Last week I started fabric sourcing for the next collection at a trade show in London. It felt really good to be there for the second time as I now have a more focused approach and a better idea of what is working, and what I need to look for.
The first season was a really big learning curve. I had been to these trade shows before, but it was very different going with a team for an established brand, with a defined aesthetic, than going on your own, sourcing for a new brand that has yet to be established. It was not just about finding fabrics I liked, but also about finding new suppliers who were a good fit for my business.
As a start-up you are very much more limited by numbers. You have no history so you can’t anticipate your order numbers or how much fabric you will need, you don’t know which styles or which colourways will sell, and which fabrics you can commit to buying in quantity. Very often there are minimums on buying fabrics and these have to be taken into consideration when you design your collection.
Luckily there are suppliers that are willing to sell smaller quantities of fabrics, but then there are often other considerations, like will it still be available in 6 months when I’m making production? Or if it has a specific pattern will another brand buy the same fabric and compromise exclusivity? The ideal solution would be to make your own fabrics that are unique to your brand, but designing, weaving and treating fabrics again have very high minimums and costs that are generally out of reach of start-ups.
This is something I would love to do in the future, when I have the option to commit to a quantity, but for now, to safeguard against these issues I am trying to find beautiful fabrics, that I can source locally, quickly and in small orders, so that I am in the position where I can fulfil orders of any size. My designs are all about the shape and construction of the garments, rather than the detail of the fabric, so with that emphasis I can make beautiful, statement pieces with less worry about the fabric supply.
I have found some lovely silks, cottons and textured fabrics for the new season, which will move the collection forward into a fresh, new offering. Just choosing the fabrics has started to shape the direction and vision of the collection and I can’t wait to get started!