How To Approach A Materials Supplier

So, you know the ropes of working with contractors. But what’s the deal with materials suppliers? Do you need an agent or a broker? And what questions should you ask them to ensure everyone’s on the same page? We’ve got a cheat sheet right here.

First things first: A glossary

  1. Mill: The factory where fabric or leather is made.

  2. Jobber: Wholesale agents or companies that sell excess fabrics, leather and other materials.

  3. Distributor: A person or company that provides wholesale fabrics to the public.

  4. Converter: A factory that customizes generic fabric or leather through dye, print, wash, etc.

  5. Agent: An individual who puts a buyer and a seller of immediately available and/or off-price fabrics together.

  6. Broker: A person or company that shows materials from one or more mills within a given territory.


How often are your material stocks replenished?

This is essential to know in case you find yourself making a large order in the future. You need to be assured that your chosen factory or supplier can accommodate the request in a timely manner.

Is my chosen material suitable for my product?

Paramount to the successful execution of a product is the suitability of the material. If your supplier isn’t confident of the answer, ask for a swatch to send to your production contractor, who should be able to determine the suitability either way.

How do you determine payment policies for first time and return customers?

Every supplier will have a different policy, but it’s important to note that some will offer better incentives for return customers. Creating a stable working relationship and building rapport can also influence how much lighter your wallet will be.

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Body image courtesy of Gore-Tex Creative Commons.

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