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Sourcing fabric could very well be one of the most challenging aspects of product development.

There’s often a desire to find the “perfect” fabric and that can create an on-going sense of disappointment. There’s also an almost constant feeling of confusion and frustration when you ask yourself...where are all the fabric options? Do I have to go to a trade show? What do you mean it’s not re-orderable?!

I understand! You’re making a product, you have a vision, and you need options.

You also need low minimums, variety, the ability to order swatches without paying a fortune, and the availability for re-ordering as needed.

While that sounds like it shouldn’t be too much to ask, it often is. Mainly because the textile industry is still a little antiquated. And with the exception of a few key innovators, not much has changed in the last 60 years when it comes to sourcing your fabrics.

Because of this, it is your job as the designer, the visionary, and the founder of your company to educate yourself on fabrics, do your research, and figure out what are the best options for your product.


Know What You Need

It’s important to have a clear plan as to what fabrics you’re looking for. If you approach a supplier having only a vague idea of what you want, you’re not only doing yourself a disservice but you’re also potentially damaging your relationship with the supplier. You should be able to answer these questions:

  • What kind of fabrics do you want to use in your collections? (fabric structure, fiber, weight)

  • What colors or color family are you looking for?

  • Are you sourcing only eco-friendly fabrics? What, specifically (fair trade, vegan, organic, etc.)?

Know What to Ask

It’s important to make sure that you’re asking the right questions. You want to talk the talk so that you don’t seem like a total newbie.

  • Where are your fabrics made? (meaning, what country)

  • Do you stock this fabric? Is it re-orderable?

  • Is it 60”? (most fabrics are 60” wide, but some are 45”, this is important to know)

  • Ask about price, MOQ (minimum order quantity). Use phrases like: “What’s your production minimum?” or “MOQ?”

  • Ask about lead time. Use phrases like: “How long for sample yardage?” and “What’s the lead time for production?”

Know Where to Find Fabrics

When it comes to sourcing your fabrics, you have a few options, trade shows and referrals from fellow designers are popular ways to go. Online marketplaces are another option, and they can be very convenient.

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