What is sourcing?
When you're just starting, the idea of "sourcing" sounds vague and unclear. So to get started, let's begin with a quick definition of what sourcing is when it comes to creating a fashion brand or new clothing items:
Sourcing: Finding the most suitable components, materials, and partners to make up and create your garments.
As a term, sourcing may be about finding materials for your apparel, such as the fabric, hardware, and trims. However, it can also refer to finding the best maker/manufacturer for your final product, so it's good to clarify precisely which type of sourcing you're doing.
We'll be talking primarily about sourcing suitable fabrics for your collections here.
How do I get ready for sourcing?
Before jumping right into how or where to source fabrics, let's ensure you're prepared and organized to source the perfect fabrics for your fashion brand.
So to get you started on the right foot, I want you to consider and answer these questions before doing anything else.
1. What does your brand stand for? What are your brand values?
Knowing your brand values and keeping them top of mind will help guide your sourcing decision-making process and give you search parameters.
For example, if your brand values sustainability, make sure the materials you are sourcing are sustainable and ethical. In addition, you'll want to check to see if the fabrics are certified and that the suppliers can show proof of their claims. Of course, you also want to be educated on what those certifications and claims mean, too. So, don't forget to do your research on sustainability certifications and what they mean.
2. What type of apparel are you making with the fabric you intend to source? What is necessary for the end-use of the garment?
The most important part of sourcing is knowing what type of apparel you aim to create. For example, are you designing swimwear or loungewear? Different garments will require different kinds of materials.
The type of garment you create will also dictate the weight, fiber content, characteristics, and finishes of the fabric you need to source.
For example: if you're designing swimwear, you'll look for a lightweight, stretchy knit fabric, but it can't be so light that it's sheer when wet. It will also need good stretch and recovery to wrap around the body's curves, which means you need some spandex. You might consider a recycled material composition if sustainability is a pillar of your brand. Other characteristics and finishes you'll need to consider are UV protection, resistance to chlorine, and print capabilities.
3. Who is your customer? Where in the market is your brand positioned?
Your target market will determine the price and quality of the fabric you source. For example: a brand positioning in the luxury market will have customers that expect garments made from high-end materials that will last longer and feel luxurious against the body.
For example: a high-end luxury sweater brand would opt to source fabric made from mohair or cashmere vs. acrylic yarns.
Take your time to ponder these important questions. Make detailed lists of your likes and dislikes. The more you can narrow down what you're looking for, the easier the entire sourcing process will be. If you need some extra education about textiles, we suggest checking out Textilepedia from Fashionary. The book is excellent for beginners and uses tons of infographics and pictures to help you digest complex information on fibers and fabrics.
Lastly, always be a thoughtful and active participant in the sourcing process.
Sourcing is how you get exactly what you're looking for with your end product.
Only you know what you're trying to create. So you should be involved in the process to ensure you understand what you're looking for and in *all* the ways.
Without you having a close hand in the sourcing process, you could end up with a finished product that's not quite there. A garment that may be right in many ways but wrong in the ways that matter to you. What a waste that would be! Don't make that mistake. Instead, pay attention to the details and continually refer to your original inspiration or sketch to stay grounded.
Sourcing is also a fun part of the development process, so get involved and don't be afraid to get both feet wet!
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