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Introducing the Market45 SS19 Lookbook!

When I launched the Factory45 accelerator program in 2014 I couldn’t have dreamed that we would eventually create an online marketplace, selling some of the brands that have launched through the program.

In creating Market45, an ethical fashion marketplace, my goal is to showcase the small, independent brands that are moving the fashion industry forward in a more conscious way.

The Market45 SS19 Lookbook is a way to celebrate that.

Each page showcases nine brands that have graduated from Factory45 and are selling on Market45. Their collective goal is to lessen their environmental impact, educate shoppers and provide better clothing choices to consumers.

As you flip through the pages, I invite you to get to know the products as well as the female founders behind them.

If you see something you know you’ll wear for years to come, you can find everything on Market45.co and get 10 percent off your purchase.

So, without further ado, click on the cover page below to meet the brands of the Market45 Spring/Summer Lookbook!LOOKBOOK

sustainable fashion

December’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

This is the final part of a six-month photography series, featuring sustainable fashion products on Instagram. You can see July’s products here, August’s products here, September’s products here, October’s products here and November’s products here.

December has come and gone… but with the holiday break, I didn’t get a chance to share the sixth (and final!) part of my Instagram project with Boston photographer Joyelle West.

All of the brands below are past Factory45’ers. Two of them are available to shop on Market45 now and one of them is coming to the site next month!

This has been such a fun project to take on for the past six months. It ended up being an awesome way to promote Market45 brands and a great way to push me out of my comfort zone : )

I’m currently working on some different content for Instagram (that won’t involve me in front of the camera!) and I’m very excited to share it with you in the coming months. If you’re not already following Factory45 on Instagram you can do so here.

Now, keep reading for December’s featured sustainable fashion products:

NOVEL SUPPLY CO. | CABIN CREW

Founded by Factory45’er Kaya Dorey, Novel Supply Co. is a lifestyle brand for the urban adventurer. Designed with the West Coast lifestyle in mind, the collection of crewneck sweatshirts, muscle tanks and t-shirts are ethically made in Canada from hemp and organic cotton.

The Cabin Crew (pictured above) is made of the coziest hemp fleece and printed with non-toxic dyes. I’ve been living in it all winter and it’s as warm as it looks.

You can shop the Cabin Crew and other apparel for the urban adventurer here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase


HARLY JAE | FLORES BLOUSE

Harly Jae is another Canadian brand that was created in Vancouver, B.C. Factory45’er Laïla Bédard-Potvin designs feminine and vintage-inspired garments that aim to be simple without being basic.

Inspired by her father who passed away when Laïla was 11, Harly Jae has set out to shake up the fashion industry and create its own path.

You can shop other feminine and vintage-inspired designs from Harly Jae here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


REPRISE | LACE-UP LEGGINGS

Founded by Factory45’er Mary Bemis, Reprise is a line of plant-based activewear that’s addressing the widespread use of synthetics in workout clothing.

Every time you wash synthetic fabrics, typically used for activewear, it sheds thousands of microplastics into the water, eventually ending up in the ocean.

Reprise uses fabric made out of eucalyptus trees, eliminating the micro-plastics problem and giving you a much “cleaner” workout.

You can shop the lace-up leggings and other plant-based activewear here (and you’ll find Reprise on Market45 soon!)


To see the rest of December’s featured products (like Vesta and Mamachic), come on over to Instagram by clicking here.

And don’t forget, you can now shop other sustainable and ethical fashion brands on Market45 here!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

 

 

P.S. When you use the discount code MARKET45 I receive a 5% referral commission. I only promote products and brands that I personally wear and believe in.


Oh! And my friend Nicole just opened enrollment to her membership site, StartUp Fashion

There are many past Factory45’ers who are now part of the StUF community and it’s an amazing way to connect with other fashion entrepreneurs, get mentorship and tap into expert resources.

Enrollment is only open for a week, so make sure to check it out here.

sustainable fashion

November’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

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

‘Tis the season for ethical shopping and in case you missed it, Market45 went live on November 1st!

Featuring 20 brands that have launched through the Factory45 program, Market45 is a platform to shop sustainable and ethical fashion, all in one place.

You can use code MARKET45 on all orders and receive 10% off your total purchase.

Now keep reading for November’s featured sustainable fashion products:

BE KIND VIBES | “TO THE SEA” T-SHIRT

Founded by Factory45’er Matt Hickey, Be Kind Vibes is ethical apparel for the conscious adventurer. What started as a message to be kinder to the planet, BKV has evolved into a lifestyle brand that promotes kindness, unity and positivity.

The “To The Sea” tee is made in the USA from 50% organic cotton and 50% recycled polyester. It’s a tribute to Mother Ocean and a reminder to think consciously about how we treat her.

You can shop clothing for the conscious adventurer here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


PURE COLOUR BABY | ALLIGATOR HOODIE & HAREM PANTS

PURE COLOUR BABY | ALLIGATOR HOODIE & HAREM PANTS

Pure Colour Baby was started by Factory45’er Lindsay Down, who handcrafts organic baby clothing in Canada. Founded on a “grow-with-me” philosophy, all Pure Colour Baby pieces last comfortably through multiple sizes.

My son is wearing their adorable alligator print hoodie that’s made of a medium-weight organic cotton jersey. The matching organic cotton harem pants make it the perfect set or can be worn separately.

You can shop the Alligator Hoodie, as well as other Pure Colour Baby pieces here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


LIZ RIDEN | SLIM WALLET & TALL TOTE2

LIZ RIDEN | SLIM WALLET & TALL TOTE

Factory45’er Liz Riden creates handcrafted leather goods, using vegetable-tanned leather that’s a byproduct of meat industry waste. This is above and beyond the standards of conventional leather goods brands.

Made by hand in Pennsylvania, you can also add custom monograms making these accessories the perfect gift this holiday season.

You can shop handcrafted leather goods from Liz Riden here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


To see the rest of November’s featured products (like La Fille Colette and Bokk Baby), come on over to Instagram by clicking here.

And don’t forget, you can now shop other sustainable and ethical fashion brands on Market45 here!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. When you use the discount code MARKET45 I receive a 5% referral commission. I only promote products and brands that I personally wear and believe in.


Market45

October’s Featured Sustainable Fashion Products

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

As I mentioned last week, Market45 launches tomorrow, November 1st!

Featuring 20 brands that have launched through the Factory45 accelerator program, you’ll be able to shop sustainable and ethical fashion, all in one place.

You can sign up here to be the first to know when Market45 goes live.

Now keep reading for October’s featured sustainable fashion products (once again, they’re all Factory45’ers!):

THOM KELLY MEN’S & WOMEN’S BUTTON-DOWNS

THOM KELLY | MEN’S & WOMEN’S BUTTON-DOWNS

When Factory45’er THOM KELLY launched in 2017, it seemed like every person in my family bought a shirt. My mother-in-law bought one for my husband… my mom bought one for my dad… I bought one for myself…

Needless to say, we’re big fans around here. THOM KELLY is a collection of men’s and women’s plaid shirts that are made from 55% organic cotton and 44% tencel (a closed-looped fiber derived from eucalyptus).

Every shirt is ethically made in North Carolina where the husband and wife co-founders live. THOM KELLY is also part of the organization 1% for the Planet, so every shirt sold saves 30,000 square feet of threatened habitat.

You can shop men’s and women’s button-downs in multiple colors here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


SIXCHEL THE KATHERINE CROP PANTS

SIXCHEL | THE KATHERINE CROP PANTS

There are so many reasons I love these cropped pants from Factory45’er SixChel. To start, they’re high-waisted (flattering) and have pockets (convenient).

The fabric is made from hemp and organic cotton — they also come in a vegan leather option — and they’re ethically made in the USA.

I’ve also found them to be very versatile, as I wore them all summer and have since transitioned them into fall. If you’re in the market for a durable and flattering pair of trousers, these fit the bill.

You can shop The Katherine Crop Pants, as well as other SixChel pieces here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


PONYBABE THE PLEATED PANTS

PONYBABE | THE PLEATED PANTS

Speaking of pants, these are the pair I throw on when 8pm rolls around, the baby is asleep and it’s time to unwind.

Factory45’er PonyBabe makes organic loungewear that is ultra comfy and designed and manufactured in Brooklyn.

Using the softest eco-friendly fabrics, the entire collection makes up “The 24 Hour Outfit” for yogis, creatives, dancers, massage therapists and entrepreneurs.  

You can shop The Pleated Pants, as well as other PonyBabe pieces here. Use code MARKET45 for 10% off your total purchase.


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

You’ll also be able to shop all of these brands tomorrow on Market45!

 

factory45 owner shannon

 

P.S. When you use the discount code MARKET45 I receive a 5% referral commission. I only promote products and brands that I personally wear and believe in.


Market45

two fold, capsule clothing, sustainable fashion

Introducing Not-So-Basic Basics, Sustainably & Ethically Made in the USA

This is an interview with Factory45’er Morgan Wagstaff about the launch of her brand Two Fold. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Morgan is raising money for the production run of her first collection.

Give us a brief overview of your brand and the pieces you’re pre-selling.

Two Fold is a womenswear brand of sustainably and socially-conscious designs made here in the USA. Two Fold aims to encourage mindfulness and simple living by offering minimalist and timeless silhouettes that flow perfectly into any woman’s wardrobe.

We are a small batch clothing label made in Charlotte, North Carolina. All of our clothing is made to order, created in house, and released in capsule collections twice a year opposed to the continual release cycle to ensure quality over quantity.

Why did you choose to launch your brand through Kickstarter?

I decided to launch my brand through Kickstarter because I was familiar with the platform and it’s such a great way to reach new people. When starting a clothing line, you have to have funds in order to fulfill the first production run.

Kickstarter is a great crowdfunding platform that allows you to put your idea out there and see if there is a want or need for your idea. I also love how easy the site is to navigate and interactive it is with backers.

Two fold, ethically made, capsule clothing, sustainable fashion

What was the most challenging aspect of creating your campaign?

One of the challenges I have faced has been finding my “sticky message.” There are a few brands out already that are similar and are doing well.

It’s so important to find what sets you apart and what makes your brand different. I recommend spending a lot of time on this to really hone in on it and tease through it.

 

You’ve done months of prep. What helped you keep up your momentum and motivation?

I’ve had to continually remind myself of why I’m doing this. Keeping the “why” in the forefront of my mind has helped to keep me headed in the right direction. Also, my family and friends have played a big part in keeping me motivated. They’ve continued to support and believe in me and I couldn’t do this without them.

Two Fold, ethically made, capsule clothing, sustainable fashion

Can you give us a little insight into your campaign strategy? What has been working and what hasn’t worked as well?

I have made some of the best connections throughout this campaign. I’ve had some amazing women style my pieces and they’ve had some great things to say about them. I’ve also had a few essays published in some great online blogs which has brought some exposure. I’ve also noticed that the emails I’ve been sending to my awesome tribe has been positive. They’ve loved seeing the pieces closer up with details about the fit and fabric and how to style them.

I tried running a couple Facebook ads and one did well, and the other two did not. I know a lot of people recommend them and I was glad I tried it out, it just didn’t work for me.

What do you do when self doubt starts to creep up?

Oh, does self-doubt creep up! This has been one of the biggest struggles for me during the campaign. You are watching your numbers daily and it’s so easy to doubt what you’ve created. I love to spend time with the people that mean the most to me. There are people who support me and they have continued to keep me uplifted during the tough patches. I’ve had to learn to give myself some grace. Have a good cry, let out all my feelings and get back up and keep pushing forward.

Two Fold, ethically made, capsule clothing, sustainable fashion

What’s your favorite reward being offered in your campaign?

My favorite reward is the Reese Dress. It’s the most comfortable piece I’ve ever worn while still feeling well dressed. It’s also the ultimate transitional piece – a knee length, easy, unfussy, slim fit accentuates the body without being too clingy. The comfiest thing you’ll wear all season. I promise you’ll never want to take it off. It’s made from a soft handwoven cotton and fits just right, not too tight, not too loose.

If you had one piece advice for someone considering launching a Kickstarter, what would it be?

Shannon, you gave me some great advice early on and it’s stuck with me. You told me it’s called a ‘campaign’ for a reason. You have to campaign throughout the entire days of the Kickstarter. It isn’t easy and the only one that is going to make it happen is you.


To check out Morgan’s Kickstarter campaign and the pre-sale of Two Fold, click hereTo read more about Morgan’s experience in Factory45, read her alumni story here.

 

 


Market45

 

Using Your Voice When the Words Aren’t Perfect

Today I had originally planned to share the process behind creating a sustainable and zero-waste wedding.

But in light of everything going on in the U.S. right now, the idea of talking about ethically-made wedding dresses and locally-sourced food is not something I could stomach.

This place of paralysis is something I’ve been thinking about a lot in the past week.

How do we write, market, message and sell our businesses and brands when all of it seems so trivial to the very real issues that are unfolding around us?

Is it a betrayal to offer a sale, feature a product, post an Instagram, promote ourselves when so much of the world is grieving?

I’m not sure.

There are platforms like Design*Sponge that took a hiatus over the weekend from posting anything. D*S founder Grace Bonney shared a heartfelt letter explaining the decision for the two-day pause in content.

Other brands have continued with regularly scheduled programming but have also used their platforms to share posts of allegiance and words of support.

And then other companies have chosen to be silent, for whatever reason feels true to them.

Tragedy occurs all around the world, every day, and if we paused every time something bad happened, we would get nothing done at all.

But the past week has felt different. And I’ve felt different about what I wanted to say to you today.

As an American-born, white female, I not only have the privilege that came with the lottery of my birth, but I also have the privilege of being an entrepreneur with a modest platform to voice my opinions.

As fellow entrepreneurs, no matter what race or gender you are, you also have a platform in which to express your beliefs.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to figure out what you want to say.

Last week my good friend and I were texting back and forth about how to address the murders in Minnesota, Baton Rouge and Dallas, as business owners.

The conversation went something like this:

“WTF is happening to our country?”

“I feel guilty doing other things and not saying something, but I don’t know what to say.”

“Isn’t it better to say nothing at all than to say something uninformed?”

“I feel like anything that comes out of my mouth sounds like I’m trying to be a better white person than the next.”

“Agreed. But then it’s like, get over how it makes you feel. This isn’t about you.”

And so it went…

I fully recognize how unfair it is that my friend and I are able to have (and leave) this conversation at all. For many Americans, this is the life they’re living. They can’t escape it.

For the past week, I’ve gone back and forth about what to write and what to say.

And yes, I considered saying nothing.

But what I came to realize is that it’s not so much about having the perfect words as it is about having a voice.

There are writers far more articulate than I, who are far more versed on these issues, and my instinct is to tell myself, “Leave it to them. They know more. They’ll say it better.”

But that’s not the point.

As entrepreneurs, we hold the expectation and the responsibility of being the changemakers, the freedom fighters, the revolutionaries.

If you have a public platform, then you are privileged in a way that so much of the world isn’t. And I want you to know that bringing your voice to this conversation, despite how awkward or scary it may be, matters.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

We can take action together towards fighting for justice and the fair treatment of our fellow humans — in a way that doesn’t sacrifice our brand, or go off message or lead customers astray.

Because when it comes to having a message, acceptance, tolerance and love are universal.

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 

Additional resources:

This is the best piece I’ve found on the tangible action steps that can be taken to create change via The Huffington Post

Why do we stay silent when racism is all around us? By Nisha Moodley

Code Switch is a podcast that explores race and culture.


Photo credit: Molly Belle

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.

 

 

new designer, advice

What’s My One Piece of Advice for New Designers?

Whenever anyone asks me:

What’s your one piece of advice for new designers?

I always have the same answer. I’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years, and I warn all of them of the same mistakes that I made when I was first starting out in the fashion industry.

Let me take you back to the summer of 2012. I’m living out of a 1993 Chevy Conversion van on a three-month “sustainable fashion tour” of the Pacific Northwest.

Van-Roadtrip, new designer, advice

Six months prior, my co-founder and I had launched the highest-funded fashion project in Kickstarter history to fund the production of our first piece, the Versalette by {r}evolution apparel. We were on a mission to shake up the fashion industry, to prove that less is more, and to show everyone that conscious consumerism can change the world.

By working with a sew shop in the U.S., sourcing 100% recycled, U.S.-made fabric, and considering every tiny part of our supply chain, we had attracted the attention of 1,400 first customers, in addition to media outlets such as The New York Times.

But that’s not where we started.

My journey into fashion production began a year and a half earlier when my co-founder and I first came up with the idea to start a “sustainable clothing company.” We had no idea what that really meant, so we blindly began contacting any person we thought had the slightest chance of helping us.

We called organic cotton farmers in Texas, environmental studies professors in Missouri, eco-fashion models in Brooklyn, Merino wool suppliers in New Zealand and the list goes on…

Looking back at the emails I sent to suppliers, I know now that my inquiries surely got a swift click of the delete button. I didn’t know how to talk to industry veterans, I had no idea how to talk “the talk,” and it showed.

Eventually though, after a year and a half of trying, we found fabric and materials that fit our sustainability guidelines, a sew shop who would work with a fledgling startup, and that’s when we successfully funded our Kickstarter campaign.

If we thought sourcing was difficult, we couldn’t have imagined what the production process had in store for us.

sewing machine, new designer, advice

First hurdle, the organic cotton drawstrings we needed were on backorder and the sew shop couldn’t move forward until they had all materials in-house. We got bumped off their production calendar and couldn’t get back on until the drawstrings arrived.

By the time we began production, we were running four months late.

The backordered drawstrings, production delays and an additional shipping fiasco were rookie mistakes we had to live with and learn from.

But the next mistake we made was the biggest one of all — and it’s the only thing from this story that you really need to remember:

We weren’t at the sew shop when production started.

Sure, we signed off on samples and patterns, but the worst decision we made was not being with our production team when Versalettes started coming off the line.

We weren’t there to offer additional quality control, answer questions in person, build relationships with our sewers and get them invested in our project.

And it came back to bite us.

Our first shipment of Versalettes arrived and a third of them had crooked pockets, misplaced button holes, lost drawstrings or unfinished seams. We got a second shipment and it had the same problem. The sew shop was sending us batches of 40 units at a time and instead of being thrilled to open them, I was terrified.

At the time, it would have been easy to blame the sewers for being “unskilled,” but that simply wasn’t the truth.

Being completely new to the industry, we didn’t know how crucially important it was to a build relationships with our sew shop and be there at the beginning of production.

We had no one to blame but ourselves.

When you’re first starting out, trying to do design and marketing and media outreach and customer service and blogging and everything else yourself, it can be easy to take production for granted and assume someone else is handling it.

The thing is, no one is ever going to care about your product as much as you do.

new designer, advice

After we received our second batch of Versalettes, I flew to North Carolina to visit our sew shop and work out the “kinks.” I spoke to each sewer individually, shared the article about us from The New York Times, and showed them photos of our models wearing the Versalette.

Spending a few days with our team, I finally understood that relationship building in the manufacturing industry is no different than in any other industry.

Shortly after I flew back to the west coast, our third shipment arrived.

Not a mistake in the bunch.

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 

This originally appeared as a guest post on Startup FASHION here.

Photo credit: {r}evolution apparel


Mistakes & Breaking Points in Trying to Start a Clothing Company

The winter of 2011 was a tough one. I had been trying to set up a supply chain for my clothing company for five months and by February, my co-founder and I had hit a mental and logistical standstill.

Looking back, five months seems like nothing. But for two driven, go-getter types, every ignored email and unanswered phone call was a mini blow to our motivation.

We simply couldn’t figure out what we were doing wrong. How was it possible that not one fabric supplier, factory or sew shop would give us the time of day?

We were at our wits end when we got a reply from a designer who said he could make our first samples. We didn’t have fabric or materials yet, but at least samples would feel like progress.

When we got on our first phone call with him he was adamant that we should fly to North Carolina to meet him. We could go over everything, work face to face and make a plan of attack for moving forward.

Resting our hopes on the chance that this person could also introduce us to a fabric supplier or a manufacturer, we booked flights for the following weekend.

All things considered, our weekend in North Carolina was weird.

We checked into a hostel in downtown Asheville and immediately went to a nearby bar where the designer had told us to meet him.

What ensued was a three hour “happy hour” in which he continued to slug beer after beer while not once mentioning our business, our design ideas or why we were there.

Promising that he would get to “it” eventually, we arranged to meet the following day at his home.

If this sounds sketchy, remember that a lot of designers / samplemakers / patternmakers work out of their homes. Also, remember that we had flown 1,000 miles, spent our savings on flights, and felt like we had no other option.

Desperation puts you in interesting situations.

We spent several hours the next day in his basement going over our sketches, spec sheets and designs and we decided that we would start with just one sample to test the waters.

He said he would create a prototype for our “maxi dress” design and ship it to us in two weeks. We left North Carolina feeling hopeful and cautiously optimistic.

Turns out, we didn’t receive our sample in two weeks.

It showed up in four weeks and when I pulled it out of the box, it looked nothing like our original design.

Instead of being full length, it was knee-length.

Instead of a sweetheart neckline, it had a scoop neck.

Instead of spaghetti straps that tied around the neck, it had thick straps that went straight back.

To top it off, he had included a “sash” to be tied around the waist in a bow!

My co-founder and I got on Skype (we didn’t live in the same city) and I showed her a dress that couldn’t have looked more different than the one we designed.

We had just spent hundreds of dollars on flights, hotels, a rental car and other travel expenses and we still owed money to pay for a sample we couldn’t use.

It was a critical moment and I had reached a breaking point.

I was mad at myself for not listening to my gut, I was mad at the designer for making us fly across the country, and I was mad that we listened to him.

All signs pointed to: You’re crazy for thinking you could do this.

Quit now.

And that would have been a much easier option — except that’s not how dreams work.

I was either going to do this, despite how freaking hard it would continue to be, or I was going to walk away.

Thank goodness, I decided to keep going.

To be fair, it didn’t get any easier in the following eight months. But we did make some big decisions and changes to simplify our business idea from a line of 10 pieces to just one piece that could be worn multiples ways.

We launched our Kickstarter, becoming the highest-funded fashion project, and found the mentorship from someone who had done it before. That partnership single-handedly helped us push forward and go into production with 4x the capital we had planned on.

When I was wandering through this industry uncertain about what to do next, I found someone to help me.

I hope I can be that someone for you.

Everything you need to launch the business of your dreams is within your reach.

 

shannon-signature-e1463530563728

 



 

4 Mistakes to Avoid When Sourcing Fabric

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.

sourcing

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.

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