A step-by-step guide to sourcing fabrics for fashion brands and designers:

When turning idea into a garment, one of the major decisions all fashion designers face is what type of fabric to use and where to find it.

Fabric is a term that refers to the material that is composed of yarn or fibres and is used in the manufacturing of items such as clothing, homeware, bags, and shoes. Due to the fact that various fabrics each possess their own unique properties, there are literally hundreds of different qualities and varieties available.

Finding the appropriate fabric when you’re first starting out as an entrepreneur with your own clothing line or fashion brand can be difficult. When there are so many fabric suppliers all over the world, it can be difficult to find the ones that sell the perfect fabric for your project.

This is our comprehensive step-by-step guide to locating and purchasing the ideal fabric for your project.

The impact of the material on the design:

Your choice of fabric will have a significant influence, both in terms of the quality and production of the finished garment you create. Before you approach fabric suppliers & fabric manufacturers,you need to finalise important details of your clothing line such as design, functionality.

The following are some of the ways in which the fit, functionality, and technical construction of your garment can be affected by the fabrics:

• Weight – Once you have an idea of the approximate dimensions of your garment, you will be able to calculate the width of the fabric that will be required to make it.

• Drape refers to the way in which a piece of fabric hangs and falls from the body. The greater the drape, the greater the fabric will hang after it is draped. On the other hand, fabrics with less drape will have a fall that is more see-through and liquid-like.

• Stretch – The amount of stretch a fabric has will determine how well it fits and how it feels. It is possible to express it in either a horizontal (two-way) or vertical (four-way) stretch (horizontal and vertical).

• Shrinkage is something that will have an impact on how well the garment holds up over time. If the fabric has not been pre-washed before production, there is a possibility that it will shrink when the end user washes it.

One of the most common challenges that young designers face is figuring out how to differentiate their brand from the competition. To achieve this, do plenty of market research and find your niche. Put your attention on the ways in which you can make a difference, highlight your core values, and describe how you would like your customers to appear and feel.

Formulate the appropriate questions:

After you have decided on the purpose of your brand and the path it will take creatively, it is time to construct a tech pack. This is a document that outlines the proper construction of your garment and can be found here. It includes essential details such as the type of fabric, the trims, the dimensions, the constructions, and the components. These specific design details and technical specifications are absolutely necessary for the production of your garment.

Confirming all of these essential particulars before beginning the process of sourcing fabric will help you save both time and money. In the end, it will assist you in selecting which supplier to collaborate with based on your timeline, quantities, sizing, and any other requirements that you have.

Before you choose your provider, here is a checklist of the nine most important criteria that you should always take into consideration:

Fabric construction:

The functionality of the garment you are designing will have an effect on the ideal fabric that you source. The following is a list of the most common types of fabric structures, along with some examples of how they are utilised:

One of the most important aspects of the design process is having a solid understanding of how different types of fabric are constructed as well as which type of fabric will work best for the final product.

Woven fabric is one of the most common types of fabric and is created by interlacing two or more sets of yarn at right angles to create a checkered pattern. Woven fabric is one of the most common types of fabric. Jeans, suits, and collared shirts are typically woven fabrics because of their durability and versatility.

Knitted – Knits are an additional well-liked choice of fabric, particularly for the construction of lightweight garments. T-shirts, leggings, and sweaters are all great examples of items that would benefit from the use of these interlooped yarns, which are created by interlacing two or more strands of yarn.

Non-woven materials are manufactured by laminating, felting, or other processes that involve mechanical, chemical, or thermal bonding of fibres. Because of its ability to wick away moisture, this type of fabric is frequently used for athletic wear as well as swimwear.

Find high-quality fabrics that have the best possible composition for the garment you’re making by basing it on its intended use. You should also pay attention to the content and composition of the fabric you are using, as well as mention any specialised finishing treatments, such as washing and waterproofing, that you require. If you are unsure what to do, your provider will be happy to offer their recommendations and guidance.

Minimum order quantity (MOQ):

To put it another way, the minimum order quantity (MOQ) refers to the smallest quantity that can be purchased from a supplier for each individual order. When determining the minimum order quantity (MOQ), price and fabric measurement are typically two factors that are taken into consideration. This is something that will most likely happen to you when you are sourcing from fabric mills, jobbers, or trade shows; however, the specifics will vary depending on who you approach. The minimum order quantity (MOQ) required by each supplier will vary depending on the materials, total manufacturing costs, and location of the supplier.

If you are a designer just getting started, you probably do not want to place an order for a large quantity right away. It is important to keep in mind that the minimum order quantity (MOQ) can be influenced by a variety of factors, which can sometimes leave room for negotiation. For example:

Alternatives (e.g. colour, size, and material)

Lower minimum with a greater increase in price

Combined orders with another buyer

Sourcing closer to home

You also have the option of requesting a minimum order quantity that is lower. It is possible that you will find a supplier who is willing to accept your offer based on the fact that they are eager to take your order at some point. In most cases, the cost of a smaller order will be greater than the cost of an order placed in bulk.

Payment terms and conditions:

Always determine the terms and conditions of the payment method before committing to placing an order. This includes for the purposes of production and sampling.

When ordering bespoke fabrics, you should make a deposit of fifty percent and then pay the remaining fifty percent when the fabric is ready to be dispatched. Any fabric that is currently available for purchase can be paid for in advance.

Price per metre/yard:

The price per metre or yard of a fabric will vary depending on the market and how much it costs to make the fabric.

After taking into account the cost of any trims and fastenings, the total retail price of your final product, and the fabric yield (the number of garments you get from a yard/metre), the price that you pay per metre or yard of fabric will depend on your budget.

Width of the fabric

There are two measurements: the overall width, as well as the width at which it can be cut. Only take the cuttable width from your supplier because this is the measurement from side to side minus the selvedge, which is an outer border that shouldn’t be used because it is woven to protect the rest of the fabric from damage.

To get a rough idea of how much fabric you will need to order, you should first create a lay plan of your pattern pieces.

Weight of the fabric

The grams per square meter measurement is used to determine how heavy or light your fabric is (GSM). Nevertheless, this almost always refers to the thickness of your fabric, with the GMS indicating the density and increasing with it as the number increases. The design, functionality/durability, and fit of your garment will determine the GSM of the fabric you use.

The following are some examples of fabrics that have different weights:

Mesh, chiffon, lace, and lightweight cotton are examples of lightweight fabrics.

• Fabrics with a weight somewhere in the middle: satin, velvet, linen, polyester, and cashmere

• Fabrics with a substantial weight, such as denim, canvas, wool, tweed, and flannel

Stock levels

It is possible that some fabrics will only be produced in a limited quantity or will be phased out entirely, whereas other options will continue to be available for a number of years. As a result, it is essential to make sure that you always check the availability of the fabrics that you are interested in purchasing. If you are just starting out as a designer, it is highly recommended that you begin by sourcing fabrics that have a guaranteed availability for any reorders.

lag time or lead time

When it comes to custom orders, the lead time for the development of the fabric can range anywhere from one month for the sampling phase to several months for the bulk production phase. Always get an estimate of the lead time before production begins, and stay in contact with the vendor throughout the process to make sure the delivery date can be stuck to.

Another thing to keep in mind regarding this situation is continuity, as well as the lead time for any reorders that may be necessary. This can ensure that you continue to place orders for fabrics in a timely manner for any restocking that may be necessary.

Origins as well as long-term viability:

The fashion industry is responsible for ten percent of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans and twenty percent of all wastewater produced worldwide. Because manufacturing is the primary source of pollution, you should always investigate the origins of the fabric you’re purchasing as well as the manufacturing process involved.

Start by being conscious of the choices you make and the impact they have on the world around you if you want your fashion brand to become more environmentally friendly. Investigate the supply chain and insist on full disclosure from the vendors in order to learn more about the origins of the raw materials that are incorporated into the fabric. Pick environmentally friendly materials like organic cotton or pia fabric for your projects, and make sure the factories you buy from are fair to their employees. In an effort to reduce waste and pollution, the fashion industry should transition toward circular design, in which materials can be recycled and reused without risk of harm. Your clothing line has the potential to make a positive impact on the environment if you take the time to understand the implications to the environment.

Check out this article on five innovative fabrics made from sustainable materials to learn more about environmentally friendly fabrics.

Research the various types of fabric suppliers available:

Your choice of fabric is important not only for your collection but also for your fashion brand as a whole. Your choice of fabric will ultimately have an effect on the appearance, comfort, fit, and function of the garment you create. Before choosing a fabric supplier, it is important to consider all of your sourcing options in order to find fashion fabric of the highest possible quality at an affordable price.

Fabric mills:

Fabric mills, also known as textile mills, are the facilities responsible for the transformation of raw materials into thread for the purpose of fabric production. Weaving and knitting are the most common methods, and then the fabric goes through the printing and dying processes before it is sent to a factory to be made into items of clothing such as t-shirts, jackets, leggings, and other items. Because fabric mills are typically wholesale suppliers that specialise in certain textiles like cashmere, silk, and leather, we strongly recommend that you conduct a significant amount of research prior to contacting one of these establishments. Fabric mills are excellent places to go to in order to purchase bespoke fabric. However, as a result of this, the minimum order quantity (MOQ) is frequently quite high, and the lead time is significantly longer.


Some textile mills do not handle the full process of transforming raw materials into a finished fabric. This can be frustrating for customers. Before selling it to you, a converter will first process the unfinished fabric by dying, bleaching, and printing it. You will then purchase the finished product.

Fabric sales agents and representatives:

You can order fabrics from agents and reps if you are interested in buying fabric in bulk or placing orders to buy fabric in wholesale quantities. These suppliers act as a liaison between you and the mills or manufacturers they represent. They do so by gaining an understanding of what it is you require and streamlining the ordering process. Some agents and reps work with multiple fabric mills and specialise in sourcing across the world, which will save you time and maximise your efficiency. These agents and reps work with multiple fabric mills. Keep in mind that they frequently work on commission, which means that the prices may be higher than the going rate.

Fabric stores as well as jobbers:

Fabric mills, clothing manufacturers, and fashion designers all sell their scraps to jobbers, who then buy and resell them. They keep a stock of fabric in order to sell it to new designers, start-up businesses, entrepreneurs, and other manufacturers with the added benefit of having a low order minimum. A similar system is used in fabric stores, where customers can peruse hundreds of fabric swatches in order to purchase a small quantity of fabric that is within their financial means or to find inspiration for their own fashion design. Because it may not be possible to reorder the same fabric from jobbers and stores, these types of businesses are best suited for one-off projects.

Events such as trade fairs and expos:

These are recurring occasions that take place in different parts of the world every year. Trade shows and expos are ideal for sourcing all kinds of fabrics, including embellishments and trims, because there are so many fabric suppliers present at these events. In the vast fashion industry, exhibitors are always looking for new business; as a result, they will have more time to devote to working with smaller businesses; as a result, new designers are encouraged to attend trade shows and expos.

About the author : Dinesh MJ

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