How to Source Fabrics for Your Fashion Product

Sourcing the right fabrics for your fashion products is half of the battle in developing the perfect garment.

However, the process can be overwhelming, long and frustrating, especially for a new brand that is new to the industry and can't yet commit to high volume.

How can you make this process more effective and less complicated?

Below I've put a checklist of the steps and actions that you should take to help you with that.

Know What You Need/Want.

This is the MOST IMPORTANT part of sourcing materials. You need to know:

What kind of fabrics are you looking for?

  • What are you looking to use them for?

  • What is the price that you can afford to pay? (decide on your retail price point and cost your product to figure this out).

  • What kind of quantities will you be comfortable committing to.

Without that info, you will find yourself spinning around for months without finding the perfect fabrics. 
What I would recommend doing is to collect references of fabric that you like, for quality, texture, colors, etc. You can get those from either a piece of clothing that you own or found or swatches from a fabric retail store. This will cut through all the unnecessary time of browsing through fabrics that are not right for you. Once you meet with fabric mill or an agent, show them your references and communicate the above info and they will tell you if they have any options to match that, and if they do they will then only show the selection of fabrics that will fit your needs instead of having you browse through their whole collection.

What to Ask? 
Once you found fabric options that you liked, it's time to learn more and see if they are a good fit for your needs. Here is a list of questions to ask: 

What is the price per yard/meter?

  • What is the fabric width? This is important because it will affect your fabric consumption per garment which will affect the cost of your garment. Sometimes, a more expensive fabric might work for your needs if it's wide, and therefore your consumption per item will go down.

  • Where is the fabric coming from and if the price includes shipping (LDP) or not (FOB)? It's not uncommon a fabric at your price point, but after shipping the cost of the fabric will be too expensive to use.

  • What are their minimum orders? And what are their tier pricing?

  • Is it a stock fabric, and if not what is the lead time for production?

  • Is the fabric repeatable? If you are looking for a fabric that you can use going forward, you want to know if it can be reproduced or will it be discontinued after this season.

  • If you are looking to print, treat or dye the fabric, ask about that and find out if the mill had any experience with that and what do they recommend.

  • Find out the content, weight and care instructions? Those are typically listed on the header but if not make sure to ask. Keep in mind that content alone will not tell you much about the fabric quality. Many times designers ask for a fabric with a specific content but are not aware that you can have the same content yet the fabrics will be very different, this has to do with how the fabrics were knitted/weaved, their weight and other components.   

  • Find out if you can get sample yards? Some mills might have them in stock and others might require a minimum for sampling.

  • What other brands are using it for? This question is one that many designers don't know to ask, and it can tell you if this would work for your products.

What to Do Next?

Once you found fabric option that you like and got answers that satisfied your needs here is what to do next.

  • Get a header. If you want to take more time to make a decision, especially if you have more then one quality that you are considering, then you can ask to get a header (it's free although sometimes you'll pay for the shipping).

  • Get sample yards. You want to get some yards to test the fabric and see how it acts as a bigger piece. It is sometimes hard to know from a small header how will a fabric drape, how easy it is to sew etc. Making a sample from the fabric will help you decide.

  • Test the fabric. Once you get some sample yards, I would recommend to abuse it (wash it a few times, etc.) and do a shrink test. Before you commit to fabric, you should have an idea of how it wears and what would your customer experience after having and wearing the garment for a while.

Need help with finding fabrics?
Want to learn more tips on How to source fabrics for your fashion products? 

Join me and Lilian Marino from Digifair, an online platform for sourcing fabrics globally, for a FREE webinar and learn best practices and insider tips from Digifair's Content Manager Lilian Marino, who will be discussing the ways technology can be used to connect fashion buyers and suppliers all over the world. 

When: Thursday, May 23rd at 1 pm EST
Where: Click below to join the webinar.