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If you’ve ever tried to source fabric you know it can be, how do I put this…

…an arduous process.

Suppliers don’t answer your emails. They definitely don’t call you back. And sometimes there isn’t even a voicemail to leave a message.

Whether you’ve gone through this or you haven’t started sourcing yet, there are a few things you can do to raise your chances of getting a positive response.

And it starts with avoiding these four big mistakes:

1.) Writing a long inquiry email

I can’t tell you how many people make the mistake of writing a multi-paragraph email that is so long-winded your own mother wouldn’t even read it.

A fabric inquiry is not the time to go into an explanation of your company mission or your core values or your plan to single-handedly change the fashion industry.

The supplier doesn’t care about that stuff!

What does the supplier care about?

Sales.

What does he or she need to make a sale from you?

A very specific one-sentence description of the exact fabric you’re looking for.

What should that sentence include?

The fiber, the fabrication, the weight and the color.

The end.

(Yes, you can include a “hello” and “thank you.”)

2.) Immediately asking a sales rep for MOQ’s and pricing

MOQ stands for “minimum order quantity.” In other words, the amount of one type of fabric that you’re expected to order to meet the supplier’s requirements.

Of course you need to know if the MOQ is attainable for you (20,000 yards would be a bit ambitious when you’re first starting out…) And of course you need to know how much a yard of fabric costs so you can factor it into your Cost of Goods Sold.

But don’t ask.

When it comes to sourcing fabric, a significant part of the process is getting swatches in the door so you can feel them, put them in the wash, and compare them to one another.

The sales rep wants you to see the value and quality in the fabric just as a car dealer would want you to test drive the car before talking about price.

Let the rep offer the information or wait to ask until you have received the swatches.

There’s nothing worse than appearing overly price-conscious and frugal when you’re already looking for low minimums.

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3.) Not building a relationship with the sales rep

You can’t even imagine the awesome things a supplier or sales rep will do for you if you take the time to build a relationship.

Most days a sales rep is dealing with huge amounts of pressure. A big client needs a rush order. A new client received a bad roll. Throw in a handful of inquiry calls from newbies who don’t know what “fabric weight” is and the sales rep is tackling a pretty high-maintenance day.

If you respect their time by knowing exactly what you’re looking for, and you make it easy for them to help you then you’ll see a return.

Building a relationship can happen gradually over the course of a few emails here, a few phone calls there, but if you’re explicit about what you need you never know when a sales rep will call you up out of the blue and say, “We’ve got 300 yards of excess that just came in and we’ll sell it to you at a discount.”

4.) Not being persistent

Fabric sourcing is not for the faint of heart — especially when you’re looking for sustainable and low-impact fabrics.

The mainstream supplier will try to talk you out of sourcing organic cotton or wonder why you’re trying to source Tencel when rayon is so much cheaper.

Stay true to your values and the reasons you have for wanting to create a sustainably-sourced garment. Don’t try to convince them of all the reasons why sustainability is important for the future of fashion.

Keep looking, keep persisting and don’t give up until you get what you’re looking for. It may not happen immediately, but at some point, you’re going to find it.


 

 

 

This a guest post by Angela Tsai, Factory45’er and co-founder of Mamachic.

There’s a lot that changes when you have a baby.

I curse less — at least out loud. I eat better. I scrutinize labels. I forego makeup. I’m alternately more patient with kids, but less patient with other adults. I’m more assertive. I take deeper breaths. I wear yoga pants even when I’m not doing yoga. I ask for help more. I’m grateful for the little things. I’ve become environmentally-conscious.

Upon having a baby, I suppose I became a grown-up.

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I’m not gonna lie. I often miss the “old” me, or at least parts of me, when I used to have the energy and motivation to be social, dress up and want to look my best. I love being a mom, but I do I miss that confidence that I once had in my pre-baby body.

I once felt I could be amazing, each and every day.

So, mix all of these changes that motherhood brings, with traveling full-time with your kids? When you have to pack and unpack all of your family’s worldly possessions every month from a minivan, you realize real quick what it is you want versus what it is you need. Two years ago, when my son Max and I joined my husband Mike on the North American tour of The Lion King, we learned what really constitutes “worldly possessions.” (Here is a photo of Mike in full stage-makeup as “Scar” when I went into labor during a show.)

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As a former TV host and broadcaster, I used to have a revolving rack of clothes to choose from; now, my day-to-day wardrobe has been winnowed down to anything that can be versatile and durable — oh, and nursing friendly. We discovered with Baby Max that we were in need a foolproof burp cloth that could protect our clothes from spit-up and drool. Max was a vomiter, and we were getting tired of changing our shirts what seemed like every hour. Most burp cloths are literally glorified dish towels, and they’d constantly slip off our shoulders or soak through.

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Neither Mike nor I have any experience with garment design, so we sat down with some plain muslin and went to town. What sort of garment shape would not slip off easily and provide enough coverage, while perhaps also doubling as a sort of accessory so we didn’t have to pull it out of a bag or hunt around for it? What if it was something we were already wearing, even if we weren’t physically holding our baby?

So three years ago, we formed our company Too Cool For Drool, and the “Mamachic” was born — or as we initially called it, “The Barf Scarf.”  In a nutshell, it’s a scarf with a neck slit. It allows you to wear the fabric without it slipping off, and covers your shoulders and upper arms, the big baby “splash zone.”

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It’s taken some time for our product to get made. Our design is constantly evolving, and with our nonstop traveling and parenting, our business has been a part-time effort at best. On top of it all, I just had another baby a year ago, and Eva’s not a vomiter like Max. In fact, with her, what I’ve needed is more of a nursing cover, so we’re playing around with scarf shapes so it can be used easily as such.

I’m hoping the Mamachic can accomplish three things:

1.) Streamline motherhood. Make the task of caring for my baby convenient and seamless with feeling and looking good.

2.) Lighten my travel load and only own items that can accomplish multiple tasks. The Mamachic could be an all-in-one burp cloth / nursing scarf / blanket.

3.) Be made with sustainable materials. If I can be good to the environment so that my kiddos won’t have to someday wear hazmat suits out in public, isn’t that the proverbial organic icing on the gluten-free cake?

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Through Factory45, we’re headed down an educational and supportive road to get our product made. It’s daunting and exciting to put real wheels in motion. We’re working on an updated sample using deadstock bamboo and organic cotton, and putting numbers together to launch a Kickstarter campaign in the new year to fund our first production-run.

Beautiful. Versatile. Durable. Good to the earth. Confidence-inspiring. I’m talkin’ about both the Mamachic and you mamas out there. We are amazing. We deserve to feel it, each and every day.

You can follow Angela and her family on the road here. To stay up-to-date about the launch of the Mamachic, sign up here.


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