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How To Source Fabrics and Trims for Your Clothing Business (DIY Option)

by Boris Hodakel  • July 20, 2019 • 5 min read

fabric sourcing

When you have designed the initial concepts of your clothing line, considering the finer details is the next step. These elements will make up the final product and give your garments a unique touch. As detailed in our guide - How To Start a Clothing Line, sourcing fabrics and trims is an important aspect of the process.

The fabrics and trims for your clothing determine how the garment will look and feel. This choice also affects other aspects of your brand including:

  • How garments fit the body
  • Sizing availability
  • The comfort of the fabric
  • How the garment washes
  • The durability of the fabric and trims

From your first designs through to the first fit sample, you will need to consider these aspects, alongside your fashion brand’s goals and identity.

Selecting fabric to suit your brand’s vision

Whether you are just starting out or are an established business, the fabric you choose should match the type of brand you want to be for customers. The example below highlights a set of sectors and the types of materials used to complement the brand image.

  • Luxury fashion - Leather, cashmere, silk, organic cotton
  • Affordable fashion - Cotton, polyester, nylon
  • Sports clothing - Technical fabrics such as polypropylene and lycra
  • Sustainable fashion - Bamboo, linen, jute, hemp

Alongside the hundreds of fabrics choices available, there are several trims to think about. Below are some examples of common embellishments for garments:

  • Buttons
  • Zips
  • Linings
  • Elastics
  • Lace

When you have established these details, fabrics and trims will need to be included in your tech pack. Giving your clothing manufacturer as much detail as possible will reduce miscommunication or errors when producing the garments.

fabric sourcing 2

Further information: How To Make a Tech Pack

Determining the functionality of your clothing

Essentially, the way you want people to wear your clothing plays an integral part in how you source the fabric. If your products need to be long-lasting and will be used often for physical activities, sourcing a durable material that can be re-washed time and time again is ideal. However, a high-end brand designing eveningwear would require extremely different standards and fabric specifications.

Narrowing down the functional and aesthetic aspects of the fabric will help you decide. Some of the main elements to identify when selecting fabrics include:

  • Washability
  • Stretch
  • Durability
  • Breathability
  • Colour-stay
  • Easy-iron
It’s best to draw up exactly what you expect from a piece of fabric before committing to something that is based merely on aesthetic qualities.

Things to avoid when sourcing fabrics

Sourcing suitable fabric can be a daunting task. However, it is always best to go into the process with an open mind. One of the main pitfalls for an emerging designer is looking for that ‘perfect’ fabric. In reality, you may never find something that is 100 per cent what you imagined. So be prepared to compromise! Finding a fabric that meets a balance between price, continuity and availability is the best way to determine suitability for your garments.

Another way to avoid costly mistakes is to ask the right questions. It can be easy to carried away with the overall concept of how you want the clothing to look. However, missing essential details could make production more complicated.

fabrics and trims sourcing featured image

Take a look at some of the critical questions to ask when sourcing fabric and trims:

Stock availability

Not all fabrics are available, all of the time. Some options are popular for many years, others come and go with trends. Checking the type of material and its availability is vital for continuity in your clothing line. There’s nothing worse than having a best seller to learn the factory no longer offers the fabric for it. Customers like consistency so ensure there are some guarantees, especially when producing signature collections.

fabric stock

Lead times

Lead time on your fabric selection is an essential metric in the production schedule. Some fabrics will need to be made to order by a fabric mill so may take weeks or months to arrive. Factoring this in is crucial for timings.

Minimum order quantities

Order quantities can vary between fabric suppliers. Some require large bulk orders of materials while others can accommodate smaller requests. However, it is worth noting low minimum order quantities often cost significantly more. There are specialist clothing manufacturers that offer order levels as little as 50 pieces, take a look at our article - The Benefits of Specialist Clothing Manufacturers for Small Businesses to find out more.

Costings

As mentioned above, order quantity will often affect the price of fabric. Alongside this, different types and origins of material also carry different values. The more complex fabric is to produce and source, the more expensive it becomes.

Fabric width

Fabrics don’t often come in a universal width. Each is different with handmade materials offering thinner widths while a wholesale supplier will provide wider sections. This aspect will affect cost and how much you can fit onto each section.

How to source fabrics and trims for your business

Take a look at easy ways to source fabrics for your fashion brand.

Do your research

There are a host of resources available to start researching fabric suppliers. Starting online is a great idea, but it’s also advisable to request samples to get a feel for the type of fabric available.

Visit trade shows

Trade shows are a great way to see a range of fabric suppliers in different niches. These shows offer a chance to see fabrics and trims up close to determine the right look for your brand. Attending shows can feel overwhelming especially as a beginner. However, researching the exhibitors and making a plan before you arrive, will prevent you wasting opportunities.

Popular trade shows include Premiere Vision, Textile Forum and The London Textile Fair. Plus, some are held twice a year to accommodate changing trends and seasons.

fashion trade show sourcing fair

Consider a Full Production Package (FPP) factory

If you’re a new business looking for help in a range of production aspects, an FPP manufacturer could be an ideal solution. This type of manufacturer will help throughout the process from design to final product and can source fabrics from its wealth of connections. This option often provides a materials library to choose from to make the production process straightforward and simple.

Further information: Cut and Sew Manufacturers (CMT) or Full Package (FPP) manufacturing: Choosing What’s Right For You.

Search suitable fabric sources with Sewport

Finding suppliers couldn’t be easier with Sewport’s comprehensive platform. It has everything you need to launch a clothing line including fabric manufacturers and specialist fabric agents, who can assist you with making or sourcing the perfect fabric for your brand’s needs.

You’ll find working with verified professionals in the fashion industry guarantees you expert knowledge and experience, as well as the safety and reassurance of conducting your business through the secure Sewport platform.

Sign up for a free account here

Fabric selection can take time and patience. However, once you find a suitable option for your garments, it can be a huge selling point for your designs.

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About the author:

Boris Hodakel is the founder and CEO of Sewport - an online marketplace connecting brands and manufacturers, former founder of various clothing manufacturing services. He is passionate about e-commerce, marketing and production digitisation. Connect with Boris on LinkedIn.