If you’ve ever had to source fabrics, whether it be for a startup fashion company, a great idea you want to manufacture, or an established brand… you already know that there is one thing you can rely on: it’s always a headache. It seems inherently straight forward enough of a process:
- I want to make a product
- I want it in this fabric
- There are thousands of fabric mills all over the world
- I will easily find a mill with this fabric, that can sell it to me in my color and desired quantity
- Now I can go and make this beautiful product
Simple, right? If you’ve done this before, you’re rolling your eyes at me right about now. If you’re new to sourcing, get ready for a maze of back and forth communication, logistical challenges and often resorting to compromising on a fabric you don’t love.
You can’t go to a fabric store, because they won’t have the quantities you need for production, and more often than not they can’t tell you where they bought that fabric or even tell you the exact contents for finding something similar. Let’s cut to the chase and just admit, your main option is to go to an industry Trade Show. These typically happen twice a year, require you to travel, spend money and build your business around an already outdated fashion industry calendar that has everyone up in arms. Read more on that subject here.
Believe it or not, unless you already have relationships with several different mills and suppliers providing you with all your needs, Trade Shows are still your only option. That is of course, until now.
There is a very forward thinking company that decided to build a web-based software allowing you to now source your textiles directly from some of the best mills and tanneries in the world. This is not the same as a fabric marketplace where you can buy what’s in stock from a fabric store or vendor. This is a virtual Sourcing Trade Show, available 365 days a year. Yes, it does sound a little too good to be true and the name of the company is Le Souk.
And now comes the flood of questions. How do you know what you’re getting exactly? How can you possibly buy a fabric without feeling the quality or the amount of stretch it has? What if I have special needs like organic fabrics only, or hand dyed, or sustainably made? What are the minimum quantities? What if I want to know about the mill I’m working with because ethical manufacturing is an important aspect of my business? I need to really touch and feel a fabric before I commit.
As a designer who’s done the sourcing thing too many times, I was also curious how they bring it all together, so when a friend recently asked me for help with sourcing fabric and she had just missed Trade Show season, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to test Le Souk’s sourcing skills.
First we went onto their website, made her a profile and started picking out fabrics. All the details you could want are there. For each fabric, you learn the content, the weight, the mill where it’s made, a history of the mill, any special descriptors about the fabric, minimum quantity you can order, if sample yardage is available and all with a great high-res photo of the fabric for you to get a very good idea of what it looks like. If you are a touchy feely type, such as myself, you can request swatches of your selected fabrics for $4 a piece and they arrive in 2-3 days!
A little further investigation and we realized that Le Souk has a warehouse in Brooklyn where we could schedule an appointment to see and touch the fabrics. If you live in NY or even an the surrounding area, I highly recommend this experience. In a very small space, they have fabric samples from hundreds of mills from all over the world. Literally everything you could want is there, at your fingertips. Better yet, their team is incredibly kind and helpful. We told them via email what we were looking for specifically and when we arrived they had already picked out a selection for my friend to pick through. They answered questions, told us stories about the different mills, and delivered a very personalized experience of what they offer on-line. We left with tons of information, probably over 15 cut swatches of fabric, some gorgeous sample trims and a very swift and easy start to my friends’ project.
The whole process took about 3 hours, not 3 days of walking an overwhelming Trade Show floor. My friend was happy and I was left mouth open and honestly, a little annoyed. Truth be told, this officially means my friend will probably never have to experience the dizzying Trade Show experience and that feeling of not finding a mill that can do what you need. Sure, sure. I’m happy for her and all…
but man I wish Le Souk was founded years ago.
If you are curious to know more and wouldn’t mind meeting the Le Souk and Sourceeasy teams in person for an opportunity to ask all your questions, make sure to RSVP for this free event in NYC next week: