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Source Fabrics & Notions Early On or Risk Losing Money

In the sewn products world, sourcing is finding the materials and notions you will use for your product. That’s a pretty simplistic definition for sourcing, but let’s start there and build upon this important step to bringing a sewn product to life.

Sourcing is one of the first things you will do in creating a new product. The only steps to place in front of it are deciding what you want to make, who your target audience is, and how much they are willing to pay for it.

Why? Because the materials you choose for your product will affect the way the pattern is created. Wovens, knits, two-way stretch, four-way stretch, how much stretch, these are all important points to ponder.

And then don’t forget all of your notions. Do you have an elastic waistband? Will you have an invisible zipper closure? Will you need snaps? Again, these items will have a bearing on the construction of your pattern.

Imagine this scenario: you pay a pattern maker to create a dress pattern. You want it to have a high collar and cap sleeves. It will be fitted to the body and end just before the knee. The only thing you tell the pattern maker about your fabric is that you will handle your own sourcing and it will be a knit.

You find a fabric that you LOVE. It comes in the color you want and you really like the way it feels. You purchase some yardage and deliver it to your sample maker, who cuts the fabric and sews the dress.

You get the good word that your dress is ready and you go in to try it on because you are acting as your own fit model, as many start -up brands do. Quickly you figure out you have a problem, because you can barely get that high collar over your head. Why? Because your chosen fabric doesn’t have enough stretch.

Now you have to make a decision. Do you spend more time finding a different fabric that will work better for this dress, spend more money on fabric, plus even more money to have a new sample made? Or do you decide to stay with the fabric you love and pay to have the pattern reworked and then again pay to have a new sample made?

Either way, you lose money. Apparel manufacturing is not an inexpensive endeavor. Your job is not to accidentally make it more expensive.

At this point, you may wonder, why isn’t this the fault of your pattern maker/ sample maker/ factory for not warning you that your fabric wasn’t right? Because it’s not their job. (Unless you are paying them to source and/or consult.) Because they don’t always know to investigate an unforeseen problem. Because they get busy and every client is putting pressure on them to get their jobs done. And frankly, because some companies will give you back exactly what you gave to them, good, bad or otherwise. That’s why it’s important for you to be your own best advocate.

If you are going to do your own sourcing, once you know what you want to make, who your target audience is, and how much they are willing to pay for the product, go out searching for fabrics and notions. Request swatches. Bring them with you to your appointment with your pattern maker, discuss which of your swatches will work best for that particular item, and if your pattern will need to change to incorporate this fabric.

Now you’re working in the right order!


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