LA Textile wholesale fabric show

I told Kathleen that after attending the textile show in Los Angeles(TALA), I would write a bit about whatever I saw at the show. I rarely get to attend the entire trade show (it’s during the week) and I don’t get to visit every type of showroom but I do have some information for you. First let me give you some background; the Los Angeles Textile Show is an industry show for apparel designers and manufacturers. It is not a home sewing fabric expo for the independent crafter who only needs five yards per fabric. This show features exhibitors from around the globe and many have high minimums (hundreds of yards per fabric). Having said that, many cater to DEs (designer-entrepreneurs) but not the type of DE who primarily shops at fabric stores and who wants to luck out and be able to buy very small quantities at wholesale prices (this point will be important later).

One of my favorite parts of the show is the trims/embellishments and trend forecasting section. First and foremost, picking quality and/or unique trims can make a tremendous difference in the value of your product. Trims are -I’m sure Kathleen has a good definition somewhere- “everything else” on the garment such as buttons, zippers, piping, embellishments, lace, ribbon -all that good stuff. Many trims are purely functional and necessary like buttons while others are decorative and value enhancing, like piping.

Anyhow, the issue that arises with trims is that usually any company that sells them, sells thousands of them. It’s just not common to find a trim company with a small selection. Even a company that specializes in one type of trim such as ribbon, may have hundreds and hundreds of different kinds of ribbons. The reason this becomes an issue is because DEs want and/or expect the supplier to have a catalog. Apparel manufacturing is still very old school and so are many suppliers. I tell you, there are great trim companies that have online catalogs such as Global Elastics and Trims, Kagan Trims, M&B Trim but there are so many great companies that don’t or if they do, they don’t have most of their products online.

So I’m standing in the booth of Mokuba NY -one great trim company, and they have -literally – some of the most fantastic trims I have ever seen. Granted, maybe that’s not saying much because I don’t go to the New York fabric shows, the MAGIC fabric show or Premiere Vision in Paris, so admittedly my field of exposure is limited. Regardless, this company has some truly unique stuff. Another thing people don’t realize is that you must pay for sample cards. A sample card means that for a given trim (in 20 colors); there will be a (really nice) card that has little sample pieces of the trim and all the color codes. The one great thing I liked about Mokuba NY is that their cards listed the fiber content and washing/care instructions for all their trims (Kathleen would love them). You wouldn’t believe how many trim companies couldn’t tell you what an item was made of or how to care for it. This is important because you don’t want to put a dry clean only trim on a garment that will be machine washed.

Anyhow, I’m rambling but I am going to make a point which is Mokuba NY charges for their sample card -$12 each. Since the sample cards of most companies I’ve seen range from free to about $3 per card, $12 was the most expensive I have encountered. I think this serves two purposes. First, it stops the non-serious designer from going crazy and ordering everything under the sun and second, it keeps their costs down. Also, while other companies send out color copies of their sample cards, you’d get a real one upon placing a real order. The latter policy is a great alternative when exact color matching is not absolutely crucial.

Well, I’m in this booth -ordering my $12 sample cards- and this woman comes up and asks a few questions. Do you have a website, well they don’t because of copyright issues. The line is from Japan, and they are just awesome on the design so they don’t put their line on the web to protect their intellectual property (and even thought you might not agree, it’s actually a very good reason and I’ll write about that later). Well, since they don’t have a comprehensive catalog (they have a huge line) and they don’t have a website with products, and the sample cards cost money, this designer says very sternly, “there is no way I can work with you” and puts the business card back and walks off.

Now, I get her point, I think she wanted them to know that they weren’t exactly making it easy but her approach was wrong. The chances of one prospect -not customer- making a company change the way they do business is slim, especially if you’re not big enough to constitute serious volume -because if you were, you wouldn’t balk at the idea of $12 for a sample card- so when people do that, it comes across as arrogant as though you expect suppliers to bend over backwards to accommodate you. You know the saying, you catch more of something with honey, the truth is you’re better served by saying “how can we make this work” than by being bratty and declaring that it won’t work and acting as though you expect for sales reps to come running after you to get your business.

I don’t care who you deal with at a trade show; any company’s big customers are usually making one-on-one appointments and coming to the showroom, or having a sales rep visit them. Most large customers don’t visit their vendors at trade shows because the hustle and bustle of new buyers interrupts their one-on-one time. Trade shows -by and large- are for smaller customers or new customers who will initially transact smaller orders as their volume grows. While it is common for large companies to attend trade shows, they don’t usually do their buying there and suppliers know this. So trying to act like you’re oh-so big and important is usually not a good strategy, even if you are. People who really are big and important don’t need to act that way because they are big and important and everybody knows it.

So, moving along after that tidbit, trims are great because they are usually very inexpensive ways of enhancing the perceived value of an item. You can put a $1 trim on something and make it look like it should cost $20 more and that’s not an exaggeration.

If you’re interested in getting a Mokuba sample card (they also have huge 4 color glossy catalogs costing $75-$100), you can order one via fax (212-869-8970) , phone (212-869-8900) or email. They accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Lester Silverman (their business manager) invites you to visit their showroom at 55 West 39th Street, New York, NY 10018. Their next trade show appearance will be at the National NeedleArts Association Winter Trade Show, January 21-23, 2006 in San Diego CA (Mokuba also sells retail).

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  1. Christy Fisher says:

    Hi there! I was at the Los Angeles International Textile Show (buying).

    Tala is PART of the LA Textile show. Some of the reps are members of TALA- but not all of them. TALA is a different animal.

    Here is what Tala is (from their website:
    Textile Assocation of Los Angeles (TALA) is a membership-based group of professionals engaged in textile sales, manufacturing, related products and services to the apparel industry.

    The assocation provides education, networking opportunities and resource information services locating textiles, related prducts and services within the apparel industry. The assocation provides services through its office, annual directory, and numerous networking events and opportunities, to members and the wider fashion (apparel) community. The assocation also provides scholarships to talented future designers, contributes to charitalbe causes, and holds community events for inner-city youth.

    WHAT IS T.A.L.A.?
    TALA is an abbreviation of the Textile Association of Los Angeles, Inc., a non-profit mutual benefit corp. association of salespersons living and working in California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, Hawaii, and Alaska, and engaged in the sale of textiles and allied products to Garment Manufacturers, Textile Jobbers, and Retailers.

    ..and you are correct about not trying to be bigger than you are..
    However, I did find many sources that have fairly low minimums there..(there were a lot of jobbers there as well..and their minimums are next to nothing)

    You are correct that this show is “industry only”. However, being that Otis Design School is right there in the CalMart, you always see a bunch of young designers around the show.

    If you are a “newbie” and have your “papers” (tax ID, etc.) I would highly recommend walking this show (and yes- behave yourself and don’t act like you are in a retail fabric store and ask them to cut swatches and sample a bunch of stuff)..

    I did sample from a few vendors- and none of them charged me..and they DID send them by mail the following week- even 2 of them from France. my experience was a bit different than yours. (BTW, I have dealt with Mokuba and they have some of the most unique trim..and they are also one of the most expensive people to deal with)

    Another wonderful thing about this show is the LOCATION. The CalMart is right in the middle of the Fahion District and surrounding the Mart is an 80 square block area of fabric and apparel manufacturing related places..and TONS of millend jobbers on the streets.. LOTS of fabulous digging and buying 50 yard rolls at $1- $2 a yard on the side streets..
    ..some even as low as 50 cents!.. AND there is a UPS pack and ship right you just have them (the fabric vendors on the street) haul your stash to the UPS center and make a pile..then ship the rolls home..! (they do it all the time)
    I use this wonderful “cheap stuff” for sampling new patterns..or just for “guilt free one-offs”..

    I hope you had as much fun at the show as I did.
    Keep in touch! I go to this show twice a year (Spring and Fall) and maybe we could meetup for coffee there!

    ALSO..I have attended Fabric@ MAGIC three times.. I was really disappointed. Most vendors are from overseas (China/India/Korea) and the minimums with most of the companies at MAGIC are too high for me(500-1000 yd).

    Something really wonderful about all of these trade shows are the FREE seminars and forecasting presentations that you can attend.
    I hope you had a chance to drop into some of them.

  2. Christy Fisher says:

    Just another quick comment..
    I deal with minimums that range from 50 to 300 yards per color per style.
    I found that the Home Sewing Association has a wonderful little show in Las Vegas. I attended and found some really good resources there. (Many of them also were showing at LA Textile) The HSA show is geared to the OTC (over the counter/bolts/retail sewing stores/mostly quilt shops, etc..)so the minimums from most vendors there are 1- 2 bolts (15-25 yards!)
    I was expecting mostly cotton quilt fabrics, but was pleasantly surprised at the silks, linens, velvets, and other wonderful vendors who were there.
    It was the same weekend as Material World (in New York) and many of the vendors also had teams who were doing Material World…and the minimum that were asked by the same vendors at Material World were higher than the minimums at the HSA because of putups..
    Also.. with most vendors (in case you didn’t know this)..they have “price structuring” where you get a better price at different levels of volume…so you migt pay $4 a yard a the OTC level (buying, say a 25 yd bolt) and you will pay $2.80 a yd for the same goods if you are buying 300 yds on industrial roll putups.

  3. Christy Fisher says:

    Hi again!
    Miracle and I have had an e-mail conversation about some ofthe LA events and she asked if I would share some of these other tidbits with some of you who may not know here is our e-mail conversation:
    (from Miracle:)

    Hi there,
    Yes, I understand that TALA is *a* sponsor of the show, it was a change that has been corrected. As far as the other comments, you might want to post that in the blog comments section for other readers to benefit from because a lot of people don’t know about GCA, TALA or other textile resources.
    Miracle here’s my “stuff”:

    Nice to meet you! Thanks for the reply..TALA is one of the sponsors..but not the “show”…
    One of the complaints I hear from vendors about TALA:
    Unless you are paying the $300 or so a year membership, then you are not listed in their directory, etc…so if you contact TALA , trying to track down a certain type of fabric or contractor (for example), you will only be given the names of those with paid membership to TALA..and there are TONS of others who are not TALA members that you may miss.. so my advice is to use TALA- sure, they are great- but don’t STOP there…you have to dig, dig, dig…The Garment Contractors Association in California is another good source…

    Also going to these shows gets you a SHOW directory of ALL the vendors present at the show. It is a valuable tool in itself.

  4. tom says:

    You make a couple of very good points. Certainly trade shows of this type are very beneficial to most, but one should always look below the surface,and yes, dig, dig ,and dig. There are untold resources that don’t join these organizations such as TALA, and prefer to remain on their own. The Internet gives you immediate access to fabric and contracting sources, all around the world. Launching a clothing line in some ways, has never been easier. In the “old days”, trade fairs had yet to be invented, and personnel from apparel companies had to travel to mills around the world to find and secure fabrics,to be sewn in their own factories.(These points alone will have the “oldtimers” reminiscing).
    As well, don’t mistake Material World as discriminating against DE’s because of price issues. I believe a majority of exhibitors realize the importance of emerging companies. They cater to wide variety of interests, including sewing technology,forecasting,logistics,contracting, in addition to textile sources.Many would say they embrace DE’s, and the potential revenues they represent .They too, offer some great seminars, many dealing with the issues of our changing industry, many free of charge. Have you ever tried contacting the numbers listed by the California Garment Contractor’s Association ? Sadly, many are not in service with no forwarding numbers. Perhaps, another sign of the times.

  5. Susan Patricia says:

    I am a DE in the midwest and have certainly been challenged by finding and purchasing the fabric I need for my start-up line. I went to NYC and meet with several mill reps and indeed found minimums and prices per yard too high (with shipping), although I found them very helpful and accomodating. I did find some fabric through a jobber but they couldn’t tell me anything about its content/construction and it was $10+ a yard. NYC is not where the DE wants to go anymore I understand. I unfortunately missed out on the October show but don’t want to miss the Spring release window. I see there is a show in Chicago Nov. 30th and Dec. 1. Do you know anything about it? OR, would anyone recommend that I go to LA and shift through the jobbers? Any suggestions are much a appreciated.

  6. MW says:


    I would start with the closest show and since the Chicago show comes up before LA textile, it’s probably worth a shot seeing who you can find there. Often what you can do is get an exhibitor list and cross reference that with another show (many shows will send you their booklet after the show if they have them leftover).

    You can do a lot of legwork with a show guide for a past show as many companies have regional sales reps across the country that show their line. A lot of them don’t but it is a start when you’re caught in a time where you need to source fabric but your larger shows are months away.

  7. Tom says:

    I do not see any validity in your comment about “NYC is not where the DE wants to go anymore, I understand ” The jobber base in NY is more mature than any other US city, and offers the widest selection and availablity. Material World goes again in Miami first week of April.Many exhibiting mills/fabric sources realize they must bring down minimums and they do cater to upstarts.Ask if they will do smaller runs of a fabric on a sample basis. Ask what jobbers buy from them.Piggyback on another order?
    Remember that fabric is generally less expensive direct, from mills and that they DO know it’s content/construction. You may also want to hook up with good fabric/textile agents. Many represent
    several lines from all over the world. You have to go to these shows to find these agents. My previous post mentions the Internet as a
    “Godsend” to fabric sourcing. Communication with fabric people has never been more accessible and quick, but that intial contact helps immensely. Overall, it would appear that fabric mills, both domestic and worldwide have altered business strategies to adapt to the new apparel industry.It is no secret that mills asking for huge minimums a few years ago, have either lowered
    their standards or closed up shop.

  8. Susan Patricia says:

    All: Much appreciate all your help. (MW, I was told by a mill rep that NYC is not where to go anymore. I agree, the mill reps provided the fabric details and were very helpful.)

  9. Nina says:

    Hi Everyone I was just reading all your comments, I am new at this and have been shopping for material @ LA the garment district….but I want to go to one of those shows. Can anyone tell me when the next LA textile show will be, I’m coming all the way from Hawaii just to purchase fabrics, but if I can hook up with a company that would send me fabrics direct, it would be awesome. I am also looking for hawaiian print fabrics. Any help would be appreciated….thank you all very much!

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