7 Best Practices for Choosing Good Fashion Suppliers

7 Best Practices for Choosing Good Fashion Suppliers | MakersValley Blog
Carson Ward

Carson Ward

You have your next season’s products all planned out, but when did you last evaluate where you’re buying fabrics, trim, and finishes? You may already have some fashion suppliers top of mind from past production runs, but if you’re not consistently researching alternatives, how do you know they’re offering the best quality and deals for what you want to create?

Aside from this, do you have a set system to determine whether or not your current and potential fashion supply partners are a good, long-term fit for your business? If not, bookmark these quick insights on must-have and must-get-in-front-of fashion supplier qualities and operation principles.

Four Ways Good Fashion Suppliers Give You More Bang for Your Buck

The most obvious characteristic of a good fashion supplier is one that can give you a reasonable or better price for the needed fabrics or materials. However, this means that they should be either the first or second entity handling the materials. You should not buy fashion fabrics, trims, etc. from a vendor who is buying their stock already from another supplier, otherwise you will likely see unnecessary markups. Starting your materials sourcing nearer the beginning of the distribution funnel allows your fashion brand to maintain better price transparency and strengthen your ability to negotiate favorable, long-term pricing agreements.

A good fashion supplier, in addition to offering affordable materials, should also be able to provide exclusive materials where you need them. This means that your company may be the only brand using those materials or that the materials are of a quality that sets your products apart from your competitors. Suppliers should also provide transparency for how their materials were sourced and made to reduce any liability on your end, and (when you source organic, exclusive, or sustainable) to give you an added marketing advantage with origin-conscious customers.

Along the same lines, fashion suppliers should have an expertise in their given materials sector to the extent that they can advise you on the best product match for various material types. With this expertise, they should be able to offer suggestions of what to use in place of other materials you’ve either dropped or want to transition away from. They should also be on top or ahead of fabric and color fashion trends to keep your brand relevant.

Finally, a good fashion supplier will be quick to communicate and respond to you, while being flexible to changes and demands. You should be able to quickly source trims and fabric from them to change up your products should the style and concepts change during the manufacturing process. This also leads to the idea that fashion suppliers should have a clear channel of communication, both with your brand and your production factory partners, to efficiently ship material to your manufacturing sites when it makes sense in the overall process schedule.

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Three Hurdles to Overcome with Fashion Suppliers

Just like in any group project, when working with a fashion supplier, you’ll need to set some boundaries and guidelines to keep the project running smoothly. This will help you avoid miscommunication – particularly when working across language barriers – or lack of communication between both parties. We advise that, prior to doing any work, your brand and your fashion suppliers determine whether you’ll be communicating solely over the phone, through fashion tech, or using a mix of both. Both parties should also identify the times and days that each are available for contact, as well as address that there may be times when urgent contact is needed regardless of predetermined schedules. This will all help reduce issues of unresponsiveness.

Next, where reasonable, your brand should communicate that you’d like a sense of exclusivity with the fashion supplier so that other brands don’t get a hold of the same materials/patterns/etc. that set your clothes apart. With this in mind, make sure that if your fashion supplier works with other brands, that they don’t prioritize other brands over yours and leave you with the scraps. If they do source for other fashion brands, make sure to build contracts that maintain your brand’s confidentiality so that your signature materials don’t wind up in your rivals’ products or in copycat knockoffs.

You should also be aware whether or not your fashion supplier sources from someone else. If they do, you should bypass them as the middleman and instead source directly from their providers to get the best deals, prices, and potential exclusivity.

With these tips in mind, it may be hard to find new and quality fashion suppliers. You may have some luck in finding good fashion suppliers through referrals from trusted sources like established production factories. You can also look to paid directories, other fashion brands, and veterans of the field. However, finding good suppliers often comes down to a mix of luck, your own research diligence, and discretion of what makes each supplier option a good fit for you.

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