Have you been following my series on production over on the website blog?
A new post is up! This one covers how to work closest to the dollar when you purchase fabric up front. How do you manage sales? What do you do with excess fabric? And more!
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I used to hit the Fabric District in LA quite a bit. But last year I left that task to my husband who helps with the business. I took him there one day and introduced him to my vendors and told him where to find what I need and then I started staying home to focus on other parts of the business and sent him up on his own. At first he was petrified and frustrated. The vendors tried to charge him higher prices because they didn’t remember him. I would tell him who would try to do that and how to talk them down but he struggled at first. Now he’s an old pro. That’s him above in the black coat. Now he knows more vendors than I do and he has talked down prices even more for me since our volume has gone up.
I think many vendors see this as the land of opportunity but I see it through more jaded eyes. I see it as a land of wheelers and dealers and mediocre fabric that you have to weed through to find the gems. These $1 a yard fabric vendors seem exciting but feel the woven cotton prints (better yet buy a yard and wash it) and you will see not all great deals are worth it. However if you find the right $1 vendors you are golden. Some buy close out fabric that is actually really nice. You are limited to what they have on hand so it really only works for a small online shop not for mass production.
I will leave you with one tip today. Once you find what you want be sure to walk the whole street to see who else has it. Ask how much a yard and then once you get a price ask how much wholesale price is and how many yards you need to buy for that price. Often the first price they give will be $10 and then wholesale price is $6 with a low yardage minimum like 10 yards. Use these prices to go back and negotiate. “Up the street he said $10/yd can you beat that?” They will negotiate.
“Is this satin?” I heard the woman in line in front of me ask. The cashier took her time talking to her coworker in Vietnamese before looking up and saying, “Oh yes, satin, very nice, $3 a yard.” “Can you wash it, or is it dry clean only”, the lady asked? The cashier looked at her confused.
I reached in and felt the fabric. “Its polyester with a heat applied felt overlay. You can wash and dry polyester but the felt may not stand up so probably wash gentle line dry and iron face down.”
I’m not sure if she was more annoyed with me for destroying her great deal on satin today story, or more excited that she could wash the fabric. “I really like it”, she said. “But it’s not really polyester is it?” I was feeling a bit punchy today so I swung into annoying know it all mode and said, “Yes most inexpensive materials that sort of soft like satin are.” Now I could go on to tell you how many of your favorite materials really are polyester or a polyester blend and how polyester has come a long way since 1970 but I will leave that for another post.
Instead, for starters, let me introduce myself and why I have decided to start this blog. I am Katie. I design children’s clothing. I started my line when I was 3 months pregnant with no more than an old sewing machine and a refusal to return to corporate America. I started off with an Etsy shop just designing for fun, mostly blankets and burp cloths and later outerwear. A Japan retailer discovered my outerwear line thorough Etsy and asked if I wholesale. I said sure and they gave me an order for 60 faux fur ponchos the next day. I eventually moved into clothing and at the beginning of 2011 was approached by a showroom in LA’s California Market Center. She wanted to represent my line in the wholesale arena. (More on that another time too.) Fast forward 8 months later and my line is in over 30 retailers in the US, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. My Etsy sales went from 120 to 660 sales in that time too.
Needless to say this has been a rollercoaster of a ride. Thrilling, exciting, fast, with lots of ups and downs. And that’s why I am starting this blog. I have had to learn everything on my own, the hard way often, and while I have had some lucky breaks I learned that they are just that. If you don’t dive head first into those breaks with a will to succeed and the drive to learn you will not make it. Nobody will hold your hand and most won’t share a single piece of advice with you (not helpful ones anyway). This is a tight knit, tight lipped industry, it moves fast and you have to keep up. So many times I would have killed for a good mentor.
And that’s what this blog is. A fashion business mentorship of sorts. An open book on how I started my business, and what it takes to run it from wholesale to retail: fabric sourcing, sales, finances, customer service, marketing, season planning, line sheets, photoshoots, runway shows and beyond! I am not claiming to be an expert;I learn something new every day. But I have experience to share with you, and a decent track record of success. So I invite you to be my students. I will share with you all I know and I invite you to ask questions along the way.
Welcome to My Fashion Business Mentor.