How to find help in the apparel industry for nearly nothing

“How do I find a sewing contractor?” “How do I find wholesale fabric?” “How do I find a sales rep?” “How do I find stores to buy my clothes?” These are questions I get every single day. The garment industry is no different from any other, you get this information from your friends. So the question really should be, who are your friends? The TP Entrepreneur says you are equal to your five closest friends. Are your five friends successful designers in the business? Or are they just like you, stuck at the starting gate? It’s fantasy to believe you’ll get lucky meeting the right people while stuck in an elevator. In real life, you can easily find and make friends with people who are most like what you want to be or who are at the point where you want to be for nearly nothing.

Having connections is not an accident; anyone can acquire them as a matter of intent -chance favors the prepared. That means you’ll have to join their turf, people most able to help you aren’t hanging out in free forums or message boards because they are looking for friends who are at their level or above it -not below it. There are a few garment industry forums out there but because these are public and anyone can join, no one posts proprietary information so there’s no useful give and take. The paradox is that because they are public, they stagnate and fail to grow. There’s very good reasons why people with proprietary information don’t post in public and it has nothing to do with selfishness or fears of competition. Often, access often boils down to one thing -professional membership organizations aren’t free. Most organizations eliminate looky-loos by charging hundreds if not thousands of dollars to join (it cost me nearly $3,000 to join AAFA). The thinking is, if you can’t afford to join, you aren’t at the level to afford services or products of that tier either.

The difference between you and people you want to be like is that they have already figured out that they won’t find what they’re looking for wherever it is you’ve been looking. As Paul Graham says, “stay upwind– work on things that maximize your future options.” On Fashion-Incubator, it’s really simple. You join the forum. Being that it’s the only forum of its kind on the internet, I’m constantly amazed that less than 5% of you take advantage of it. That’s where the vast majority of the activity on this site takes place; the forum is hopping all day long but out here, maybe only ten comments are posted. In short, the only way you can move up another level is to move up another level with respect to the company you keep. You are a reflection of who you hang with, whether it’s your line or your friends. Their influence and advice rubs off on you.

The first requirement to join is to buy The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing -a new one. If you’re starting out in the industry, you do need it (this site builds on the book, it does not replace it). As a practical matter, book sales are what support this site; used copies transfer no benefit. Without sales, neither this site nor the forum would exist and I certainly wouldn’t be around to answer questions. In a manner of speaking, it is forum members whose names you don’t even know, who support your endeavor by underwriting this site. They’ve also said (explicitly) that if you can’t afford the book, you can’t afford to produce a line and so, are not in a position to take advantage of their advice. In the end, forum members are the people you should thank for the existence of this site.

How to join the forum
Lecture dispensed with, there seems to be a bit of confusion as to how to find the forum and how to be approved. In other words, if you’ve registered and get an automated email response, this does not mean your membership has been approved. All this time I thought it was obvious how to find the forum and register so this will illustrate how to proceed.

To start, navigate as illustrated below.

Once there, you need to register (below).

Read the user agreement (more detail) which is specific and customized to our forum. Make special note of our username policy. As a professional forum, your username must be your name. The forum, while private, is not anonymous; no different than any other business membership.

Fill out the registration form. While it can be amusing to answer something other than “red” to the question “Roses are ___, violets are blue“, your registration will automatically be deleted if you do (the question is designed to eliminate spambot registrations) and I will never see it. If you’re using a spam challenge email address, your registration will also be refused (more on why). Again, as this forum is private, you will not have the sorts of problems that plague other online forums so these strategies are misplaced here. If you have a problem, you’d be the first. If it should happen, advise me and I will immediately take care of it. And trust, by the way, is an imperative on the forum. We share highly proprietary information including names, numbers and prices. People who violate forum confidentiality are suspended.

Once you complete the registration, you will receive an email from the system. Even then, you are not home free. You will need to email me by hitting reply from that window within 48 hours with your proof of purchase for a new copy of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing. If you forward your receipt under separate cover include your user name because I cannot always guess it amid the new registrations for the day. Your purchase need not be recent; you just need a receipt. If you do not email me, your registration will be deleted in 48 hours. Likewise, if I’ve responded to your email and have mentioned an oversight that requires a response on your part and you do not respond within the 48 hour window, you’ll need to re-register. I wish I had the time to go back and forth emailing reminders to everyone repeatedly but I don’t. All of this information is in the registration agreement, the public folder called Info on Membership and in the auto responder.

Sadly, current conditions are such that I must mention that you should use proper business email conventions. While anyone is welcome to join us and we’d love to have you, my first loyalty is to my existing members and their interests are best served in a trusting, harmonious, productive, professional -and yes, often personal- environment. For what it’s worth, our 900+ handpicked members agree it’s working; there is no other forum as active and dynamic as this one.

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  1. Corky says:

    K, You have the best forum on the net related to apparel manufacturing! I wish I could find more time to rub elbows in the backroom. Your book is on my office bookshelf and is required reading for all my new employees. If you are in this business you really should read K’s book even if your an industry veteran.

  2. Kathleen says:

    I was reading this today:

    It’s too late to buy Google stock. You’re not going to make much money buying it at its current high price. I think the same attitude should apply when trying to meet new people… If you’re an aspiring writer and want to meet other writers, you can’t reach out to an author after he’s become a New York Times bestseller. Either you won’t reach him, or if you do, he’ll assume you have an agenda or want something from him.

    Better, in my view, if your goal is to develop long-term relationships with interesting people, to focus on those whose “stock prices” are low but long-term potential high. Compared to the already rich and famous, no-names can be less egotistic and often more insightful. Plus the value flows bi-directionally (you can help each other).

    How to find a hidden gem? … seek out introverts. Seek out people under age 30. Seek out people who are bad at marketing.

  3. Sonia Levesque says:


    In response to your last post, I find this quite blunt, but very interesting. I find teams work better when you have a good mix of “types of people”; extroverts AND introverts, young AND older, guys AND girls. One definitely can help the other, even (maybe more so) if they’re not aware of it.

    Makes me think also of a saying one of my high school teacher said to us (brainy type A all girl class – I know, outch!) : The best in shcool are usually NOT the best in the work place. Learning things and acting on it takes different skills. I find that for the MOST studious friends I had… this came true.

  4. Marian says:

    Just want to recommend Kathleen’s book! Have already read it once and reading it again. I’m one that for years has been looking for the type of information that is in her book and available on the membership area. is golden!

  5. LizPf says:

    Coming in late here … but I think this comment has merit for other archive readers of this great blog.

    Kathleen, I am an enthusiast, as you call us home sewers. I realize I am not in your target audience, but I am picking up pattern-making and sewing tips, and learning a lot about an important industry.

    I would love to join the forum, and learn even more. But I don’t own a copy of your book, and I’m not sure I will get $65 of value from it (having no desire to go into the fashion business myself).

    Can you explain (in a blog comment, so it will be in the archives):

    – why sewing enthusiasts should buy your book (and thus gain access to the form), OR
    – why we shouldn’t be interested in the forum, OR
    – how we can get the benefits of the forum without buying the book.

    And a reminder … if you ever produce a book aimed at enthusiasts, not only will I buy a copy, but I will encourage all my friends who sew to buy a copy as well.

  6. vicki says:

    Think of the forum as an organization or club if you will. The value that comes from belonging to an organization always has a price. While this blog is a tremendous value, in and of it self (and free I might add), with all of the tutorials and shared information, “The book ” helps take the serious enthusiast to the next level. While some of the people who have purchased “The Book” are not building a sewn produts business, I am sure that they would agree with me that $65.00 is a very fair price for this huge amount of knowledge and being able to converse with this wide variety of talented people. As in any piece of printed information, there may be sections of the book that you may not use immediately but you will most likely refer to in the future. I really boils down to it being your money and your choice of what to buy with it.

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