The next part I love about the show is trend forecasting and such. Now many people don’t know this but many designers purchase “inspiration” (for a lack of a better word). There are tons of companies that collect vintage garments and fabrics and sell them to designers who are looking for inspiration for a product line. Yes, you can comb the thrift stores but so does everyone else, and the thrift stores often lack the really good stuff. The pieces you can purchase range from full garments, to pieces of garments to fabric swatches or panels. They are usually not cheap.
Another thing that is sold is textile artwork. While there are design companies that do nothing but churn out textile artwork (and there is a bigger show for this, but I cannot remember the name, it’s held in New York), there are many companies who collect old fabrics, for which the artwork is presumed to be in the public domain, and resell those fabrics (for a few hundred dollars) to designers who then reproduce the textile design (all or in part). While textile printing is usually reserved for those who can print thousands of yards of a fabric, there are creative ways for DEs to acquire small quantities. In addition to all of this, many companies that sell textile art, literally storyboard their ideas. We visited one company that had their prints laid out as swim wear pieces, complete with embellishments. You could literally “get” that idea right there. Anyhow, that should be enough about the trims so on to the textiles.
Most shows have color and trend forecasting books, brochures and presentations. This is where the various industry councils (like Cotton Incorporated) or leading (expensive) trend forecasting companies pick an array of colors and items that they think will be in fashion. Since trend and color forecasts are usually 12-18 months ahead of the actual season, this is almost like having a glimpse into the future. Even if you can’t attend a trade show, many agencies will sell their color forecasts for low cost and some are free. It’s worthwhile information to have because even though they are not a bible by which you should build your line, you don’t want to be caught with a huge chunk of your line in powder pink if it’s going to be incredibly passe next spring. Here are some links to color forecasts, Cotton Inc. (which offers a free version of their color forecasts), Pantone, Scotdic (doesn’t forecast but sells the swatches), PremierVision and MAGIC (the most reasonably priced of the ones you must pay for).
As far as buying fabrics goes, you’ll find that minimum quantities can vary from company to company, or even with one company, from one fabric to another. You will find that there are many exhibitors you simply cannot use because either their minimums or their prices keep them out of your range. Since most DEs need fewer than 100 yards of each fabric, I will concentrate on how to get what you need.
First and foremost, you tend to have lower minimums with companies that stock fabrics. If a company has to produce fabrics as they are ordered, chances are the minimums are high. Some companies do a mixture of both; they’ll stock some fabrics but also produce other fabrics. That’s why minimums can vary between fabrics from the same supplier. Another tip is that you tend to have lower minimums with companies that supply fabric stores. This doesn’t mean you have to get the same fabric (because many fabric stores only carry a certain portion of a supplier’s inventory) but since an independent fabric store usually doesn’t order more than one bolt or roll of a fabric at a time, this is usually the type of company that can sell in small quantities to smaller manufacturers. Now I know some people start snickering because their local JoAnn’s or Hancock Fabric comes to mind, but think of the better quality independent fabric retailers; there are good ones that home sewers go to -they have to get fabric somewhere- so don’t knock it.
Even if that doesn’t get what you want, another thing to consider -and this only works if you’re nice (because if you’re a PITA no one will want to work with you)- is that if you really want a fabric but the minimum is too high, kindly ask if it is possible to tack your quantity onto a larger order if there is one they are working on. If someone else is ordering 200 yards, adding your 60 on top of that won’t be such a big issue. It may mean you need to wait longer than you anticipated but at least you get what you need. However, if you’re difficult to work with, chances are the vendor will tell you that’s not possible even if they do it all the time.
The other source many smaller companies use are jobbers. I’m on the fence about jobbers. While they definitely have their place, they usually cannot reorder a fabric thus it can be dicey planning a line around jobber fabrics. By the time you get ready to produce, they can be sold out of that particular fabric. They have great prices, but not always the best selection (and that can be an understatement) but they are an option used by many. If you’re showing your line well ahead of production, skip the jobbers. If you’re showing close to delivery, then it may be viable for you but you must have a good relationship with a jobber to pull this off. You need to know how much fabric they have in stock and when or if they might sell out of it.
Having said all of that, there are plenty of resources available for the DE, this is assuming that you can purchase at least 20 yards or more commonly, 50 yards (or more) of a fabric.