Your Fabric Supplier
Once you’ve determined the types of fabrics you’ll need for your clothing line, you must figure out how to acquire these fabrics at a reasonable price. Luckily, buying wholesale fabric for your fashion brand is a great way to reduce the costs of pricey textiles.
Buying fabric in large quantities also allows you to increase your production numbers, save fabrics for future seasons, and meet the minimum order quantity (MOQ) that most fabric manufacturers require. If you’re a new designer looking to produce high-quality garments, buying from wholesale suppliers may be a feasible way to afford the overhead of purchasing expensive fabrics.
There are different types of fabric suppliers defined by how they operate, their fabric quality, and their order requirements. Common types of suppliers include:
- Fabric Mills: These provide specially made fabrics often with hefty MOQs. Mills are frequented by large, high-volume and high-budget fashion retailers who can satisfy high order minimums. Fabric mill prices can be unobtainable for emerging designers producing small-scale lines since they often require you to purchase 1,000 yards (or more) at once.
- Converter: This is the consignment store of fabric suppliers. They acquire unfinished goods from fabric mills and proceed to finish them by dying, printing, or washing the fabrics before reselling them. Converters have low minimums compared to fabric mills — they sometimes allow orders in the hundreds rather than thousands of yards.
- Jobbers: These textile providers often supply only limited amounts of fabric quantities passed on from converters and mills. Jobbers usually sell at extremely discounted prices at the expense of their inability to resupply fabrics once they’re sold out. Keep in mind that when you purchase from jobbers, only buy fabrics for which you need a small quantity because you won’t be able to go back and purchase more.
Fabric Sourcing and Treatment
Even if you have a fabric rep to help you navigate the sourcing process, you will make mistakes your first time around. Your fabric may look completely different in person, you might mix up order quantities, or you might find out you paid way too much for a fabric you could have gotten cheaper elsewhere. The best thing to do is accept lower profit margins for the sake of testing out the market and getting accustomed to time and fabric quantity restraints.
If you want to minimize these beginner mistakes and get access to valuable resources and information about fabric sourcing, TEG has you covered. At TEG, we provide special fabric and trim sourcing and fabric treatment management services. The following services are provided with their respective packages:
Fabric and Trim Sourcing
TEG’s Sourcing Manager provides fabric swatches and trim samples for each style, and guides you through the purchase process along with:
- Sourcing intake session
- Expert input and planning
- Swatches and trims gathered
- Negotiating pricing and minimums
- Guidance in POs and ordering
- Tracking receipt of orders
- 1-2 rounds of revisions
Fabric Treatment Management
TEG’s Sourcing Manager provides professional oversight and management of your fabric treatments for each style and guides you through the process by providing:
- Treatment intake session
- Expert input and planning
- Artwork and lab dips coordinated for approvals
- Negotiating pricing and minimums with local vendors
- Guidance in ordering
- Coordinating send-outs for sampling or production
- Management of projects through completion
- Fabric dying and treatments, screenprinting, embroidery, pleating, custom prints, and more
TEG’s sourcing and treatment packages connect emerging designers with the right fabrics for their designs and provide fabric maintenance and customization. So whether you’re looking for a large range of fabrics, just a few different types, or want to totally transform the fabrics you already have, TEG will cater to your specific needs.
Support From the Sourcing Experts
For a fashion designer new to the business, even knowing where to look for fabrics can be a foreign concept. And when you consider the added tasks of going to trade shows, picking out fabric suppliers, fulfilling order minimums, and budgeting your entire line, it’s easy to see how you could end up in an overwhelming situation.
While hiring a fabric rep can help make the fabric sourcing process more manageable, having an entire team of fabric and sourcing specialists to take care of all your textile needs is a saving grace.
At TEG, fashion designers can receive expert sourcing assistance to find the fabrics they are looking for and manage the treatment of them. We specialize in providing high-quality creative services for fabric and trim sourcing that you won’t find elsewhere. Our top-of-the-line sourcing managers skillfully guide you through sampling fabric swatches, negotiating minimums and prices, tracking orders, and more.
Whether you’re an emerging or established designer, we’ve helped over 2,000 designers during the last 15+ years bring their visions to life. We’d love to help you, too!
For all inquiries and questions, please call or fill out the below form, and we will respond within 1-2 business days. Thank you!