When I launched ECO Chic back in 2012 one of the more exciting parts of my job was designing collections. Sketching new designs is fun but I think for me, the most exhilarating (and exhausting) part is fabric sourcing. At the beginning, I had no clue where to begin.
As a small business owner, you typically don’t have large amounts of money at your disposal to purchase yards and yards of fabric. (And if you do – kudos to you!) So you have to find places to source your fabric that will allow you to purchase small quantities.
You can start with retail and online stores, however prices are high and there isn’t continuity. At the early stages though, I did use retailers, armed with my tax-free certificate and lots and lots of coupons.
Other fabric sourcing options are mills, converters and sales reps. The problem – large minimum requirements.
So I found myself going to jobbers – which is basically a company that buys the excess quantities from mills and converters and sells it to you at a wholesale price. My go to place when I lived in Los Angeles was none other than Ragfinders (simply the best place to go in LA) The pros are you have a great selection of designer fabrics, good prices and typically low minimums. (think 20 yards or less) The con is that the inventory is changing – so what you buy in January and sells really well, might not be there in August when you need to buy more. You also have to check the quality of the fabrics. That’s where building a relationship with your jobber comes in handy. My jobber in Dallas (Super Textiles) is honest with me and cuts me a deal when there’s damage to a small portion of my bolt.
There’s also the mecca of fabric sourcing – the DG Expo – a fabric and trim show that pairs budding designers with fabric sources at wholesale prices and low minimums. Phew! Finally – a light at the end of a long tunnel.
Than the designing begins. Swatches galore spread out on my workspace as I pair colors and textures, always keeping in mind the upcoming fashion trends married with what I think will sell based on my customers comments.
The result? Hopefully a collection of 4-5 new bags in exciting on-trends colors and fabrics that my customers will love. I’ve gotten some wrong and I’ve been ahead of the trend too (Like my Velveteen Cheetah and Chocolate Chenille Totes that I designed in 2013 but became super hot 2015/2016 Winter). But at the end of the day, I design bags that I am passionate about … and that passion translates to my customers who end up loving their shopping totes and carry all totes.
Now , back to my swatches.