Sourcing material and Contractors
Earlier in the course, you learned about fashion forecasting, so you should have a firm grasp on how to preview what will be available to you before each fashion season begins.
During this critical phase, you should have also previewed the hottest fabrics and trims to give you a good idea of what you want to use and order for your line.
Once you reached the range planning portion of fashion design, you may have noticed that your products and suppliers change frequently.
The reason for this is the competitive nature of the fashion industry. To understand how to efficiently source the materials, fabrics, and trims you will be using in your fashions, there are a few important things you should commit to memory.
Since every garment begins with fabric, you should consider fabric selection and sourcing a critical step that can either make or break your design.
This can also be an overwhelming phase for designers, so to help keep things in order let’s first look at where your fabric comes from:
When you choose to source fabrics from a textile mill, you are purchasing materials directly from the source. A textile mill weaves or knits the fabrics directly in-house, then sells it to wholesalers, textile agents, or manufacturers.
A converter will source printing plants and fabric mills for unfinished materials or greige goods, then convert them into finished fabrics. The converter outsources contractors for printing, dyeing, and other processes. They also work closely with manufacturers and other retailers who are up against short lead times.
Often, designers will import fabrics from other countries. In this case, they are ordered on indent, which means they are made in advance. The lead time for imported fabrics is generally 12-16 weeks to accommodate the overseas manufacturing cycle. There are several major fashion importers worldwide including the United Kingdom, US, and Asia.
An agent works as a representative of the textile manufacturer and wholesaler. They sell fabrics on commission but do not sell any stock.
If you choose to source through a stockist wholesaler, you are selecting a convenient supplier with a short lead time and a ready supply of fabric. Stockist wholesalers purchase finished product from manufacturers, then carry the stock, which is then sold to retailers and manufacturers.
Although designers try their best to avoid wasting fabric, some excess material is unavoidable. So, disposable agents known as a ‘jobbers’, will come in and purchase any excess materials at up to 75 percent off. The designer can then source the fabrics at a discounted rate.
Now that you know the different sources available to you, it might seem like all you have to do is order fabric and wait.
However, before you choose to do business with anyone, you need to ensure that you run through these questions and include the answers in your sourcing strategy:
To make sure that everything runs according to plan, always ask your fabric manufacturer about production and delivery lead time. Depending on the amount of material you order and the type, you might need to allow several weeks for processing.
When you are first starting out in the fashion industry, you might run across suppliers who require a minimum order quantity.
In this instance, you will have to guarantee an order for a few hundred yards of fabric, which might not be possible as an emerging designer.
If this occurs, you can outsource cheaper materials from a supplier with lower minimums, but it is important to ensure you check quantities before purchasing.
Before you order fabric, always make sure that you check the width to ensure that the pricing is based on length, not width.
Many people will assume that all fabric is the standard width, but some handwoven and wholesale fabrics are wider.
Another important thing to consider is if your fabric will continue to be in stock once you mass produce.
Make sure you discuss stock availability in advance before ordering anything with a supplier.
Always shop all of your sourcing options and take into account your whole profit margin.
Remember it never hurts to ask, so find out if the supplier offers tiered or wholesale pricing.
Sustainability and Ethical Policy
As an emerging designer in the fashion industry, it is up to you if you want to select a supplier who chooses sustainable materials or processing methods.
However, it is becoming increasingly popular amongst both consumers, manufacturers, and designers, and it is something you might want to consider as you source suppliers.
Many suppliers are becoming more transparent with ethical policies and standards regarding materials they choose to use and what they represent.
Since you are creating a design that represents you, it is your responsibility to be aware of what is going on at every stage.
For example, if you find yourself selecting a supplier who turns a blind eye to the unethical treatment of cotton growers, it might reflect poorly on your designs.
If you want to ensure that your designs reach full production, it is important to ensure you are sourcing fabrics from reliable suppliers who can guarantee the stock that you require.
The first place you should begin searching for reliable suppliers is online because it is convenient and will provide you plenty of details.
Look under the Resource Section for this module to find some good suppliers.
(Module 6 -Websites)
After you have researched the internet and located what is available, you might still want to explore other options available to you.
Trade shows are a favourite amongst up and coming fashion designers because they allow you to research fabrics, order samples, and shop fabric businesses.
There are several notable trade shows in the United Kingdom that you can visit for sourcing, including the Textile Forum, Premiere Vision and The London Textile Fair.