Good Fabric Suppliers

Finding good fabric suppliers is often easier said then done.  The fashion industry understands well that the world contains good textile suppliers as well as bad suppliers.  Many of us have unfortunately experienced purchasing inferior quality fabric.  If you have not directly had a poor experience, you may have heard nightmares from colleagues or friends in the industry.  Don't get me wrong, it is very possible to have a reliable supply chain and never experience problems.  You may be one of the fortunate ones...
When purchasing fabric, be very careful to pay attention to details.  Even with the best intentions, many problems can occur.  You may receive Incorrect shade lots, shrinkage issues, crocking, wrong fiber content, etc. How about ordering 30,000 yards of 100% Cotton Jersey Knit in Navy color but only receiving 25,000 yards of royal blue??  Or possibly the fabric is shipped to you as 80% cotton and 20% poly instead of 100% cotton?  If you learn of an error while in the middle of the production cycle, it is not so simple to obtain new fabric and still stay on schedule with your garment order.
Have you ever read a testing report that stated, "based on the fiber analysis results, the actual fiber content of the sample is not properly labeled", or "the sample demonstrates poor fabric qualities..."?  If yes, I do not think you are alone.  Anyway, enough of the negativity.  Although ordering fabric is a rather risky business, you should certainly not fear the task of finding a trust worthy supplier of fabrics.  Certainly very good fabric suppliers are in existence.  The trick is finding them.
Although I do NOT intend to provide you with a list of "good fabric suppliers", I will help point you in the proper direction to help you find fabric mills, fabric distributors, fabric jobbers, and fabric stores so that you can conduct your own research.  Yes, I understand it would be far more kind of me to tell you exactly which fabric supplier you should utilize.  But unfortunately, I am not in the position to make specific recommendations.  Image that I gave you a flannel fabric supplier and told you that they were amazing.  Then you place an order and they mess it up...  Forget that.. I do not want that responsibility on my shoulders..

Where do you find good fabric suppliers? 

Do good fabric suppliers make errors?

Well, maybe you should ask yourself, "are fabric companies owned and operated by humans?"  Now ask yourself, "do humans ever make mistakes?".  I think that you will agree that the answer is YES.  Good fabric suppliers can certainly make errors. 

In addition to experience & talent, one of the primary differences between a good fabric supplier and a bad fabric supplier is that a good fabric supplier will inform you when they notice a problem has taken place.  They will also work with you diligently to attempt to resolve the situation.  A bad textile supplier may try to hide the problem which will lead to other problems down the road.  

A key factor to becoming a successful fabric buyer is being able to determine if a fabric supplier had made an "honest" mistake or if the error was done intentionally.  One example out of many would be "shrinkage".  Fabric shrinkage can occur due to something that was done intentionally or something done in haste (accidentally).

Bad Factory: When buying knit fabric, the fabric mill can possibly stretch the fabric so that the same production run can provide more yardage of fabric (you would be paying by the yard or meter, so the mill makes more money).  Later you will most likely run into shrinkage problems as the fabric reverts back to its pre-stretched state (it may not fully revert, but you will most likely experience shrinkage depending how much stretching the mill has done).  This shrinkage can occur to the fabric before you cut and sew which would leave you with less fabric then you originally intended.  This may result in shortages when the garments are produced.  Even worse is fabric shrinkage "after" finished garments are completed (most likely after washing).  This will result in dissatisfied consumers.  That is clearly a problem if you want future business.  The bottom line is that a bad fabric supplier is capable of stretching the fabric on purpose or possibly skipping certain finishing steps when producing the fabric (skip steps to cut costs and save time).  If a fabric mill does this intentionally, while knowing that the fabric will later have shrinkage problems, I think we can agree with considering them a "bad mill". 

Good Factory (with a mistake in judgment) : When buying knit fabric, even a good fabric mill can have shrinkage problems.  The mill may have new workers or simply have errors made by experience workers.  Possibly the machine was set to an incorrect setting or the mill was in a rush and did not allow the fabric enough time to settle.  In all honesty, there are several rather honest errors that can transpire at a fabric mill.  Although this causes huge problems for everyone involved in the project, it is my feeling that a mill that has an honest mistake is much more easily placed in the Good Factory category as opposed to a factory that never makes errors, but causes problems on purpose.

Anyway, it is true that a good fabric supplier can make errors.  The trick is finding a supplier that will at "all times" take responsibility for their errors.  This may include financial responsibility (paying to clean up the mess they have made) as well as taking responsibility to make the needed corrections to assure that such errors do not easily occur again in the future. 

In addition to being honest, good fabric suppliers learn from their mistakes.

Note: Above was an example of how fabric mills can accidentally cause shrinkage as well as purposefully create problems.  The "mills" are used only as an example.  Fabric distributors and fabric stores also have their own tricks of the trade.  Finding an honest supplier is crucial...

Should you submit fabric to a testing lab?

In my opinion, testing is dependent on the quantity of fabric being purchased.  If you are buying directly from a textile factory, my suggestion is to conduct independent testing.  However, if you are buying three yards of fabric from a clothing store to make your daughter a pair of pants, why bother with testing.  You can go out and buy ten pairs of pants rather then pay for the testing of this single unit...

If you are shipping to a retailer in the United States, you must check with them the testing requirements.  Most major retailers "require" testing.  In addition, they have specific testing requirements.  Make sure that you are testing based on the exact criteria required by your customer.  It does not help you to test fabric, but use a different testing standard then your buyer uses.

Use an independent fabric testing lab.  Learn more about quality testing for apparel and fabrics.

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