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Sourcing 101: Where to Source the Perfect Fabric & Trims for Your Clothing Line (Part 2)

Welcome back to part two of our Sourcing 101 series!


In part one, we covered how to prepare for material sourcing. Then, we outlined the questions you should be asking yourself so that you ensure you're sourcing the perfect fabrics for your fashion brand.

To quickly recap, here are the things you should be considering as you source materials:

  • Look: Will this match with the overall garment design intent and concept?

  • Feel: Does this work for the hand, drape, and body placement?

  • Fiber Content: What are the most suitable materials for this garment?

  • Weight: Do the weight and body coordinate with the construction details?

  • Stretch: Does this need to wrap around curves? Does it need rigidity for structure?

  • Qualities: Do I need any additional features or functionality? If so, what?

  • Cost: Does this hit the price point I can afford?

  • Availability: Can I get sample yardage to start sampling? Will I be able to afford the minimum order for it if I need to have them knit bulk?

So with the not-so-glamorous prep work under your belt, I'm sure you're ready for the fun part: learning how and where to source!

So how do you get started sourcing materials quickly?

Starting out, the fastest way to begin sourcing materials is to use a technique called counter-sourcing.

Counter-sourcing is sourcing from what is readily available to you. It could mean buying something online, tapping into your closet, a trip to the mall, or heading downtown to a thrift store or boutique.

The basic idea is that while you're out shopping the market, you may find a shirt with a similar fabric to what you're looking for in your collection. You'd then buy the shirt as a reference to cut out swatches to send and share with potential suppliers. If you opt to go this route, make sure the material is *close enough* to what you want. If you have fabric or trim that's 80% there, your factory or mill partner can probably help you get it to 100.

The best part of counter-sourcing is that you don't need to have a ton of experience or know all the technical jargon. It's the simplest, most straightforward way to get something close to what you want on the first round with a manufacturing partner.

Where else can you source materials?

Here are some fantastic resources to next level your sourcing:

Google is your bff.

Google Search Engine

You can find just about anything on Google. The trick is knowing the right keywords to search. First, you need to understand the terminology to land the most accurate results. Here are a few essential words that you might include in your search.

Mill: The proper terminology for the factory that produces your finished fabric goods.

Fabric Supplier: A widely used term you might preface with an additional description such as "organic cotton fabric supplier."

Wholesale Fabrics: searching the term wholesale means that you are looking to buy a higher volume of fabric at a discounted price. Think of it as going to Costco and purchasing things in bulk for a discounted price per unit. Mood Fabrics has an online wholesale fabrics program, as do many other fabric makers and mills.

Bulk: Keyword search term you might use when searching for fabric that you can buy in large quantities.

Textile shows and trade fairs!

Photo Credit: Texworld

Whether you fancy Magic, Interfiliere, or Texworld, there are tons of fabric and sourcing shows to choose from these days. A fair for every niche!

One of the pandemic benefits has been that it's much easier to communicate with mills and factories far and wide. As a result, the nature of business has changed for the better. Luckily, we can reap the benefits of a more connected culture.

While the textile shows and trade fairs are extremely valuable and can save you much time back and forth, it's not always in the budget to fly out to these events. If you can't afford to make it to the show, I suggest you look at these websites, figure out the exhibitors you're most interested in, and email them directly to learn more about them and see if you can get them to send you swatches.

PRO TIP: Many of them are only open to professionals, so having a business entity in place will be helpful if you choose to attend any of these shows.

Textile Shows + Trade Fairs to check out:


CommonObjective's Website

If sustainability is your jam, you need to sign up for CommonObjective to connect with like-minded factory and mill partners. Brands, suppliers, and people interested in learning about sustainability are on the platform. CO makes a point to make it easy to connect to these folks. There is a searchable interface for materials and suppliers based on criteria instead of a shot in the dark. CommonObjective is also a learning platform, so if you're in the business of sustainable apparel, you need to be an expert in that arena. I can think of no better way than a platform like CommonObjective.


FourSources's Website

Another big favorite of mine for sourcing is FourSource! They're free to join, but only if you're operating on the buying end of the business. They charge the factories and mill partners to share on their platform, so it's a great way to have highly vetted partners at your fingertips. There are also many search criteria you can filter with, so it's incredible if you're seeking out particular materials or makers. FourSource is great for sourcing factory partners as well as fabric and trim makers!

Council of Fashion Designers of America [CFDA]

CFDA's Website

Though it's more of a resource for finding manufacturers for your final product, many sourcing resources and tools are available through the CFDA website. If you're an eligible designer, you can sign up to receive access to CFDA resources. They have a detailed application process, so this is not for someone just entering the fashion arena for the first time. Once you're in, though, you'll have access to many tools to help you in your sourcing and development quest!


Another route you can try is looking on LinkedIn. Reaching out from the cold on LinkedIn can be a bit of a roll of the dice, but it's most helpful if you already have an idea of a fabric or fiber you want in your garment. You can start by going directly to the sales team and inquire about preferred mills that work with their fiber. I'd also suggest asking for additional information about the fiber, as many mills have additional information that isn't easy to find on the internet.

PRO TIP: If you go the LinkedIn route, make sure you have a fully mapped-out profile to seal the deal and be seen as the professional you are. Show them you're serious.


SwatchOn's Website

SwatchOn was created to help fashion designers and entrepreneurs with sourcing fabrics. If you're already in the fashion industry and have the experience to back it up, you can opt for a free account, though it might take a few days to get it approved. On the other hand, if you're not a fashion industry insider or just can't wait, you can sign up for a $500 fee that is immediately applicable to your swatch orders and boxes.

So let's check-in. How do you feel about sourcing? Are you less intimidated by the process now? I sure hope so! In this two-part series, you've learned how to prepare for sourcing, how to go about sourcing, and what resources to tap into to source materials.

You're well on your way to finding the perfect materials for your fashion brand! If you missed part one of the series check it out here.

If you think you'd benefit from some one-on-one guidance, book a coaching session with Kristen here!

Want to ensure that you're sourcing the perfect materials for your fashion brand? Grab our Fabric + Trims Sourcing Tracker! 🌟


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