As a brand owner, you know just how much work goes into the “behind-the-scenes” work of your line in order to make it perfect. When you are putting everything into your line, there is no room for any error that can jeopardize the success of your brand. One area that can become a pitfall for many new designers is sourcing. Sourcing is essentially deciding what fabric is going to be used when manufacturing your garments. While this might sound simple enough, without the proper knowledge, sourcing can become a nightmare.
Before anything else, you should decide whether or not you are going to make retail or wholesale purchases. By choosing retail (more common for personal use), you will for the most part remain unbothered throughout the process. Just like with any other retail shopping experience, “the customer is always right” controls how reps work with their clients. When you choose wholesale, reps tend to become your advisor. In order to keep you happy and purchasing from them, they want to guide you to make the best choices for your brand.
After deciding whether retail or wholesale is best for you, you absolutely must do your research. As with anything else, if you are going into it with no idea what you’re looking for, you aren’t going to get very far. When you choose a mill (or manufacturer), you should have done complete and thorough research. You should have gathered enough information to know that you are making the best choice for you and your brand.
You should also be doing your research on what types of fabric you are looking to work with. If possible, you’ll want to work with mills that can provide you with swatches. This ensures that you can feel the fabric and avoid ordering yardage of material that may or may not work for your garment. Familiarizing yourself with what all the different fabrics work best for will save you time and money when you begin the production process.
The next thing to keep in mind is that there might not be a dumb question, but there are definitely questions that will make you look unprofessional. First impressions are everything in building lasting business relationships. Instead of leading with questions about pricing, you should be asking to see swatches. Show them that you’ve already done your research and are a reliable partner to work with! Additionally, you should never ask what fabrics another designer uses. You wouldn’t anyone telling your competition what you’re using, so don’t put your mill in the position to do the same to others.
While we’re on this, it’s important to remember that you aren’t going to get along with everyone you work with. Many reps can come off as cold in your first interactions, but you should take the initiative to kill them with kindness. Often times, once you move past the first steps and become their client, your interactions will improve. If that doesn’t happen, you can always find another mill that will provide you with the respect you’re looking for.
Don’t be afraid to admit that your first choice might not have been the right choice. Maybe the mill no longer fits your needs, you and your rep don’t see eye-to-eye, or there’s a better mill that is closer to you. No matter what the reason is, you need to be flexible and open to any changes that’ll pop up throughout the process. If you show those that you’re working with that you’re able to adapt, they’ll be more willing to work with you and point you in the right direction.
Finally, remember that it is okay to rely on others throughout the process. Your team and the partners you are working with are there to help you. For example, Suuchi Inc. has sourcing experts on staff to help our clients with any sourcing questions or issues that might arise throughout the production process. Don’t be afraid to use your resources and take advantage of the knowledge that surrounds you!