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We have created this “how to” guide for shopping the fabric market. A “how to” for using the The Small Design Company's Guide To Wholesale Fabrics.We dedicate this section to all of you newcomers to the industry. We wish you the best of luck and great success in your endeavors, and say, “Welcome to the industry!” Of course, for those of you working in small to mid-sized design companies that already know all of this, and more, well then you can write your own “how to”. And hey, we could even publish it for you!


In the sections to follow, we shall explain whom you will be contacting, and all of the details that you need to prepare when you make your calls. We advise the steps that are customary when sourcing fabrics. We include pointers of where to start and of what to say, and how to say it with the correct terminology. By knowing all of the details involved in shopping the fabric market, you will eliminate the additional time spent chasing fabric qualities that may not work with your line, due to a variety of factors. We explain all of the factors that need to be considered when selecting fabrics. Keep in mind, that since the The Small Design Company's Guide To Wholesale Fabrics is a wholesale fabric sourcebook, we always refer to your fabrics for sourcing. However, the steps are exactly the same for all materials sourcing in our industry, be it trimmings, notions, labels, contractors, etc.


When fabric sourcing, also known as shopping the fabric market, the first step, is to have your design concept. Once you have a design concept or trend in mind, you can choose fabrics that communicate these concepts and trends. If your design concept is clean and sleek, you may be looking for fresh gabardines, or if soft and layered is the look you want, then you might look at a selection of chiffons and georgettes, or possibly raw and unstructured is the look you feel strong on, then burlap may be perfect for your line. Nevertheless, once you figure out the fabrics that convey your themes, or need a specific fabric for a particular buyer, then you need to call around and find the fabrics.


Generally, it is the designer’s responsibility to shop for fabrics. Therefore, once you know the fabric type you need, you can turn to the pages in the book and begin to shop. The designer’s first step for looking for new fabrics is to call on the fabric suppliers. You call on the suppliers by contacting the fabric salespersons by telephone or email, or by meeting them at trade shows and other events. As you make your phone calls, emails, or meetings, you will find that suppliers are identified as:

  • Mills
  • Converters
  • Jobbers
  • Reps
  • Wholesalers

It is important to know whom you want to buy a particular fabric from, and know the difference between these individuals and organizations. The fabric supplier types listed above are defined as follows:

• Mill: A weaving or knitting company that manufactures fabrics and textile products. The word mill also refers to the actual building that the spinning, weaving, knitting, etc takes place in. It is doubtful that you will work with a mill at this point, as mills usually have minimums of at least 1,000 yards in Europe, 3,000 yards in Asia & 5,000 yards in the U.S.

• Converter: A person or company that purchases woven or knitted greige goods directly from a fabric mill, and then proceeds to dye, finish, print and/or wash the goods into a full line of finished fabrics. Converters are beneficial since they offer many new, fashion colors, print designs, novelty finishes and the latest effects on fabrics. Their minimums are lower than dealing directly with a mill, but they are generally higher than what is included in this directory. However, occasionally a converter will take a 500-yard or less order, so you very well may work with one at this point.

• Jobber: A person or company that purchases large quantities of excess finished fabrics from mills and converters and then sells them wholesale, and in smaller quantities, to small design companies, manufacturers and retail fabric stores.

• Rep: A sales representative is an agent that shows fabrics from one or more mills and works directly, in their predetermined territory, with manufacturers and other textile customers. Often this is the best way to work with overseas mills, but again usually the minimums are higher than what you would be working with at this point.

• Wholesalers: A general term for all other secondary fabric sources, this includes any other person or company that purchases excess finished fabrics from mills, converters, jobbers and large apparel, accessory & home furnishings manufacturers and sells direct to small manufacturers and small retail fabric stores.

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