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4 Important questions to ask when sourcing fabric

Sourcing fabric is an early step in the manufacturing process, and it’s a critical one. If the responsible parties have difficulty finding quality fabric suppliers, that challenge could disrupt all other associated production timelines. Asking the right questions of suppliers is also essential because more consumers are starting to think carefully about what happens behind the scenes in the clothing industry.

sourcing fabric question
Figure: Figure: Sourcing fabric is an early step in the manufacturing process, and it’s a critical one.

Are the fabrics durable enough to serve their intended purposes and meet or exceed the expected life span? Can the materials tolerate standard wash cycles? Do their components make them stain-resistant or moisture-wicking? Was the fabric sourced in sustainable and responsible ways?

Here are some vital questions people should ask as they engage with fabric suppliers.

  1. Do you have relationships with local quality fabric suppliers?

Sourcing fabric made locally is not always possible. However, it’s becoming an increasingly popular selling point for many consumers. Moreover, some fashion retailers have prioritized localization in their sourcing efforts.

Pick ‘n Pay Clothing is a South African retailer with more than 1,600 stores. It hopes to reach a target of 60% locally sourced clothing by 2028. Nearly 40% of the retailer’s apparel sales currently meet that criteria. That’s an example of how other people responsible for sourcing fabric could set similar benchmarks to work towards within their operations.

This effort has reportedly created approximately 700 local jobs. It has also taught people at the company to be more resourceful. Sourcing clothing materials became more challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the health crisis pushed company leaders to more heavily utilize a local supply network.

Doing that helped ensure products were available when customers wanted them. The initiative has already paid off in profitability, too. Several of the company’s clothing categories had sales increases of up to 21% in 2021.

If a supplier does not yet have a localized network, that’s not necessarily a reason to decline to work with them. However, obtaining more products closer to home has numerous benefits that could help a fashion brand strengthen its marketplace position.

  1. How much experience do you have sourcing clothing material?

It’s also important to learn about and verify how long a potential supplier has been sourcing fabric. Ample experience increases the likelihood that a supply chain partner will be able to navigate any challenges that arise.

As people spend more time in the industry, they’ll also naturally learn better supply chain management practices that help them become more resilient against potential shocks. For example, Coca-Cola uses data aggregation to ensure 500 million beverages are in vending machines when they’re needed. Over time, professionals specializing in sourcing fabric will also realize which methods work for them.

As people gain experience in the industry, they’ll also grow their networks, potentially making it easier if one of their raw materials suppliers has a shortage or a similar difficulty. Statistics also suggest parties can see up to a 40% warehouse throughput boost by deploying effective supply chain management strategies.

Increased productivity, enhanced order processing, and faster customs clearance are some notable benefits of using proven supply chain improvement tactics.

  1. Do you focus on sustainability when sourcing fabric?

Today, many big-name fashion retailers, including Primark and H&M, are giving customers more options for sustainable fabrics in their clothing for sale. However, as many people who look deeper into the sustainability issue realize, striking the right balance between eco-friendliness and other necessities is not easy.

Some of the most sustainable fabrics have characteristics that make working with them difficult. Also, widely available blended fabrics are often soft and comfortable to wear but not as kind to the planet as other options.

People must also assess the fabric-processing methods associated with certain materials. How much water and energy do they require? Sustainability also extends to how well the fabric will stand up to wear and washing over the months and years a person owns it.

The European Union is also working on laws concerning the use of single-fiber fabrics. In March, the European Commission published a plan to make more clothes last longer and be recyclable, plus made from recycled materials when possible. The prioritization of single-fiber fabrics is a significant part of those goals. Blended materials are typically harder to recycle because of the challenges associated with separating the fabrics.

Sourcing fabric
Figure 2: Emily Newton, Editor In Chief at Revolutionized.
  1. What fabric-sourcing information do I need before placing an order?

Most companies that help customers with sourcing fabrics have established yardage-based minimums for their orders. Reputable fabric suppliers will be transparent about those specifics. Procurers should take the time to learn about what they must order and the average fulfillment timeframes. They also must figure out how much they can feasibly buy at once and the expected frequency of repeat orders.

Sourcing clothing material is often more manageable when suppliers offer sample yardage. Purchasers can then feel more confident that certain options will meet their needs. If that’s not possible, the people responsible for sourcing fabric should ask for swatches or headers. Those will be helpful when engaging with stakeholders about the possibilities.

Once people have narrowed down which fabrics they want to buy, most suppliers will ask for details like the style numbers or colors of the requested items. That’s why it’s important to write down that information and take suppliers’ business cards, especially while visiting events such as textile shows.

Following up with fabric suppliers after meeting them is also essential. Such organizations often get very busy after having a presence at industry events. Representatives may not take the initiative to contact you, even if the in-person discussion seemed very productive.

Start sourcing fabric like a pro

The task of sourcing clothing materials and forming strong relationships with quality fabric suppliers requires ongoing dedication. These questions will get people off to a good start in finding the materials they need.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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