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fabric sourcing

Do you know one of the most time-intensive parts of creating a fashion brand?

Fabric sourcing.

It can take months to find the perfect fabric for your product(s).

And that’s why fabric sourcing is the very first thing we tackle in the Factory45 accelerator program.

Because at the same time as you’re building your social media presence, growing your email list and creating an audience before you launch, you’re likely still looking for fabric.

And if you have no idea where to begin, where to look or how to start, then today’s video is for you.

I’m laying out the first five steps to effective fabric sourcing.

And I’m going to make sure you sound like a pro when you’re reaching out to fabric suppliers.

Enjoy,

 

 


supplier email cta

“Oh, man. I was going about this all wrong…” she said to me, looking like the ‘face palm’ emoji.

“No wonder no one was emailing me back.”

This is an all-too-common feeling for new designers who are just starting out in the overwhelming world of fabric sourcing.

You know that whatever you’re doing isn’t working, but you don’t exactly know why.

Maybe your inquiry email is unclear. 

Maybe you’re not asking for the right thing… in the right way.

Maybe the supplier simply overlooked your email.

Whatever the reason, I do know this:

The vast majority of new designers are making four very common fabric sourcing mistakes.

And in this week’s video, I’m going to tell you what they are so you can avoid them.

If you’re not making the progress you need to source fabric and materials for your fashion brand, then I hope this video will help you on your search.

In the comments below the video, let me know which of the four mistakes you might be making and we can talk it through more.

To your success,

 


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!

 


supplier email cta

July is here… which means TexWorld USA — one of the largest fabric sourcing trade shows — is quickly approaching!

And registration is now open HERE.

This is a free opportunity for designers like you to not only see hundreds of different fabrics in person, but to also take advantage of the free fashion education happening at the show.

And I’m going to be there on July 24th!

I would love to meet you in person, so here’s what I’ll have going on:

Tuesday, 7/24 at 3pm | Financing Your Emerging Fashion Brand: A Look at New and Traditional Options.

Moderated by Nicole of StartUp Fashion, I’ll be part of a bigger conversation about financing your startup fashion brand.

I’ll cover the ins and outs of financing your production through fashion crowdfunding. Syama Meagher of Scaling Retail will talk about collection development and building a business based on cash flow and capital limitations. And Juliet Obodo, founder of FRWD Startup Solutions, will talk us through options available to founders who suddenly need capital to cover orders or unexpected expenses.

It’s free to attend but you need to register HERE.

Tuesday, 7/24 at 4pm | Independent Designer Meetup

Directly following the panel, join us for an afternoon break to connect with fellow designers and chat fashion business.

Come hang out, have a drink, compare notes and share stories with other entrepreneurs like you.You must be registered for TexWorld to join us, but it’s free to sign up HERE.

fabric sourcing

TexWorld is so much more than just a “fabric show” with a whole slew of free education resources available at your disposal.

It will also be my first night away from the baby, so you know it has to be good : )

If you can make it, I’d love to see you there!

You can register for free HERE.

 

factory45 owner shannon

 


Haven’t attended a trade show before? Make sure to read my free guide to sourcing fabric at a trade show here.

Fabric Supplier

As a new business owner, it is vital that you know how to write an effective email that will earn a response.

Depending on who you’re writing to, it can be easier said than done.

When it comes to reaching out to fabric suppliers, especially, there are seven key rules to remember:

1.) Consider the audience you’re reaching out. The supplier is likely receiving hundreds of emails per week, so you want to make sure your inquiry gets straight to the point. The supplier does not care about your background or the mission of your company. At the end of the day, they just want to make a sale.

2.) Keep the email short and sweet. Yes, you will want to include a nice “Hello” and an appropriate “Thank you.” But again, make sure you are not wasting the recipient’s time.

3.) Do your due diligence. Make sure you do your own research on the supplier’s website before you reach out. Oftentimes, you can get many of your questions answered on the supplier’s About, Shop and FAQ pages.

4.) Know your stuff. Many fabric suppliers are going to want to see that you actually know what you’re talking about, so they don’t risk wasting their own time. One great way to show that you’re serious about being their customer is to send over a design, spec sheet or a visual example of the piece you’re needing the fabric for.

5.) Don’t ask about MOQ’s. Especially not in your first email. This mistake will make you come off as overly frugal and price-conscious before even making initial contact.

6.) Foster the relationship. Once you’ve received an initial response, take your time in building a relationship with the sales rep. While being courteous of their time, you want to cultivate the relationship and make it easy for them to help you. Down the road, they’ll be much more likely to negotiate MOQ’s with you later on.

7.) Stay persistent. Be mindful of not overwhelming the supplier, but don’t give up. Finding sustainable and low-impact fabrics is not an easy task for anyone. Stick to your values and keep up your search. Fabric sourcing is one of the steps in product development that can take the longest, so be patient.


supplier email cta

There are so many moving parts that go into launching a sustainable apparel company and one of the steps that can take the longest is fabric sourcing.

As any seasoned designer knows, the moment you realize you have found the fabric can be a mixture of relief, hope and — apprehension.

The first question that will come into your mind is:

Can I meet the supplier’s minimum order quantity (MOQ)?

Maybe you’re planning to start out with 500 yards (or less) because you’re just getting your brand up and running.

It wouldn’t be unheard of for a supplier to require an MOQ of 1,000 (or more) yards, and there may be many reasons for it depending on who you’re working with.

The first thing you need to is find out why the minimums are set at the amount that they are, keeping in mind that the exact reasons will be specific to the individual suppliers.

Once you find out their “why,” you’ll be better equipped to negotiate.

And then you can devise a plan.

Before you start to propose negotiations, make sure you’re not making one of these other fabric sourcing mistakes and take a look at the supplier’s website before you call or email.

Sometimes you can find the MOQ and the company’s capabilities right on the site, and it can help set you up to make the perfect proposal for negotiation.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you devise the right plan:

>> When a supplier sets a MOQ because of time efficiency for custom dyeing your fabric, offer to pay  a flat “dye fee” in addition to the per yard cost of the fabric. This may add to the final cost of the order, but it will likely be much cheaper than ordering three times the amount you need just to meet the MOQ.

>> If the MOQ is in place because it “costs what it costs,” then you can either offer to put down a deposit, but place smaller orders at a time OR you can see if there is the option of “piggy-backing” onto one of their existing client’s orders and splitting the cost. Keep in mind that your production schedule will need to be flexible.

>> If the MOQ is in place because it’s a custom order, let’s say there’s a very particular blue fabric you want but it’s never carried in stock, it may be worth conceding to what the supplier already has available in their warehouse. If you can meet the minimums of an in-stock fabric that is only a slightly different shade of blue, then it’s probably worth settling for it. You don’t want to be so committed to your original vision, that you can’t see the “good enough” version staring you in the face.

>> And lastly, you can try offering to pay a higher price per yard, in order to purchase less than their normal MOQ.

There are many ways that you can go about this, and you will find and choose what works best for you. Go with your instincts, but don’t force it. 

If a supplier won’t budge, then it’s better to cut your losses amicably rather than burn a bridge. When one door closes another opens…

Remember, that no matter what avenue you choose for negotiation this is your journey, your brand and your company’s future.

Give it all you got.


 

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…

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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.

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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.


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.