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Copyright 2006 Cornell University. All rights reserved.




Trade shows are a good place to source materials

Fabrics and other raw materials for your apparel or sewn product contribute about 50-70% of the production costs or about 35-40% of the total wholesale price of apparel products. So, naturally, where you buy your raw materials (or "source" them) is of critical importance.

There are many vendors (or sellers) for materials, and your choice will depend upon the nature of your product and your business model, the volume of your production, and your location (though these matter less and less with computers, information technology, and new ways of using the Internet). Materials should be selected based on their characteristics and the purchasing requirements offered by the vendors.

The characteristics of material offerings include extent of selection, fiber content and fabric construction, color and prints or custom options, and performance characteristics such as yarn and fabric weight, durability, dye fastness, insulation values, and laundering requirements. Vendors often specialize their offerings based on fiber content and fabric construction; a vendor selling cotton knit usually does not also sell rayon woven fabric.

Vendors' purchasing requirements include minimums, lead times, cost, delivery options, and return policies. The same materials could be available with different purchasing options that are more or less attractive to your business.

Your choice of materials will be different based on the aesthetic and functional characteristics of your product, price point, expected sales volume, and business model (i.e., size and value proposition).

Two additional decisions are whether to purchase 1) domestic or foreign-made fabric and 2) production and materials together as a "full package."


After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  1. Identify and evaluate purchasing variables to consider during purchase (sourcing) of materials that suit your own products or ideas.
  2. Analyze material offerings by specification, such as fiber content, care instructions, and performance characteristics and know when and how to contract with independent testing labs.
  3. Describe the different types of material vendors and select those most appropriate for your business by matching your quantity and quality needs to purchasing processes offered by vendors.
  4. Describe how to use a variety of Internet sourcing sites, including textile distributors, retailers, mill stores, exchanges, and auctions.




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