Fabric Sourcing for Business (Part 2)

The clothes you make are only as good as their fabrics. To purchase the strongest and most attractive materials out there, try these sourcing techniques on for size (pun intended).

1. Where Do You Turn?

Fabric stores probably won’t be much use to you when you’re sourcing. That’s because the amount of material they have on hand is limited. Fabric stores are great, though, for one-time-only projects and for gathering ideas.

You can start sourcing fabric by speaking to other clothing designers or by doing simple Google searches. Plus, major trade shows are worth attending since many manufacturers are present and you can take home a large number of swatches.

You can obtain fabrics directly from mills or from wholesalers and retailers. Just be wary of buying from fabric vendors called jobbers. Jobbers only sell what they have in storage. They don’t necessarily resupply their stores of fabric when they run out.

If you’re looking for a rare or exotic material, a fabric agent could assist your search. Such a pro could also help you narrow down your options if you’re not sure what you want.

2. Samples, Please

Try requesting samples from as many fabric vendors as you can. It’s one thing to look at or hold a piece of cloth; it’s another matter to turn cloth into clothing.
Your samples will show you how well various fabrics hold up as you turn them into articles of clothing. You’ll also discover how those materials look and feel when you or your models wear them.

3. A Few Other Factors

The look and feel of a fabric sample won’t tell you everything you need to know. Before placing an order with a fabric-selling company, find out the answers to these questions:

  • If you need material quickly, how soon can the business deliver?
  • What’s the least amount of fabric you’re allowed to buy? Is it more than you need? Mills, for instance, sometimes require businesses to purchase huge quantities of fabric.
  • Does the price work for you? Could you earn discounts over time?
  • What is the fabric’s cuttable width? How much does it weigh?

Be sure to look at lots and lots of materials — those you’ve never considered before and maybe those you’ve never even heard of before. Likewise, accept trade-offs here and there. Perhaps you’ve found a terrific fabric at a low price, but it’s not quite the color you were seeking. Why not buy it anyway? In short, keep your mind and your eyes wide open. It’ll be sew worth it.