Litmans Fabric Sourcing Guide

Litmans Fabric Sourcing guide helps you navigate through the sometimes tricky process of finding the exact fabric you need.

7 mistakes to avoid making when sourcing fabric

Sourcing fabric can sometimes be a long, involved process that often results in frustrations and missed deadlines. In an industry where time is of the essence and fashion is moving faster than ever, you need to be able to source fabrics in a timely manner. We’re here to offer you advice on how you can take steps to save yourself time, money and resources. So, without further ado here are the top 7 mistakes to avoid making when sourcing fabric.

1.Being Ambiguous

The worst thing you can ask a potential supplier is something general such as: “Have you got black laces in stock?” For example, Litmans currently have over 170 black laces in their range, so the question doesn’t give suppliers like Litmans anywhere near enough information to help you. Try and be as specific as possible and think about exactly what you’re looking for. Does the lace need to be stretch? Do you want a floral design or something geometric? Will the lace need to have scalloped edges? What width should it be? Try and list everything ahead of time, or even better – provide an image or a cutting.

Here’s a guide of what information is useful to the supplier:

  • Width
  • Composition
  • Weight
  • Colour
  • Date needed
  • Quantity required

2.Not giving a target price

The worst mistake a customer can make is not telling the supplier their desired price point. Once the supplier has your specification, they can immediately get started on sourcing the fabric, or checking through the options they already have available. When they come back to you after checking current ranges and looking at new developments and fabric archives and the response is “The price is too high,” it’s very frustrating for the supplier.  Days will have been wasted that could have been spent finding you the perfect fabric at the perfect price. So, be up front and tell the supplier exactly what price you’re working towards and together you can work on achieving it.

3.Immediately asking for minimums and pricing.

The supplier won’t know until they have all of your requirements. Then once the pattern is sourced or decided upon, your supplier will then be able to provide this information, along with all the different options available.  Any supplier out there will usually need time to handle the initial inquiry, so always factor this into your timescale. Please also bear in mind that sometimes answers can’t be given the same or even next day due to different time zones between countries.

4.Speaking of time scale….not allowing enough time

Sourcing fabrics can be a time consuming process. Some suppliers like Litmans have got it down to a fine art and have a fast turnaround record, but it all hangs on customers working closely with suppliers so that the process runs smoothly. All steps need factoring in to your time line, so make allowances for the various stages:

  • Initial inquiry
  • Samples
  • Lab dips/colour work
  • Production
  • Delivery

If you ask for a fabric not already in a supplier’s collection, be prepared for it to take a few days to be found and factor this into your delivery schedule accordingly.

5.Not thinking about quantity

Once again, it’s all in the details.  Suppliers need to know the estimated order quantity otherwise after arranging samples, providing prices and working out delivery details, they will then fall at the final hurdle: “I can’t order as much as 1000 metres. I only need around 150 metres.”  Be completely transparent about your needs and that way, suppliers can tell you up front if they are able to work with your quantities. It will save everybody a lot of time and work, including yourself.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that most mills will have a MOQ (minimum order quantity), which can be anything from 40-3000 metres and above. If you don’t think you will need this sort of quantity, try to work with fabrics already in a supplier’s collection. You’ll need to be adaptable and learn to compromise.

6.Not being flexible

You may have the vision of the perfect fabric in your mind and nothing else will do but that exact fabric. The fact is though, sometimes what you have in mind might not actually be out there and while anything is possible, creating a new fabric from scratch might mean an initial order of 10,000 metres or more. Your design might actually work just as well (or better!) with a fabric that is slightly different from your dream fabric. Be prepared to consider other samples and ideas in order to access fabrics that are more readily available. Don’t lose hours looking for a fabric that may not exist or has been out of production for a long time.

7.Not attending Trade Shows

Whilst lots of suppliers do have a wealth of online resources, they will most likely not list every single fabric they have access to on their website. There will be development fabrics, end of line fabrics, brand new fabrics….all of which you can usually see at trade shows. The shows are definitely worth the time and investment needed to attend. It’s an opportunity for you to view samples and talk to suppliers face to face. The internet is great but nothing can beat holding the actual fabric sample in your hands, or the chance to connect with a supplier and begin building a great working relationship. If you can only make one show, we would suggest Premiere Vision in Paris as a starting point.


The sourcing process – from a supplier’s POV.

When suppliers receive an initial inquiry, Procurement and Sourcing personnel will liaise with the customer to ensure that they have all the information available. Quite often, suppliers like Litmans able to suggest a fabric from stock that’s more or less on point when it comes to pricing and also fulfils the customer’s design brief.

Many customers raise a query with a supplier one day and have the fabric in their warehouse by the next day. When a larger quantity than what is available from stock is required, suppliers can provide a delivery date and the options for direct, air or sea shipment. The customer can opt to take what is available from stock with the balance of the order to follow, or have one complete shipment of the fabric, depending on their individual requirements. Customers in a hurry for fabric often take what is already on stock and then opt for an air shipment for the balance. This way you still get your order fulfilled quickly and can get started on your production.

If a supplier doesn’t have what you’re looking for readily available, they will ask for a sample or image so that they can start inquiring with their partners. If the supplier has all of the information as mentioned in this article, they will normally have some ideas and options available for you within a few days.

We hope you have found this guide useful. If you would like to receive a more in-depth guide then please contact us. Thank you.

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