Sourcing at Magic

I have a confession to make: Sourcing is really, technically, the only section at MAGIC that I visited. Of course, I had to make the trek through streetwear to get to it. Having said that, it seems like a lot of the companies at sourcing knew the deal and were geared towards streetwear, lots of jeans, caps, outerwear and such.

I may have mentioned before that the International Fashion Fabric Exhibition has somehow ended up as part of Sourcing at Magic. I was sorely disappointed to find out (not that I had ever attended the show). I kinda sorta expected to find at least some domestic and European fabric sources at Sourcing (I know, silly me) but no. Maybe a few domestic companies, or should I say foreign companies with a strong domestic presence, but primarily Asian textile companies.


Pretty soon, us West Coasters are going to have to go to NY (or Europe, depending on what you make) for textile shows, since Los Angeles Textile seems to be losing some steam.

On the bright side of things, there was a small bit of Printsource at the show, with a few textile design studios showing at Sourcing. There are tons of us who want to create lines around our own prints, some have artwork, some need to purchase it. The issue, domestically, is converting. I have yet to find an affordable converter who will print hundreds of yards as opposed to thousands. But I have found some small workshops overseas who print small quantity. I’ll let you know how it works out, still working out the fabric issue.

On F-I, we talk a lot about domestic manufacturing, or manufacturing in the Americas, versus overseas. One of the things that always fascinates me about these shows is that the foreign countries with substantial garment production usually have trade organizations to promote the industry, whereas we really don’t. Yes, we have fractured organizations here and there, but no strong presence at any of the shows. There was a “made in America” section of the show, with some exhibitors, but nothing that really showed the range of what you can produce in the USA. While MAGIC is an expensive show for an exhibitor, I wonder what the domestic industry is missing out on, by not presenting the concept that we do have a strong, and diverse, domestic manufacturing base.

We tend to underestimate the number of people starting out who go to MAGIC because they know it’s the biggest show. I met a lot of people at the show who were starting out with a line (not all clothing, but all sewn products or accessories) who were at MAGIC wading through the Asian booths looking for a contract manufacturer, because they know of no domestic resource to find one. I know we have SEAMS (and others), but many small contractors aren’t part of organizations with “high” membership fees. Plus it seems as though our government (at least in California) is more interested in passing legislation that hurts our domestic apparel manufacturing business rather than helping it.

As I write this, I don’t know what the solution is. There are a lot of companies that really do start out at MAGIC as their first, and primary resource. A lot of companies manufacture overseas because they think that there aren’t many other options.

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  1. I attended most of MAGIC this past week, along with the other shows (Project, POOL, Eco Trade Show, and ASAP), and overall, the trade shows have become too big. For the most part, I attend MAGIC so I can go to the very informative seminars that they have.
    For this alone, it’s worth shlepping through everything else.

    But it is disheartening to see that we do not have enough US textile companies and manufacturers here in our own backyard; I did meet with two gentlemen from Green Textile, a company from South Carolina, that manufacture cotton knits at their plants in S.C. nd N.C., and they also produce organic cottons, and had a lovely selection. I plan on working with them on behalf of my freelance clients as I feel we need to bring back design, production, the fashion industry as a whole, back to the U.S.

    On another note with regard to the trade shows themselves, I rarely recommend it to a brand new company for exhibiting because if they plan on it to “make their business” they will be in for a surprise. The costs alone can take up an entire budget, and if you have no current retailers ordering from you (because you are hoping to make all of your sales during the three to four days of the trade show) then you are really putting all of your “eggs in one basket” and may find a very quiet booth. I walked to the back areas and can’t tell you how many booths were empty each time I walked by…some were very open in talking and saying that they were under the assumption that once you have a booth, “you’ve made it.” It’s this naivety that is very sad, however, a lot of people shouldn’t be in this business to begin with, so I guess it can also be said “survival of the fittest.” (Sorry for all of the cliches!).

    Things are changing so much, and as a designer and as an instructor, the one thing I find myself telling everyone I work with, be it colleagues, students or clients, is to educate yourself about this business (and every facet of it) and to realize that if we are unhappy with current situations (i.e., not enough industry work here in the U.S.), then we need to band together to make a change that is good for us, and not let others (i.e. the politicians) dictate how to run our business.

  2. Bethany says:

    I was going to source at Magic on Monday, but I busted my knee something awful and therefore was unable to attend :(. Good review, sorry I couldnt make it.

  3. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    Maybe we–WE–have to do something about it? I know I want to eventually either work with a domestic contractor or produce stuff in house, and not outside of the Americas.

  4. Lisa NYC says:

    “I have yet to find an affordable converter who will print hundreds of yards as opposed to thousands. But I have found some small workshops overseas who print small quantity. I’ll let you know how it works out, still working out the fabric issue.”

    Can’t wait to hear more about this. I would bet so many of us would love to have our own fabric printed…but costs (minimums, design, etc.) keep us from doing so.

    A few Questions…

    Without ordering the actual fabric for production, how would one go about using the print in their samples? We know we should not buy production fabric prior to receiving orders, so how would this work?

    Re: PrintSource…would this be a show the small designer should attend? Or is it just for the big guns? I’m in NYC, so it’s convenient…but is it worth my time?

    With friendship,

  5. Becky says:

    I have been looking for a domestic and local fabric source for a while now. I am in New England – we HAD tons of manufacturing!
    I thought there must be great US fabric sources out there and they were all collectively hiding when I turned around.
    Perhaps this is a sign that I should just do it myself and others will follow? That may or may not be a recipe for failure, but when will the supply rise to met this demand?

    For now I did find a great fabric source from Lara Cameron, a graphic designer who was printing up her designs in your own custom colors. Short yardage runs were apparently easy for her. She’s in Melbourne…

  6. CDBehrle says:

    Here in NYC the issues with fabric sourcing you experienced at Magic reared it’s head years ago. While my manufacturing experience is all based on small in-house production and has always been concentrated on leather, I have periodically looked into adding fabrications and always ran into the same problem.
    Probably close to 10 years ago I stopped attending the big shows and concentrated on smaller, specifically European ones. All the main “American” textile and sourcing shows (leather too) and events in NYC were rolled into other shows & dominated by Asian companies with huge minimums (and not terribly interesting goods) long ago.

    What’s interesting is, over the last couple of years in NYC you are starting to see large retail stores being opened offering all types of trims, notions hardware, zippers, thread etc, etc. where just a earlier these supply companies were closing up left and right. These larger stores appear to be owned and operated by the importers directly. So if you are a small maker you can purchase quantities, but at a premium- no true wholesale. Fabric wise we still have lots of jobbers, though there’s no telling how long the Garment center will continue to exist.

    On the one hand it’s great to have the availability and it shows that there is a real demand and market for the smaller quantities. Unfortunately it is also the end result (and street level manifestation) of years of low-balling to kill competition at the manufacturing level.

  7. MW says:

    Without ordering the actual fabric for production, how would one go about using the print in their samples? We know we should not buy production fabric prior to receiving orders, so how would this work?

    Whenever you print textiles, you are able to get “strike offs” which is basically a sample printing of a few yards. It is very expensive, which is why you find a lot of companies have samples in one print colorway and maybe swatches or printed paper in the rest.

    Another option is to have your sample yardage digitally printed. In the US, it runs from well over $100 a yard, down to maybe in the $30s if you develop a business relationship with the digital print house.

    Re: PrintSource…would this be a show the small designer should attend? Or is it just for the big guns? I’m in NYC, so it’s convenient…but is it worth my time?

    I (personally) have always found that big shows are still beneficial because you don’t know what you might find or who you might come across. For example, one of the women working the booth for one of the print studios actually worked for a domestic weaving mill/converter. I don’t know their minimums yet.

  8. Iris Newsome says:

    I have had some very positive experiences with Avid Ink and with Simso Tex, both in California. Avid’s sample prices are really reasonable. If you are looking to print hundreds of yards, both of their prices are good (in my very limited experience). However, they don’t print on rolls of fabric – just on blocks. Avid has different size blocks, where Simso Tex only has one size. They both have alot of original designs.

  9. Lisa NYC says:

    thanks for the info on fabric printing! Definitely will be something I look into once I have a few seasons under my belt and my sales warrant it. It would be nice to have prints in the children’s industry that everyone isn’t using…LOL!

    Think I just might attend PrintSource…heck, it’s a day in the city and a dinner at the Palm (the excuses I’ll use for a good steak).

    With friendship,

  10. david pennes says:

    I am one of the Senior staff at MAGIC directing the Sourcing at MAGIC sector. Actually in 2002 the CEO of Advanstar directed me to initiate the project and to research, develop and create the then called Sourcing Zone. \

    I found your article interesting and would like to share some ideas and common experiences with you. Perhaps there is a mutual benefit to our interacting and communicating, and actually our careers afford us industry colleagues.

    Please feel free to call me and introduce yourself or send me your contact in and I’ll connect with you. Cheers and thank you it was a good read for me.

  11. J C Sprowls says:


    I was unable to attend this year’s Sourcing at MAGIC show. I wrote to customer service to request a price for a directory post-show. Imagine my surprise when I received the following response:

    [Buyers and Retailers only pay the $25 S&H fee]

    All other business types must purchase the directories at the costs
    listed below, and include the $25.00 shipping and handling fee.

    All fees must be pre-paid in U.S. dollars. We currently accept American
    Express, Master Card and Visa in addition to company checks.

    MAGIC – Men’s & Kid’s categories $250.00
    WWDMAGIC – Women’s & accessories $150.00
    Sourcing Zone – Sourcing & fabrics resources $100.00

    Would you please verify if this cost information relayed to me is accurate for a Manufacturer who introduces himself as such?

    Is it fair to expect the directory to be on par with or surpass the quality and detail of competing directories, namely: FashionDex Apparel Industry Sourcebook for $135 + $8 S&H? Or, Davison’s Textile Blue Book for $165 + $10 S&H?

    Do you find the price of MAGIC post-show directories to be consistent with those offered by competing trade shows, namely: Los Angeles International Textile Show for $25 + $8 S&H? Or, SPESA/Material World @ $10 + $6 S&H?

    Is this simply an oversight by an overly-enthusiastic customer service representative?

  12. Kathleen says:

    JC, first, the orientation of the show -who it’s targeted towards- remains *retailers*, not manufacturers. Another example, WWD is less expensive for retailers than manufacturers. As buyers are the target market, manufacturers pay more. As Magic is geared to retailers, anybody else is charged more; the presumption is attending (non-exhibiting) manufacturers are attending to get the heads up on other people’s stuff. Exhibiting manufacturers, showing lines, pay their premium in the form of booth rental.

    Personally I think the perspective of corporate policy is dated; we need a central sourcing show. that attracts all segments of the industry. Spesa is in a terrible location, as far east and south as you can get! And, it’s only once every three years. Magic is (comparatively) centrally located and held twice a year. I would like to see equipment and process related products at Magic at one of the biannual shows. Of the two, August is better than February but the latter is the smaller show so there’s downsides since fewer would be likely to exhibit. However, if the Aug show were reconfigured for sourcing, it could grow in size to rival the Feb show.

    My personal beef with the most recent show is that I was going to be charged a $200 fee to attend. If I were a buyer, it’d be free. As a blogger, I’m not legitimate enough to get a press pass. So, unless they change this new policy, I won’t be attending Magic in the future -providing the show with a lot of exposure. I’m hoping David’s comment here means the show’s management is reconsidering their policies. Time’s have changed.

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