Why You Should Source Fabric Earlier

December 22, 2016

Apparel manufacturing is a complex business, requiring the coordination of many different vendors to create the final product. This is like a general contractor building a house, but instead of needing a lumber and cement supplier, apparel manufacturers have fabric, trim, and occasionally, post process suppliers.

Just like building a house, nothing can start without the materials, meaning your production timeline is dependent on material suppliers. That’s why we recommend sourcing your materials early in the development process. Unless your selected materials are “in-stock,” your fabrics are being made-to-order. While this is great at reducing waste in the apparel industry, it also has the effect of causing delays. While the process is slightly different for everyone, when creating your timeline be sure to consider the following lead times:

Swatches:

  • Description: Swatches are small cuttings of fabric used during the design process to confirm fabric quality.
  • Lead Time: 3 to 5 Days, excludes shipping time. If you're counter-sourcing fabric, this can take up to 14 days.

Handlooms:

  • Description: Handlooms are custom swatches of woven fabrics (knits do not have hand looms) created to approve a specific quality, color, or pattern. Handlooms imply an existing swatch is not available, and a handloom must be created.
  • Time: 10 to 14 Days, excludes shipping time

Lab Dips:

  • Description: Lab dips are swatches of your fabric, dyed to a specified color. These are must be approved before sample yardage or bulk fabric is created
  • Time: 10 to 14 days, excludes shipping time

Sample Yardage:

  • Description: Sample quantities are small amounts of materials created for your prototypes and samples. The sample yardage made should be enough to cover through salesman samples.
  • Time: Standard fabrics – 21 to 28 days | Specialty Fabrics – 30 to 45 Days, excludes shipping time

Production Yardage:

  • Description: Production yardage is the bulk quantities of materials created for your bulk production.
  • Time: Standard fabrics – 21 to 28 days | Specialty Fabrics – 30 to 60 Days, excludes shipping time

Conclusion

Following the traditional process, a minimum of 55 to 75 days should be budgeted for your sourcing activities alone (this excludes cut & sew, shipping, and logistics time), a shocking number to many. For those requiring a shorter lead time, we recommend using stocked fabric. While the trade-off is a higher price and more limited design options, stock fabric will greatly reduce lead times.

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