In mid-July I made the trip up to New York City to attend fabric expos and meet with suppliers in their showroom to source fabric for Summer 2019. No, that's not a typo. I'm sourcing for Summer 2019 while Summer 2018 is in full swing and Winter 2018 is in production.
And, to be completely honest, I'm behind. Brands that sell wholesale are already selling to retailers for Spring 2019. But, as a direct to consumer brand, I get to take things a little slower. That means I have time to receive your comments and feedback about this summer's collection and am able to easily and quickly implement changes (as early as Winter 2019). It also means I have the luxury of spending extra time sourcing deadstock fabric (which is like a treasure hunt and requires patience and persistence to find something you love and then the willingness to pull the trigger once you find it) and eco-friendly stock fabric.
Today, I'm sharing a little behind the scenes of my trip through photos I snapped on my iPhone.
I took Amtrak up to NYC which made for a really pleasant and stress-free trip (Best Bus is great too, but they have limited departure times and I needed to leave NYC later since I was only in town for the day).
Once arriving in NYC, I grabbed lunch and headed to one of my favorite shows. The fashion industry, including FIT and the Garment District really does cluster itself around 7th Avenue which, as you can see, is also called Fashion Avenue.
There are several fabric expos that occur in July every year in NYC and I've been to all of them at one point. But, over the years (I've been going to shows for years, even before I launched the business), I've identified reliable suppliers and built a few relationships, so I only went to one this year. I realized I failed to take a picture inside the show, but here's one from the same show previously. As you can see, it's racks and racks (or books) of fabric on hangers (called headers, swatches, swatch cards). It takes some patience and organization to get through all of the headers of all of the different vendors present. Missing a header means you might miss out on the perfect fabric. So I walk the show a few times to make sure I've visited all the suppliers and seen all of the fabric.
In most instances, you request swatch cards that are then mailed to you. A few suppliers hand out swatch cards on the spot, but that's not the norm.
I also made an appointment to visit a supplier at their showroom. I source a lot of my deadstock from this particular supplier and knew they wouldn't have their entire inventory at the show, so I wanted to see what they had on their shelves. I've talked a lot about deadstock in the past - but it's fabric that's leftover. Usually, large fashion houses purchase more fabric than they use and trash the unused quantities so a lot of fabric ends up in landfills. But, it's also possible that a fabric mill produces too much and doesn't sell it all to large fashion houses and that too can lead to deadstock. Either way, the fabric has already been produced and my order as a designer does not cause additional fabric to be made and most likely prevents fabric already in existence from ending up in a landfill.
Here, I found my way through the garment district and into a back office that didn't feel like it had AC to scour the shelves (and floor) for fabric. Sourcing deadstock can be tricky - the quantities are limited and I need a certain minimum of any fabric to consider using it. The cost of creating a fabric sample and perfecting fit with one fabric is high, so I need to be able to produce a reasonable number of garments once I do perfect fit in a single fabric. But, before purchasing deadstock, I test wash swatches and plan out an entire collection. So, I don't buy on the spot which means things can get gone (or depleted in quantities) before I'm ready to buy. It's just part of the process, and something I have to be willing to accept. But, it's also why working with deadstock is time and labor intensive and not always "cheaper".
I was able to collect swatches on the spot from the showroom and start dreaming of the Summer 2019 collection on my train ride home. I'm continually working towards using entirely deadstock and/or eco-friendly stock fabrics (stock fabrics are produced upon order or re-stocked based on orders). I don't know that I'll reach that goal in Spring 2019, there may be 1-2 styles in conventional fabrics. However, my limited production runs greatly off-set any harm I cause using traditional fabrics.
Do you have any questions about my trip? Anything you hope to see in 2019?