4 Fabric Sourcing Tips For Newbie Designers

New to the fabric sourcing game, or maybe you just need a refresher? Here are some key things to keep in mind before you get to the manufacturing stage.

Is it affordable?

Fabric typically accounts for 60% of your garment costs, so it’s key to keep this in mind when you’re selecting them from season to season. Fit and quality both need to be considered when you’re evaluating price, so once you’ve found one that checks all these boxes, keep it as your benchmark.

Is it functional?

This is where prototypes come in. No matter how beautiful or ideal it seems, your fabric has to be able to behave and hang the way the design calls for. Test, test, test to confirm. You’ll also need to make sure it works well not just on its on, but with any other fabrics that might be included in that particular garment.

You should also test to make sure that the fibers can handle the requisite finishing applications. This may be digital printing, wet printing, heat transfers or sublimation printing. Cotton and nylon, in particular, can be problematic when it comes to these applications, so it’s essential to know that you’re working with the right base fabric.

Is it available when you need it?

Typically, local fabric stores will only carry a set amount of yardage, which was bought from the overstock produced by designers or mills. This means that the fabric you want might not be available in bulk when you need it. Based on that, fabric mills are typically where you want to look: they’ll have larger amounts and new varieties each season. You can also buy smaller amounts for sampling. Often mills will also let you add your smaller quantities to a larger company’s order, and they’re generally more consistent and reliable than smaller fabric stores.

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What impact does it have on the environment?

It’s worthwhile investigating whether or not your fabric producers work within emission standards and environmental protection policies, from both an ethical perspective and a profit angle. Answering ‘yes’ to these questions can add value to your collection by making it more attractive to buyers and customers alike.

This article was inspired by an earlier post for Maker’s Row by Diane Walker. 

With these tips, you’re now ready to start sourcing from our database of 7,000+ factories. Or, if you want more help, check out our free Sourcing 101 course.

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