A Fabric Sales Rep

Jinjer has generously offered to share her fabric source with all of you. He’s an independent fabric rep with low minimums and his name is Bob. Call me cranky but I’m not going to publish his email address (yet) because Bob has offered to answer questions for us on the blog. While he could answer your questions individually, the rest of us would learn nothing from the experience. Therefore, comments are open so let’s get the ball rolling by posting your fabric sourcing questions.

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31 comments

  1. Mike C says:

    To add a bit more detail, does Bob deal in stretch knits designed for fitness/aerobic/yoga type applications?

    We’re currently using mostly branded fibers (e.g. Supplex/Tactel) though we have some French terry blends that are generic.

    One of the issues we’ve had before with low minimum purchase requirements is that there is no continuity of fabrics. We need to be able to re-order fabric from time to time and it needs to be the same as what we’ve gotten before – both in terms of content and color.

  2. Marilyn says:

    Bob, tell us what kinds of textiles you rep, what your minimums are, etc. I’m interested in fashion-forward wovens in the 20 yard range. What timelines do you work with? Also, tell us your beefs about DE’s so we won’t make the same mistakes. Thanks

  3. Kathleen says:

    I don’t know John but if -you- were serious about doing it, becoming one…I know I’d throw some resources your way. Other people here know other resources, companies they’d like to buy from. It could work out.

  4. Patty Dunn says:

    I would love to learn about repping for fabric companies and how to go about this? I have 25+ years sales experience in advertising and marketing. I am ready to make a change and would love to sell fabrics . Any input or advice? Minnesota area

    Thanks so much,
    Patty

  5. Patty Dunn says:

    I also have ideas for a cottage industry and would need to learn about hiring contract sewers and how to go about finding them and how this process works. Any help or advice is greatly appreciated!

    Thanks, Patty

  6. Gail says:

    I am seeking an opportunity to sell small quantities of high quality fabric to individuals or small groups as an independent rep. I am seeking a situation like a trunk show and have had difficulty finding one. Can anyone help me?

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Hello,
    I am looking for a good fabric company with deals with wholesaler/Manufactures like myslef. I am hoping to find a rep who can meet with me and bring a supply of new fabrics that are not on the market yet. I am located in Michigan. Does any one know anyone who reps a manufacture?

  8. Nadine says:

    I am trying to start up a handbag business and would like to know if there is a fabric rep in the Encinitas, CA area. I am only getting started, trying to create prototypes, so would also like to order smaller quantities right now.

    Thank you for your reply.

    Nadine

  9. We need someone who is currently visiting the interior design industry for the tri-state area. We have decorative leathers and vinyls. If you have multiple product lines and existing customers in this industry please apply.

  10. Cilia says:

    How do you go about locating a sales rep for fabric designated for the garment industry? I am specifically looking in the NY area.

    Thank you

  11. Mike Benjamin says:

    Becoming an independent sales rep for fabrics involves Knowledge public relation and dedication and certainly having contacts with key buyers of clothing manufacturers and fabric stores in your area is a big plus). An ideal candidate has 5 years experience but it depends on several factors like his or her specialties on type of the fabrics dealt before,size of the manufacturers and the volume of the their production. As a matter of fact, I have an opening now for an independent sales rep in any territory. Our product line consists of apparel fabrics knit and woven in solid color, in large selection of colors in stock for immediate delivery (on consistent bases) . Feel free to call me @ 213 892 0585 or email me (textilecity@sbcglobal.net) if you or someone you know is interested in this opportunity.

  12. I am trying to find a fabric rep or person who can source all the materials needed for an outerwear garment. However, I have no idea how much somebody like that would cost. First, does such a person exist? Second, how much would he/she cost? Third, Is there someone local, like in the midwest. I live in Madison, WI.

  13. Kathleen says:

    Midori, usually you don’t pay a fabric rep directly. If you were paying someone, this is a little different, you hire someone to “source” for you. It’s not very common. Sometimes consultants do it as a part of their services. Sometimes a contractor can, or even a pattern maker. It will help if you know the name of the fabric. You may end up with a “jobber”, I wrote about that before too. Mostly, you get suggestions from associates and will eventually have to go to a show at some point.

  14. Alison says:

    Hi I am outside of Philadelphia in Chester County PA. We use numerous textiles in our jewelry design and manufacturing…..in particular dupioni sillks, vintage fabrics, metallic linen, etc, etc. Is there a rep in our area that could call on us?

  15. Hillary says:

    Bob,

    I am a decorator..wanting to get into fabric sales..and have been told tha since I have such a vast number of design contacts..that I might consider repping for a fabric company. I have no previous experience with this..but am hard working and desperately needing a job..and this sounds like a great match…In design I love garden interiors/exteriors..therefore I think I might enjoy water sesistant fabrics..and aim to design in the future…sunbrella sounds like a great match..now could I be seriously considered for fabric sales?

    any ideas of who to contact?

  16. Hillary says:

    I want to apply for a fabric rep position with no previous experience..I am a decorator..and in the past have dealt with fabric showrooms..and have enjoyed this..and think that repping could give me a stable position for a couple of years…

    how would I go about starting some applications..contacting appropriate people..and being seiously considered?

    I have a vast number of contacts in the design field and am exposed to higher end clients daily..I am well suited for this..but again, have no previous experience..how would I begin?

    I have a company that I would like to work for..

  17. Roni says:

    A friend of mine is opening a fabric shop soon. I was visiting one day and witnessed a sells rep that apparently does not know how to do his job. He made no attempt to show my friend new and or upcoming fabrics. He was basically a joke. When the rep left, my friend turned to me and told me I should have his job. So, how would a person go about becoming a sells rep for fabrics.

  18. Ria says:

    Dont know if this thread is still being followed but here is my 2 bit, if it helps……
    I think contacting companies directly is not a bad idea especially if you have some in mind. You can start with a small territory to get experience and wont have to travel much. Websites have list of reps usually and even state if they are looking for anyone. It will take time of course but may be worth it. Also smaller companies are more open to newbies. How about going to a fabric show and meeting some fabric companies? Face to face is always better than cold calling. Just make sure you talk to the owner and not the rep!
    Im on the other side where I am nervous about taking on reps because they may not service the clients the way I want them to. I feel one has to love fabrics and design to feel committed to selling a line, and most reps unfortunately do it mechanically and it shows.

  19. I am a wholesale manufacturer looking to start a new division designing table linens. I would like to find a rep who will show me the latest colors and designs that are most recent on the market. Our company is located in Waycross Georgia, but I can be reached in Jacksonville , Florida

  20. Jay Arbetman says:

    OK, the #1 requirement for being a fabric representative is to have a very understanding spouse. Some of you know me but for those of you that do not, here is the skinny.

    I’ve been selling buttons, zippers and some fabrics part time from 2001 until 2009. In 2009 I reduced the hours on my regular job (this is where the understanding spouse comes in) and started taking on more lines. On 3/1/11 I quit my job as the VP of Sales of a jacket company and spent all of my time selling fabrics, zippers, buttons and all types of garment construction necessities. I also forged alliances with factories, pattern makers, truckers and all kinds of other industry folks. Some of these connections were really sharp and others were not as sharp. Be prepared to get blamed for the stuff that goes wrong and to not get much credit for the stuff that goes right.

    While I have vast experience in the garment business, I did not sell my first piece of fabric until 2003. Looking back on it, I pretty well had my head in my rear end until about early 2011 when I simply got better at my job and got better lines. As I did more business, my lines respected me and my customers more. They also sent larger checks (and sent them in a more timely fashion) which is terribly helpful.

    Want to be a fabric rep?? Here is my little to do list. Go to F.I.T. and take a couple of semesters of Textile Science. Buy Kathleen’s book and give it a couple of reads. Some of your best selling ammunition is on page 33. You will spend a couple of years writing 10 yd orders. This is actually valuable training since your 10 yd customers have EXACTLY the same expectation as your 10,000 yd customers (except for the first time I wrote a 10,000 yd order, I stopped and had a martini on the way home).

    Dealing with jobbers, importers, converters and mills is interesting. Some of these folks are very supportive. Others are not so good. My experience has lead me to one rule (though it does not have to be your rule). Never represent anyone from Los Angeles. Some of the people you will be dealing with deserve a tremendous amount of respect. Some are complete schmucks.

    Here are a couple of other important reminders.

    Your chances of winning the lottery are identical whether you play or not. Really big accounts are VERY difficult to come by. In ten years, I have stacked up two really big accounts and then another dozen that are pretty decent. I have over 200 occasional to frequent smaller accounts. Sound good? I’ve been doing this since 2001!!! So all in all, I’ve added two accounts a month and most of them have been ordering significantly less than $5,000 a year.

    Be on guard for bad product. I repped a zipper and supply company that started shipping bad product. I fired them after the third bad instance of product. I lost two of those three accounts.

    Ten years ago their were 35 regional sales reps. There are only handful of people making a living at selling fashion textiles as of 2011. My guess is that their are about seven or eight of us outside of New York and LA. There are only two of us at it on a full time basis in Chicago. Most of the others have some connection to retailing or are strictly jobbers.

    The truth is, I find it terribly rewarding. Still, it is a tough gig with little chance of success in the first few years.

  21. Von says:

    Good morning all.. I was seaching the web.. looks like alot of these posts are earlier.. I’m looking at making a major chain in my industry.. I’m wanting to start selling fabrics and or yarns to quilt shops knit shops etc. I am a textile artist on the side and looking at making a change from a corporate sales/marketing rep for 20 years to be able to service and work with quilt shops etc to help grow their business and offer great customer service. Any thoughts?

  22. Jay says:

    Where are you? It is a very regionalized business. Also, quilt shops is a surprisingly big business. For the most part, there is a different set of supplier for this as opposed to fabric for apparel and accessories. Read my post above. Most of that still holds. If I can assist, just ask. Ask here so others can see the questions and answers.

  23. Von says:

    I’m out of Indianapolis so the midwest location would be awesome of course. I know there so many diverging fabric companies.. some through distributors and some are direct as well.

  24. Jay Arbetman says:

    Actually, Midwest would be a very tough go for you. You need to find vendors that work in the quilt market. These lines, unlike apparel fabric lines, are fairly well represented. The key is to obtain really great lines which will be difficult. You might want to talk to La Quinta at Let’s Sew in Evansville. GREAT store and she knows everybody and can probably give better advice in this area than I can.

    There are two reps in Chicago (I am one of them) who have most of the useful fashion apparel lines. We have over 20 lines between the two of us. Button lines work good on the side. We have three of them but others are I believe not represented. You might try Durango Button which has nice product last I looked.

  25. CHRIS HYDE says:

    How do I find a fabric rep to sell my fabric?
    I own a wholesale women’s apparel company that sells resort wear. All my fabric are exclusive designs for my garment but I would like to branch into selling my exclusive fabrics. Where do I go to find a textile sales rep? Would doing a trade show be something I should consider?

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