There may be nothing more frustrating then sourcing fabric for your first collection.
Trust us we have been through it all! But we are here to help you through this journey.
With our first collection we went a complete different route for our woven fabrics to other designers starting in the industry. You would usually go to a fabric mill that has connections with the manufacture you are using and select the fabric from them in bulk and they deal with the delivery to the warehouse which was the case with our knitted fabrics which are imported from Spain and custom dyed to our specifications in house at one of our factories but thats a discussion for another blog.
Doing things this way on your first collection can go wrong for a number of reasons.
First the language barrier can turn a quick question that would normally take a few days into weeks, which in the cut throat world of fashion you just don't have. Second if your factory is in Europe, the middle east or Asia, you can bet sending and receiving samples to and from Australia is not only expensive but a complete waste of time.
The best way we believe for your first time, and the route we took is to go over to the country in which you are producing the clothing and source the fabric from small mills or boutique fabric shops around the area.
It may sound like this isn't a very cost effective way to source but we found that if you get cheap flights, stay in budget hotels that have good security, don't go on a shopping spree and only spend no more then 4 days it is very time and cost effective. The same cost it would take in wages and shipping fabric samples almost equals the cost of going over there and getting business done in a timely manner.
We were lucky enough to have a representative who handles setting up our meetings and translates and also an employee who specialises in technical fabrics and making sure the fabric is up to the high standards that we have. So i made a list of each fabrics composition, how much we needed and for what tech packs each fabric is for and gave this to my employees. They then went to the local fabric area of Indonesia, Bandung. There they had found many samples of what we needed and here lies the problem for not being there to examine and purchase the fabrics on the spot. Every time we tried to buy the fabric once they had sent it to me from Indonesia i would confirm and they would then proceed to purchase the fabric and it would have already been sold. We wasted a solid 2 and a half months and hundreds if not thousands of dollars in wages and shipping costs when we could have just made a simple trip there to do this in person.
Once we arrived in Indonesia we spent the first few days in meetings making sure the factories understood that we were buying the fabric and that they needed to take the costs for the fabric out of each item as they were not supplying this.
Bandung fabric market.
Once everything was confirmed we headed on a 3 hour drive (4 in 'traffic jams' as they say) to Bandung the city known for its art deco architecture, outlet shopping and fabric mills galore. We went to areas that specialised in chino fabric, washed chambrays and more. They have literally anything you could want.
We were on a very tight schedule, only 1 and a half days till i needed to be back to the airport and on my way home. We rushed through the streets looking for everything we needed. Once we found a type of fabric we needed we would get our technical specialised, Dandy to inspect the fabric and tell us how much we needed. We would then put down payments on the rolls and be sent invoices (but don't count on getting sent legit invoices) on to the next and the next.
The next step was to find a reliable courier. In and around the fabric areas you will find couriers every second shop. They are almost all the same it was basically who Dhona, our representative trusted the most that we went with. We payed them a deposit and let Dhona handle getting them to pick up the rolls and all the details. The best thing that we had was our representative helping or else we not have been able to navigate the areas and everything would have been lost in translation as most of these boutique areas do not speak English well enough to hold a conversation. So if you take anything away from this blog it is that you will need a trustworthy and knowledgeable representative in the country you are producing in.
We eventually finished our sourcing and rushed to the airport.
Trust our luck we got stuck in the infamous Jakarta traffic jams. We only had 30 minutes till i have to present my passport at check in and we were still at least 40 minutes away according to Dandy. He then stepped on the gas and although i thought we were definitely about to crash we made it and on our way home we went.
Once we arrived back in Australia there was no time to relax as the next step is to get these invoices payed. Once we had done this and worked out with the couriers who to contact at each factory and what rolls to take where (this will make your head hurt guaranteed) we were almost done with the fabrics.
PT. Koken Factory.
The next steps are up to the factories to sort out.
Now these steps we wish we knew sooner and this is by all means not the exact way you should do this. We are simply explaining what we went through and our experience with the fabric mills our first time. We now source fabric a complete different way by having our own mills connections but this all comes with experience and developing contacts in the industry. We can only hope this blog can help more people get into the fashion world and explore the possibilities it can offer.
All it takes is some courage and passion so get out there and achieve your dream!