It’s unexplainable. That feeling you get when your fashion designing senses start tingling and an idea comes to your mind. But how do you bring that sketch into reality? Through the very cornerstone of fashion that is fabrics. The business side of fashion has a vested stake in sourcing the right fabrics for your design. This is largely because it’s a significant facet in whether a client will grab it off the rack or it’ll end up in a landfill somewhere; tags still attached and not a dime in your pocket to show for it. And what is the secret to mastering fabric sourcing? We’re glad you asked:
Know your fabric
Design doesn’t stop at the construction and fit of the clothes. The decision to use or avoid a fabric has to consider shrinkage, drape, dye-ability, wrinkle tendency, structure, care instructions and the financial factors associated with it. Perhaps you’re just the creative behind your fashion operation and your tailoring dream team will do the technical portion of it all. Textile education not only helps you know what questions to ask or help you navigate the negotiation dance with suppliers like a pro, but also help you to fall head over heels in love with your final product. It’s your vision and not knowing the basics such as the properties of various fabrics or the impact finishing techniques has on their structures can really affect your bottom line.
To start, we’ll look at covering the surface topics of fashion fabrics through the vlog post below from With Wendy:
If knowing the environmental impact is an important aspect for you and your brand, check out this post by Verena Erin, a Member of the Ethical Writers Coalition & Ethical Influencer Network and vlogger for ‘My Green Closet’. To make it easier to watch she’s indicated the time codes for each fibre so you can skip to the ones you’re interested in if need be:
But if you want to go into the details, designer, illustrator, instructor – Zoe Hong – does so in the videos below:
You might also want to check out Dianna Baros, aka The Budget Babe’s list of common fabrics here. It comes complete with their pros and cons, which you can keep as a bookmark for quick referrals.
Now that you have a better understanding of the fabrics, it’s time to go hunting! After some research you’ll probably decide on a supplier to work with. But to avoid making expensive mistakes or getting overwhelmed, here are some critical questions you need to ask:
Quantities – Most people will have a minimum quantity they’ve already established. Does this mean that you’ll have to look for another supplier with a lower minimum or do you stay and negotiate the terms for a compromise? Emerging designers should look for suppliers who are a little more flexible on this front.
Time frames – How long will it take to produce and deliver your order? Answering this can help you sculpt your production schedule. Remember the bigger the order the more likely it won’t be pre-made and it needs to be ordered and made.
Fabric continuation – When you’re ordering your sample, inquire if that fabric is available and if it’s continuity is guaranteed. Don’t get caught up later down the line, when production is ready to go but the fabric has been discontinued.
Relationships – If you’re in this for the long haul, suppliers are future partners to your fashion empire. Kill them with kindness so that you can make the transition to ‘potential’ to ‘number one’ customer with a reliable supplier. Being kind and cooperative can see you get referrals to suppliers who are right up your alley and better suit your needs.
Price tags – Have you done your calculations to get the amount of material you need at a pocket-friendly price? Keep in mind, smaller quantities will cost you more per unit than if you place a bigger order. Now, we should point out that price is based on the length of the fabric. But don’t forget you have the width to think about. This affects how much you can actually fit on the fabric and in some instances wider fabrics means you can order shorter lengths. Ordering more fabric than you need is another way of wasting resources and money. If the cost is still scary to look at or fathom, perhaps you need to inquire about an alternative fabric that is as close to your original selection but isn’t too much of a compromise on the quality element.
As much as creativity will be that IT factor that makes you stand out from the crowd, you are still running a business. And as such, knowing your tools and the medium that makes up the essence of your craft isn’t something to be overlooked. Fabrics will remain a constant in design and hence, designers constantly need to learn more about them and better or novel ways to interact with them. So as soon as you finish these videos, we encourage you to go forth and do some more research on your own. Don’t forget to share your findings in the comments below.