Buying wholesale fabric at Material World

With sourcing wholesale fabric being the latest buzz around here, Marguerite Swope has written a trip report about the most recent Material World trade show (she’d previously written about her launch). The reports I’m getting lately is that people have been largely dissatisfied with the show but it seems to have been a good trip for her. If you’re local, I think it’s worth the trip. We saw the show in May at Miami Beach; I wasn’t sourcing anything in particular so couldn’t rate it either way.

Without further ado, here’s her report. Thanks Marguerite!
I went to Material World with the idea of finding eco fabrics that would work for me. They had emphasized on the website that this would be one of the areas of emphasis at the show. While it’s true that there were people with eco fabrics, finding them took some dedication. I had expected them to be in one section, but they were mixed in with all the vendors, probably because many of them had only 1 or 2 eco fabrics in all of their selection.

I was looking for woven bamboo and had no success (although now that I read more about bamboo, I’m not so sure it’s eco, but that’s a whole other topic). If you were looking for cotton or knit fabrics, you would have found some. It really gave me new respect for those of you who are 100% eco or organic. I thought I’d find tons of eco fabrics at this show—not so.

I am in the process of setting up a wholesale account with Exotic Silks and was surprised (don’t know why!) to see them there. That was a real find as I could touch and see all their fabric. We (my husband & I) are going to marble silk for my clothing, and by being at the show I found a linen/silk that may work very well, and I would not have found this without being able to just look at everything white and ask questions about suitability for dying. They took orders for any amount of yardage you wanted (10% added on if you order less than 15 yards). Their booth was constantly busy.

I found a button supplier for Dill Buttons who distributes from a warehouse just an hour from me so I can also visit and see all his buttons. We discovered mutual acquaintances and on the strength of that (I guess) he offered net 30 on the buttons I ordered and he’s sending more than I need so I can choose what I want and send the rest back.

I met a woman whose business is very like mine who also doesn’t live far from me, and the exchange of information was worth the whole trip (for example, she has a sewing contractor in Baltimore who will do small production runs).

I also found a jobber (Fabric Stock Exchange) who lives not so far from me that I couldn’t go see what she has and her prices are below wholesale. She educated me on jobbers and the advantages of working with them. Certainly you can get small amounts of fabrics, but you’d have to offer what you make as limited editions. She offers to pack and hold fabrics for you and you don’t pay until she ships them (I don’t know what happens if you change your mind).

I saw some booths that had clothing, no fabric. I couldn’t figure them out—were they using the clothing to show their fabric? Were they selling clothing? I finally discovered that they were sewing manufacturers who were showing you samples of their work.

It was interesting to walk a trade show as a buyer instead of as an exhibitor. I noted displays, what I liked and didn’t like. I liked being acknowledged when I entered a booth, but I hated it when someone hovered right next to me. The show was extremely slow, and I really felt for the vendors. The aisles were very sparsely populated. You could walk the show in very little time. The busiest booth was one that just had their samples strewn on the floor (I’m not kidding) and people were pawing through them. I guess it’s the thrill of the hunt or something.

I didn’t attend any of the seminars so I can’t tell you what they were like.

I have to admit I was intimidated by the international booths. I don’t have any idea of the process of ordering fabric from another country and it seems complex. I also didn’t ask how it works because I’m not seriously considering it right now. I know there are many of you who do use international sources, but I’m still so small that I can’t even get my head around how you’d get fabric and sewing contractors overseas (I can hardly get my head around Miracle picking up and going to trade shows in China!).

Note: I’ve heard from Sheryl of the Fabric Stock Exchange and she struck me as very motivated and interested in working with designers. She’s been around for a long time. She will be contributing to an article on how to work with jobbers, hopefully soon.

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  1. Tiffany says:

    Wow! A sewing contractor in Balitmore that does small runs! Every sewing contractor I’ve called locally won’t touch apparel let alone a small run.

  2. Colleen says:

    I attended Material World, too, and will submit a trip report to Kathleen; if she thinks it adds anything to Marguerite’s , hopefully she’ll post it. I’m sorry I didn’t meet with you Marguerite; it would have been nice to compare notes with a fellow F-I’er. I did attend two seminars, eco-fabrics and sourcing for profit AND spent a fair amount of time talking to reps from Optitex and TukaTech. Kathleen’s book was prominently displayed at the Fashiondex booth AND when I mentioned her name to Kabeel, TukaTech Director, he had was complimentary towards Kathleen and F-I.

  3. Colleen,

    I’m sorry, too, that we didn’t get to meet up. I should have posted on the “meet up” forum, but I didn’t even think of that.

    It sounds as if your experience was different from mine, and I would be interested in reading what you send to Kathleen.


  4. BUD says:

    We are a fabric company that has been offering JUST the exact service of providing wholesale fabrics, with low minimums to designers.

    1) I see that you are seeking sources of eco fabrics, and that bamboo struck you as a not-so-eco fabric, which is true in the sense that bamboo and soy are not necessarily “organic”.But they do have an eco-benefit in that they are natural fabric, which are bio-degradable easily, and i think thats what still gives them the tag “eco”.

    2) Another portion of the article which interested me most was that you seek small quantities of fabrics, and that it is harder to locate those vendors.

    I just want to say that we have always been promoting small quantities.Thats what we do. At least we do that for all fabrics that are available in stock with us. For custom
    manufacturing too, we try keeping the minimums the lowest. An idea here can be that if you are in contact with a good set of designers, who might be requiring the same fabric, then a cluster production can take place, and so the minimums can be met as well. This would also give you/the designers more bargaining power, because by consolidating demands,you can negotiate better prices.

    3) A third point which struck me was the option of actually looking at international sources & the complexities involved there. Let me put it this way: What if you had a fabric source right here in the US, that had its own office/warehouse in California, yet also had its own warehouse/buying office in India, and that they offered direct access to a low-cost market like India, while paying in the US.

    What we have been doing for our customers is just this.
    Shipping time: 4-8 business days. Fedex/DHL door-delivery service: You get the fabric delivered to your doorstep,custom-cleared, and Fedex pays the duty for you on-the-spot, and sends you the fabric immediately, so you dont wait, and then sends you the duty bill later.

    Effectively, you dont have to make a single phone call or send an email, or go anywhere.The fabric reaches you at your doorstep, with all formalities covered by Fedex/DHL and that too with a total time of 4-8 business days.

    The best part is that you make all payments to a US company in the US, while having direct and legal access to a foreign source, with 4-8 days lead time, and without having to do anything.No knowledge of any kind is needed in this as far as complexities of import are concerned.We actually call this a direct drop-shipping service.

    Take a look at this link on our site, which explains the above option in a simple way.

    Atlantis Fabrics

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