trade show

How to Source Fabric at a Trade Show

It is officially fabric trade show season! What does that mean for you?

There is a good likelihood that there is some sort of wholesale fabric show happening in a city near you — whether that’s a short plane ride or right down the street.

StartUp Fashion put together a comprehensive list for 2019 here.

Why would you want to go to a fabric trade show as a designer or brand?

It’s not because you should buy fabric.

It’s not because you should collect business cards.

And it’s not because most of them are free.

The reason to go to a fabric trade show is so you can see hundreds of different fabrics in one place. 

So you can hold them in your hands.

So you can compare them to each other.

So you can feel the different weights and textures.

It’s so you can cut down on the amount of time you spend waiting for swatches to arrive in the mail.

If I’ve convinced you that it’s a worthwhile trip to make, here’s what you need to know next:

How to make the most of your time there.

And that’s what this video is all about… 

5 tips for making sure you have a successful trade show experience.

Have you already been to a trade show before? Leave a comment below the video and let me know which one(s) you’ve gone to. 

Also, leave a comment if I’ll see you at TexWorld USA next week!

 

 

texworld

What to See at TexWorld USA 2019

If you’re a designer or fashion startup searching for fabric, then you’ve likely heard of TexWorld USA

TexWorld is one of the leading fabric trade shows and every July it comes to New York City for three days of supplier exhibition, education and networking.

If you live in the Greater New York or New England areas, I highly recommend attending. 

While the show is a bit overwhelming, and the supplier MOQs can be high, there is no better way to see thousands of fabrics at your fingertips.

It’s also an opportunity to hear from leading industry experts on a wide variety of topics — at no cost to you.

That’s right, attendance to the trade show is absolutely free.

If you can join us, here are some of the events you won’t want to miss:

MONDAY, 7/22

Fashionsustain

The entire first day of the show is dedicated to the future of sustainability in the fashion industry.


TUESDAY, 7/23 @ 11:30am

From Launch to Growth: How to Gain Traction and Surpass Goals in Your Fashion Business

Hosted by Nicole Giordano of StartUp Fashion, this “Textile Talk” on the showroom floor will discuss how to grow beyond launch by creating brand personality, building customer relationships, and overcoming obstacles to better market your business and reach your goals.

@ 2:30pm

Starting a Sustainable Fashion Brand from Scratch: A Conversation with Factory45

Join me for a chat with two brands that have launched through Factory45. Mary Bemis, founder of Reprise Activewear, and Tiffany Shown, founder of Fair Seas Supply Co., will share how they launched their brands without investors or thousands of dollars sitting in the bank.

texworld

WEDNESDAY, 7/24 @ 11:30am

Upcycling: Exploring Options in Today’s Landscape and How Brands and Individuals Can Make a Difference

This panel boasts some of the leading names in the circular economy of fashion, including Nicole Bassett of the Renewal Workshop and Rachel Kibbe of Helpsy. This is a chance to hear about different aspects of upcycling and what options and opportunities are available to both brands & individuals to be better stewards of reducing our environmental impact.


The full schedule for the educational program is here.

And if you’re wondering if the show is worth attending or how to navigate the time you spend with exhibitors, I wrote a guide to fabric sourcing at a trade show here.

Hope to see you on July 23rd!

sustainable fashion

September’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

This is the third part of a multi-month photography series, featuring sustainable fashion products on Instagram. You can see July’s products here and August’s products here.

I started this project to help integrate more ethical and sustainable fashion into the multi-million dollar Instagram shopping scene.

It’s also in preparation for the upcoming launch of Market45, an ethical fashion marketplace.

Featuring 20 invite-only brands that have launched through the Factory45 program, this online marketplace will be an easier way to shop sustainable and ethical fashion all in one place.

If you’d like to request early access for holiday season 2018, click here.

Now keep reading for September’s featured sustainable fashion products (all of them are Factory45’ers!):

DALLAS DAWS DESIGNS SLOAN JACKET

DALLAS DAWS DESIGNS | SLOAN JACKET

With what began as a creative outlet, Factory45’er Dallas Daws started experimenting with minimalist silhouettes that aimed to be both timeless and multi-purpose.

She wanted to create clothing that her customers could throw on to run errands, but still look put together for work. Over the years, Dallas has refined her aesthetic and developed the business she runs today, Dallas Daws Designs.

The Sloan Jacket that I wore for this month’s shoot is part of the new Linen Collection. It has pockets (win!), three-quarter sleeves for multi-season wear and is perfect for layering.

All Dallas Daws Designs are thoughtfully designed, sustainably sourced and handmade to order in the USA.

You can shop the Sloan Jacket, as well as other Dallas Daws pieces here.


FAIR SEAS SUPPLY CO. THE SAN CLEMENTE ROUND BLANKET

FAIR SEAS SUPPLY CO. | THE SAN CLEMENTE ROUND BLANKET

Inspired by the beaches of California, Factory45’er Tiffany Shown launched Fair Seas Supply Co. in 2015 with a collection of organic cotton round beach blankets.

Over the past three years, she’s expanded her product offering, added new collections and built a brand that’s been featured by The Boston Globe Magazine, Elle and other media. The Charleston Collection was also one of the featured products in CauseBox this summer.

One of my favorite things about Tiffany’s story is that when she joined Factory45 in 2015 she had no idea what she wanted to create. She only knew that she wanted to start a business, so when she landed on the idea of Turkish towels she ran with it.

Fair Seas blankets can now be found in retailers across the country, including the Four Seasons Hotel in Hawaii.

You can shop organic cotton Turkish towels and other accessories here.


MILO + NICKI THE SIESTA DRESS

MILO + NICKI | THE SIESTA DRESS

With a mission to empower women to go after their dreams, Factory45’er Nicki Patel started milo+nicki, an ethically-made, cruelty-free womenswear line.

The brand got its start in 2016 with a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $20,000. Launching with a six-piece capsule collection that was ethically made in NYC, Nicki has continued to grow her product line.

The Siesta dress (pictured above) is made from handwoven banana fabric (yes, that kind of banana!), hand-dyed with plant-based dyes and has GOTS-certified organic cotton lined pockets.

milo+nicki has been featured in the print version of Vogue, as well as Darling Magazine, Eluxe Magazine and other notable press.

You can shop the Siesta Dress and other milo+nicki pieces here.


REGENEROUS DESIGNS | BIG BRAIDED HEADBAND

REGENEROUS DESIGNS | BIG BRAIDED HEADBAND

During the production process of making your clothing, pounds and pounds of perfectly good fabric goes unused and is thrown away.

Factory45’er Alyssa Bird started Regenerous Designs as a way to use this discarded designer fabric, before it’s thrown out, and make versatile accessories.

Each piece is handmade in the USA of high quality fabric remnants — that means everything is limited edition and made to last.

You can shop all Regenerous Designs accessories here.


To see the rest of September’s featured products, come on over to Instagram by clicking here.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. I am not an affiliate of any of these brands and do not receive any financial gain if you make a purchase. My only goal to bring more sustainable and ethical fashion options to your wardrobe.

August’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

I mentioned last month that I’ll be featuring a series of sustainable fashion brands and products here and on Instagram.

This is all in an effort to help integrate more ethical and sustainable fashion into the multi-million dollar Instagram scene where, for the most part, fashion bloggers and “influencers” are touting fast fashion and cheap deals.

But it’s also in preparation for the upcoming launch of the newest Factory45 project:

Market45, an ethical fashion marketplace.

Featuring 20 invite-only brands that have launched through the Factory45 program, this online marketplace will be an easier way to shop sustainable and ethical fashion all in one place.

If you’d like to request early access for holiday shopping 2018, click here.

And then keep reading for August’s featured sustainable fashion products below:

VESTA STUDIO HALF MOON WRAP DRESS

VESTA STUDIO | HALF MOON WRAP DRESS

In 2017 Factory45’er Kendall Wilson launched Vesta Studio, a collection of 100% vegan womenswear.

Born out of a love of high quality, luxurious textiles — that are also cruelty-free and eco-friendly — Vesta Studio is inspired by the philosophy of “buying less, but better.”

Each piece is made one at a time to reduce waste, lessen sitting inventory and to offer an affordable price point to customers.

Vesta boasts “versatile clothing for a life of simple beauty,” and the Half Moon Wrap Dress has been exactly that for me.

I wore this dress when I was seven months pregnant, and I’ve continued wearing it in the months after giving birth. It’s incredibly comfortable, very flattering (if I do say so myself), and I absolutely love the drape, texture and color of the fabric.

You can shop the Half Moon Wrap Dress, as well as pre-orders for the new collection here.


BOOB DESIGN ‘CHARI-TEE’ MOTHER

BOOB DESIGN | ‘CHARI-TEE’ MOTHER

I was first introduced to BOOB Design when my web designer gifted me with one of their maternity shirts for my birthday last year.

The Scandinavian company puts sustainability at the forefront of their business model, and I ended up purchasing several other maternity garments throughout the course of my pregnancy.

The thing that sets BOOB above and beyond other maternity wear (besides their fabrics and manufacturing) is that almost all of their garments convert into nursing wear.

So when BOOB reached out to ask if I’d be apart of their “Chari-Tee” campaign I jumped at the chance.

For every one of these tops sold, they donate 5 percent of proceeds to Every Mother Counts, a non-profit dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother, everywhere.

You can shop the ‘Chari-Tee’ and other sustainable maternity and nursing wear here.


GOOD ON YOU ETHICAL SHOPPING APP

GOOD ON YOU | ETHICAL SHOPPING APP

So, this isn’t a sustainable fashion product you can wear but it’s an amazing product you can use the next time you ask yourself: “How do I know if a brand is ethical?”

Good On You is an ethical shopping app that rates over 2,000 brands so that you know exactly where they stand in ethics and sustainability.

The app uses a five-star rating system to assess the sourcing practices of each retailer or brand using the following labels: “We Avoid,” “Not Good Enough,” “It’s a Start,” “Good” and “Great.”

If you’re just starting out in your ethical fashion journey, this is a great tool to keep in the palm of your hand.

You can download the Good On You app and install the desktop plug-in here.


To see the rest of August’s featured products, come on over to Instagram by clicking here.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. I am not an affiliate of any of these brands and do not receive any financial gain if you make a purchase. My only goal to bring more sustainable and ethical fashion options to your wardrobe.

5 Myths About Starting a Fashion Brand

What to Believe? 5 Myths About Starting a Fashion Brand

If you’ve been in the fashion industry for a while or if you’re thinking about launching your own brand, you’ve likely heard advice, or maybe even rumors, that have stopped you in your tracks.

What’s true, what’s outdated and what’s simply false? Today I’m going to touch on five of the big myths that I hear most often:

1.) I can’t talk about my idea because someone will steal it.

It always makes me a little sad when I hear this because it’s fear-based thinking. And this type of mindset has no place in entrepreneurship.

The truth is, 99% of ideas never see the light of day. The chances of someone hearing about what you’re working on, stealing the idea and then actually launching and selling it, are slim.

That’s not to say it doesn’t happen on occasion, but your energy is so much better spent focusing on executing your vision and doing it your way. After all, your unique way of doing things is what is going to set it apart from the competition.

If you’re still not convinced, I’ve written about copycats and competition extensively here and here.

2.)  If you build it, they will come.

As nostalgic as this expression may be for baseball fans, it simply doesn’t hold up when it comes to starting an apparel brand.

That’s all to say, just because you complete a sample run, finalize your patterns and find a production partner, doesn’t mean that you’re set up to sell.

It’s estimated that about 75% of your pre-launch work should be dedicated to building an audience before you launch. That’s right, pre-production only makes up a quarter of your overall business strategy.

One of my most overused expressions is, “Don’t launch to crickets.” In other words, if you haven’t been building up buzz around your launch for months – yes, months – then it’s likely your sales will reflect that.

Within the Factory45 program, we dedicate 11 weeks to pre-launch marketing alone. In fact, Factory45’er Morgan Wagstaff says:

“The greatest gain for me was Shannon’s insight into marketing and launch strategy. I was able to connect with and get my brand in front of like-minded people because of the concepts and tools laid out in the course and that made a world of difference.”

There are lots of other “myths” I’ve heard over the years and one of the things I love most about my work is being able to bust those myths

3.) Suppliers will tell you what type of fabric you need.

Not true, and to be honest, they shouldn’t have to. Despite what you may think, it is not a supplier’s or manufacturer’s job to educate you. And you’ll start off on the wrong foot if you’re expecting that.

If you don’t know how the manufacturing industry works, how to place a fabric order, what you need for production, etc., then you should go back to the drawing board, do some research, read some blogs, books or hire someone to help you.

There are some surefire ways to shoot yourself in the foot before you’ve even really started and you need to learn what those are before you expect suppliers to give you their time. The sourcing network within the U.S. is relatively small, too, so you want to do whatever you can to avoid getting a reputation as *that* person.

4.) If you want to be taken seriously, then you have to go to fashion school.

I wrote about this last week and was happy to hear so many positive reactions. If you missed it, you can read it here.

5.) You need at least $500,000 or a celebrity endorsement to get started.

That may have been true years ago, before the internet and crowdfunding, but nowadays the average Factory45’er has been able to launch their first collection with just $20,000.

If that sounds like a lot, remember that this isn’t $20,000 you’re expected to have lying around in your bank account.

Through the work we do in Factory45, I teach all of my entrepreneurs how to raise money in a way that allows you to test the market and get your early customers to finance your first production run for you.

Too good to be true?

See for yourself here, here and here. (There are many other examples on our Alumni Stories page here.)


There are lots of other “myths” I’ve heard over the years and one of the things I love most about my work is being able to bust those myths.

The Factory45 philosophy proudly goes against fashion convention, and I’m excited to work with a new group of entrepreneurs this year who aren’t afraid to think outside the box, too.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

important product testing

The 2 Most Important Things You Should Know About Product Testing

Consider this scenario.

You spend years dreaming up the perfect apparel product.

You spend months meticulously creating it.

You tweak and stitch and hem and haw over it until…

It’s perfect.

To you.

But what about the lady on the other side of the country, who really wishes the zipper slid up and down a little easier?

Have you tested it to make sure it’s also perfect for your customer?

There are two phases of product development that I would say are a must.

1.) To test your product in the pre-product development process.

2.) To test your product in post-product development.

First, you want to test your concept.

The easiest way to do this is by sending out a survey to your target market (ideally through your email list). This should help you identify your ideal customer, as well as let you know how likely they are to pay for your product.

Once you receive the feedback, consider every bit of it. Make any necessary changes before you move on to develop your patterns and samples.

An important note here: People may not know what they want, but they definitely know what they don’t want. Phrase your survey questions in a way that provokes your future customer to tell you what they don’t like about similar garments on the market and how they feel they could be improved.

The second test is a user test of the product after the sample has already been made.

Start this process by checking to see what is federally mandated by your country for the manufacturer. For example, in the United States, baby clothing has required testing.

If you aren’t sure what testing may be required by law, use this page on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website to find out. (Note that this is specific to the U.S.)

You want to ensure that you’re offering a product of quality, value and safety. You need go that extra mile to make sure what you believe to be perfect, is actually perfect.

Don’t let this overwhelm you. Testing agencies are out there who specialize in a wide variety of consumer products. Many of these tests are budgetfriendly, as well. Do the research, find out what you need and factor it into your budget.

Your other product testing outlet is going to be much easier

Your family and friends.

This has proven by many first-time entrepreneurs to be the most honest and easiest form of feedback. Reach out to someone in your target market who will be brutally honest and let you know what they like and what can be improved.

Once those two tests are completed, you’ll feel ready and confident to move into production.


3 Podcasts for Sustainable Fashion & Startup Inspiration

Has anyone else jumped on the podcast train? I can’t seem to get enough of them.

I’ve shared before that podcasts have been apart of my morning routine since 2014. It’s usually the first thing I do when my alarm goes off.

Recently, though, I’ve had the opportunity to get in front of the microphone myself. So today, I wanted to share three different interviews I’ve done (about three different topics) in case you’re like me, and are constantly looking for more content to tune into:

The Creative Giant Show: How to Sew Business Success in the Fashion Industry with Sustainable Apparel Strategist Shannon Whitehead.

I connected with host Charlie Gilkey back in 2010 when I was just starting to explore the world of entrepreneurship. And I was recently invited on his podcast to talk about:

  • Why I decided to start a sustainable apparel company, despite the risks involved.
  • Which challenges to consider if you’re thinking about starting a clothing company.
  • Which business trends are disrupting the fashion industry.

>> Listen here 

Conscious Chatter: Made in the USA

I mentioned this new podcast in my blog post from last week — it was started by my friend Kestrel Jenkins who has been in the sustainable fashion industry for years. Our interview focuses on “Made in the USA” and Kestrel and I discuss:

  • How outsourcing affected the U.S. economy after NAFTA was signed.
  • Why localized manufacturing is important for every country.
  • How the movement is growing because of small, independent brands.

>> Listen here

Bootstrapping It: Creating an Online Accelerator Program for Apparel Startups with Shannon Whitehead, Founder of Factory45

Host Vince Carter interviews entrepreneurs who are bootstrapping their companies rather than trying to raise VC funding. So, of course, we had a lot to talk about. In the interview, we cover:

  • Why you should be honest with yourself about your business ambitions.
  • How to use Kickstarter and pre-sales to fund your business startup.
  • How to strategize so that you spend your startup funds on the right resources.

>> Listen here

Enjoy!

 

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 


Market45

apparel production

Preparing for Apparel Production: A Video Interview with Clothier Design Source

The question that so often comes up for new designers is about production. For anyone who is new to the industry, the apparel manufacturing process is something of a mystery.

With every production partner having its own way of doing things, this isn’t surprising. Production is one of those parts of creating a physical product that, until you’re in it, there’s no way to fully prepare.

Challenges will come up for you that won’t come up for your peers. Questions will go unanswered until you’re in the thick of the production line. And truthfully, the best way to learn is by going through it.

With that said, there are ways to prepare yourself, knowledge to obtain and lessons to learn before you dive in. The better prepared you are with the concepts, terms and order of production, the better off your first production run will be.

With this in mind, I interviewed Mindy Martell, the owner and president of Clothier Design Source, an apparel production house in St. Paul, Minnesota. In this 20 minute video interview, Mindy and I talk about:

  • Some of the early mistakes that new designers make in the production process.
  • A list of the 7 most important things you need in place before you can start production.
  • An explanation of what grading is, why you need it and what’s involved in grading a garment.
  • What a new designer should know about ordering labels.
  • How production cutting works, what “yield” is and how different colorways can affect your cost.
  • What to expect when you start production.
  • How to control your quality.
  • And Mindy’s most important piece advice for new designers.

Watch the whole interview here.

If you thought the interview with Mindy was helpful, we’d love for you to share — click to tweet here or use the social share buttons on the left.

To receive the Manufacturing Checklists mentioned in the interview, you can get CDS’ here and Factory45’s here.

 

 

fashion brands

6 Fashion Brands Weigh in on “What I Wish I Had Known Sooner”

One of the reasons people become “serial entrepreneurs” is because of how much you learn through the process of starting your first, or second, or even third company.

It’s easier to say what you should have known or what you wish you had known when you’re looking back.

I started Factory45 with this in mind — after going through the process of starting a sustainable clothing company with my co-founder, I realized afterwards that there were so many things I wish I had known sooner. I wanted to impart those lessons learned on other aspiring entrepreneurs so they wouldn’t have to make the same mistakes I did.

On that note, I’ve asked six designers running established fashion brands to share what they wish they had known as a young fashion startup:

 

katie-rock“I wish I’d known that, no matter how much you love the product, you absolutely have to ensure that: (a) you can get it produced fairly simply/easily (to avoid loss of time/sleep and potential burnout); and (b) the margins are healthy enough that you can not just sustain, but actually grow, the business (or you at least see a clear path to get the margins to that place).  

I also wish I had understood that startups often take time! We thought we’d be an overnight hit, and we took it hard at times when we realized it would take longer than expected. Definitely be hopeful and excited and all of that good stuff, but also be realistic.”

— Katie Rock, co-founder of Activyst

 

tara-st-james“I wish I had known that fashion is about breaking the rules, not following them. That theory is applied to design all the time, but the business of fashion should also be about challenging the status quo, not following the calendar, not following what everyone else does and not doing as we’re told. That’s the only way change will happen in this industry and I wish I had known that sooner.”

— Tara St. James, founder of Study NY

 

colette-chretien“I wish I had known which parts of the sampling and manufacturing process would be good for me to figure out on my own and which steps are vital to have carried out by an experienced professional. There were some things I realized I should have done myself, and a few things that would have saved me time and money in the long run had I outsourced.

I also wish I knew that everything takes so much longer than you think it will. Both in terms of developing a product, and establishing a brand. Patience is important, but complacency is dangerous.”

— Colette Chretien, founder of La Fille Colette

 

taylor-gamine“I wish I had known how much clarity I had starting off—that I felt content and confident knowing what I was setting out to do and who I was trying to speak to. Had I taken stock of this intuition at that early stage, it would have been much easier as my audience grew to know when I’m being true to myself and the narrative I am trying to tell. Even now, as I slowly start to roll out new work, I realize that the hardest thing I have to do in this (post) post modern, socially nomadic world we live in is to just fiercely be myself.”

— Taylor Johnston, founder of Gamine

 

BrassClothing_©HOGGER&Co._web_013“I wish I had known just how important it is to have an audience to launch to. If you want a product-based business, first start by generating a following. This could be through a blog, via Instagram or Twitter. Build up a community of people that is in-line with your future product. When you’re ready to launch you’ll have an invested group of people you can turn into customers.”

— Jay Adams, co-founder of Brass

 

Delta+Leather+Tote+Bag“I wish I had known that finding great US manufacturing is kind of like speed dating. If it doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out, make a polite exit, but move on. Their existing operations shouldn’t have to adjust much at all to achieve the product to be produced. It should be a very close fit from the very beginning.

I’ve realized over the years that in spite of a manufacturer’s best effort and enthusiasm, sometimes it wasn’t enough to get a good product at the right price point in the end. Their capabilities sometimes just didn’t match what I was trying to achieve. And as a designer I had to learn how to recognize the pitfalls early in the game to avoid a lot of wasted money time and effort.”

— Matt Mahler, founder of Skye Bags

Know someone who would benefit from reading these six lessons? Use the social buttons on the left of your screen to share on the platform of your choice.

 

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 



 

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Fabric Sourcing at a Trade Show

I know a bunch of you are planning on attending the fabric trade shows in NYC this week — there’s Premiere Vision, DG Expo and TexWorld all happening in the next five days.

I remember going to my first trade show several years ago and even though it was one of the smaller ones, I recall feeling very overwhelmed.

A big venue? With tons of industry veterans? And you’re just supposed to walk up and start talking to them?

An introvert’s nightmare. 

In light of some of the questions that may be coming up for you, I thought I’d share some of my tips for having a successful trade show experience:

1.) KNOW WHAT YOUR END GOAL IS.

Many of you are flying in from out of town to attend these trade shows, which means you’re dishing out several hundred dollars on airfare, hotel rooms, taxis and overpriced food.

The last thing you want is to leave NYC regretting the trip and wishing you hadn’t spent the money. Chances are, you’re going to feel overwhelmed when you arrive at your first show — especially Premiere Vision and TexWorld — so you need to be clear on your end goal.

Are you there to find a very specific type of fabric? Are you there to browse potential fabrics to use in your next collection? Are you there to network? Are you there to attend the seminars?

Your answer should not be, “Yes, to all of the above.” Pick one or two goals to focus on, write them down on a piece of paper or in the notes app on your phone.

If you start to feel off-track over the next few days, look back at what you wrote down and it will help center you.

2.) GET A LIST OF VENDORS IN ADVANCE.

All of the shows will either have a printed list of vendors when you arrive (kind of like a program or playbill), but many of them also have a list of vendors on their websites.

Take some time to sit down with your phone or computer and Google search the vendors list.

You’re probably not going to be able to get through all of them, so you want to make sure you’re prioritizing the vendors that are most likely to have what you’re looking for. (Again, this is where your goal for the week comes in handy.)

Mark asterisks or highlight the vendors that you want to see and talk to, and then…

fabric-sourcing-3

3.) MAP OUT YOUR CONQUESTS.

Cross reference the list of vendors you want to visit with the map that is provided by the show.

Again, mark asterisks or highlight the locations of the vendors you’re interested in and be strategic about the route you’re going to take so you can hit up each vendor without backtracking.

4.) SHOW YOUR VALUE AS A CUSTOMER.

You’ve determined the vendors you want to talk to, you’ve mapped out a route through the venue, and you’re about to approach your first table…

First you’ll see a bunch of binders, swatch books and marketing material on the vendor’s table. If the binders are labeled properly, you can potentially find the fabric you’re looking for without asking for the help of the sales rep or supplier.

Depending on the vendor, there could be a small line of people waiting to talk to the sales rep or it could be just you at the table. Either way, when you get the chance to initiate a conversation be courteous of the rep’s time.

Yes, they’re selling to you but there are hundreds (if not thousands) of people walking through the show.

The sales rep doesn’t need to hear your life story about why you’re starting your line. They don’t need to hear an explanation of the mission behind your company. And they don’t need to hear about the difficulties you’ve had finding the right fabric.

Your job is to show them that you’re a serious and professional prospective client who has the resources and money to make a wholesale purchase from them (in their minds, the larger the better). You can communicate this effectively by taking the time to…

5.) MAKE A SPECIFIC ASK.

One of the last things a vendor wants to hear is, “Do you have organic cotton?” Or “What do you have for blue fabrics?”

If you’re attending a show to simply browse around, then you can say so. But if you’re looking for something specific and you’re going to ask for help, then you need to be very clear about what it is you’re looking for.

Ideally, you’ll be able to tell the rep the fiber, weave, weight and color you want. If you already have a swatch or sample of the fabric you’re looking for, bring it and show it to the rep.

fabric-sourcing-2

6.) GET THEIR BUSINESS CARD.

Again, this seems counterintuitive since the vendor is supposed to be selling to you, but this industry isn’t like many others. Don’t expect for a sales rep to come running after you. It’s on you to get their information and follow up with them.

Tip: Instead of collecting a bunch of business cards that can easily get lost, take a photo of the sales rep’s business card. You can do the same thing with the swatch cards and fabric samples you’re interested in — snap a photo of the item number and fabric description.

7.) DON’T RUSH INTO ANYTHING.

As a small business owner, don’t feel pressure to make any decisions in the moment. If you have photos of the fabrics you like, as well as contact information, you can weigh your options after some thought and email the vendors when you get home.

In your follow up email, mention the show where you met them and again, keep your request short, sweet and specific.

Although overwhelming at times, trade shows are one of the most exciting parts of being in this industry. There is an energy and a vibe that is hard to replicate at other events.

If at any time it becomes too much, pop out for a cup of coffee or find a quiet corner to look back through your map and vendors list. This should be FUN! So try and enjoy yourself : )

Want more fabric sourcing tips, read 4 Mistakes to Avoid When Sourcing Fabric.

 

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


All photos courtesy of Premiere Vision.