Attending a trade show can be a great start to sourcing as you have access to a lot of fabric and trim vendors at once. However, it can also be a bit overwhelming at first. Sourcing for fabrics and trims is one of our favorite steps in the design process! We understand that sourcing as a new independent designer can present various challenges. Simply finding the vendors to contact in the first place is the first major challenge! You can find some fabric suppliers on Maker’s Row online. If you are looking to touch fabrics in person, you can check out trade shows like the DG Expo, LA Textile Show, and SOURCING at MAGIC, which are just around the corner. We thought it would be a great time to put together a list of items to bring to the trade show so that you can feel prepared. Here are 5 must haves that will be helpful while you source at the show:
1. A Camera
Hopefully you will find a lot of great fabrics and trims at the show! But sometimes this can lead to overload and leaving at the end of the day with your head swimming wondering what exactly just happened! It is super helpful to review everything through photos at the end of the show when you get a chance to sit down and regroup. Some of the vendors at the show will allow you to order swatches to be shipped to you later. Not only will the photos be valuable reference tools for fabrics that you could not swatch, but they will also help you keep tabs on what swatches have arrived so you can follow up with pending shipments.
2. A Notebook
Over the course of the show you will meet a ton of sales representatives and learn a ton of information. Keep very organized notes on the different vendors, their minimums, their sampling requirements and of course, who you talked to. Sometimes it is helpful to tape or staple business cards or any handouts that you receive right in to your notebook next to your notes.
3. Business Cards
You will not only want to give business cards to the sales representatives that you meet, but you might meet some other like minded designers to connect with again later. A trade show is a great avenue for networking inside your new industry. Try to chat with as many people as possible and make connections!
4. A Positive Attitude
Sourcing at a trade show can be exhilarating and exhausting. Remember to keep a smile on your face. This will make you more approachable and will make the sales representatives more receptive to speaking with you. Also, as some studies indicate, smiling can perpetuate a good mood:)
Having samples of what you’re looking for can be extremely valuable when speaking with a sales representative. Whether it is an actual garment or accessory, or just a fabric swatch that you found at your local JoAnne’s, this can help the sales rep point you in the right direction. Even if the vendor does not have the exact item you’re looking for, they might have feedback about your choice and then lead you in a direction of what would work for you.