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Suppliers for Fashion Businesses: First Steps

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

(Image: Canva Pro)

Finding good suppliers can be, at the beginning of your business journey, one of the biggest difficulties; especially if you've built your own fashion brand. This is an essential step, but one that raises several questions: where to buy fabrics, trims, packaging, with whom to produce models, sew, print? There are several products and services that demand fully trained professionals and companies. How can you assess whether a given company is, in fact, interesting for your business? Today we will start a series of posts here on the START by WGSN blog addressing essential questions regarding this topic.

Regardless of your specific business segment, it is essential you pay attention to issues that involve defining your suppliers. This way, you can close better deals without wasting time or money during the process.

(Imagem: Canva Pro)

What do you need?

A good supplier is one that can meet your needs; the clearer they are, the better. Do you already know exactly what products and/or services you need right now? If you need a jeans supplier, for example, keep in mind whether your final product will be for male or female consumers. Although the raw material is essentially the same, some suppliers have more expertise in one market than another. The more specialized it is, the better, so you can leverage your expertise to get the best possible product.

Some materials need special consideration. If you want to work with pieces made in silk, for example, particular machinery will be required and the workforce needs to be skilled in this raw material. Remember the specifics and, of course, the attention you pay to them tends to ensure the success of the final product. The first step, before starting your search for suppliers, is to clearly and objectively list exactly what you are looking for. Ideally, you need to have good product mix planning a broad vision of what pieces and models will represent your next collection (and in what percentages). Organizing and outlining internal processes are key before looking for suppliers.


The second step to consider is the location of the supplier. There are thousands of companies that could possibly meet your demand and many are outside your country. This isn't necessarily an issue, but there are a few points to consider; if your supplier is close to you, it tends to be more responsive to delivery (and it's also likely to be cheaper).

Speed ​​is an important factor, but it’s not the only one. By being closer to your supplier, it is possible to monitor and have more control over the production chain, quality and even working conditions and relations. The further away the supplier is, the less visibility and impact you tend to have on their processes. This includes sustainability, which is increasingly relevant and necessary in fashion. Remember that by choosing local suppliers, you are helping to generate jobs and develop your country's industry.

You won't always find the type of product you need (or the way you'd like it, at the right price) in your region; in this case, expand your search to other states or countries. Other states in your own country may have specific taxes see possible tax substitutions.

For international suppliers, communication can hinder a seamless process it will always be easier to discuss specific needs without a language barrier. The main benefit of using foreign companies, especially those in Asia, is often cost. Production is frequently cheaper, which is one reason why so many clothes are made in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh. However, this can be because working standards and conditions are not always strictly regulated. It is also more difficult for you to visit and inspect factories.

In addition, do a lot of research on the processes for importing and releasing products that arrive from other countries (tax and customs legislation), avoiding unpleasant surprises or unforeseen costs.

(Imagem: Pexels)

The Amount

Third, a determining factor in choosing your supplier is the minimum viable quantity they can meet. If your brand is still small, it's possible the amount of a material or product you need is relatively small and therefore not all companies will be able to supply you. Depending on the supplier's business, it is not feasible to have companies that still buy small quantities as customers. Pay attention to this crucial point before being won over by the service or product, or even to start advancing in the planning before getting this information, avoiding frustration and wasted time. Some companies may meet minimum quantities that are workable for you, but with a significant difference in price. Consider what makes the most sense for your business.

We will continue the series on this topic in the next post! Stay tuned!

Click here to read more posts on the START by WGSN blog about trends and strategies for the fashion business. Subscribe to START by WGSN and use our exclusive tools to optimize and boost your fashion business. Click here to join us in a free trial and explore our platform, especially developed for small brands and fashion entrepreneurs.


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