Whether you’re new to the fashion industry or you’ve only worked for bigger brands, sourcing fabrics and trims for smaller brands can be a daunting task for many freelancers. How do you find fabric suppliers with low minimums? How do you know if a fabric supplier is any good? And what are the basic steps to buying fabric for a small fashion brand?
In this episode of the Successful Fashion Freelancer Podcast, I’m once again chatting with Jay Arbetman, the founder of The Sourcing District. Since he started helping out with the family coat business at age 14, Jay has accumulated 50 years of experience in the fashion industry. A lot has changed since the last time I interviewed him in 2017, especially when it comes to startup brands, sustainability, and freelancing in fashion.
Sourcing fabric for your fashion freelance clients can be a minefield, whether you work with brand new startups or more established mid-sized brands. But when you have the right info, you can add this valuable service to your freelance offerings.
Sourcing can feel even trickier when you start looking for fabrics that are sustainably and ethically produced. The term “sustainable” can mean different things to different people, but more and more brands these days are looking for fabrics that are low-waste, carbon-neutral, and ethically produced. So how do you make sure you’re buying truly sustainable fabrics? Jay explains how to know if you’re getting your fabric from an ethical, sustainable supplier.
Another question so many newer freelancers have is whether you should share your contacts and suppliers. So many freelance fashion designers are afraid that if they’re not tight-lipped with their resources, their clients will go directly to the supplier and ghost them, and they’ll get burned.
Fashion is a cutthroat industry, and there will always be sh!tty people and brands who want to rip you off. If you’ve gotten hurt before, it makes sense to be wary. But even in fashion, most people are decent, and when you’re generous with your time and resources the benefits far outweigh the risks! So Jay gives his take on whether you should share your suppliers, and how to build up a strong, supportive network in the fashion industry.
Whether you work with Jay or not, he’s a wealth of knowledge on all things fabric for fashion brands.
Jay Arbetman started working in the women’s outerwear business in 1965, picking orders and unloading trucks at the family coat business. When he was 21 (1972) he started working full time as a salesman in the Midwest selling the family’s extensive line of coats and jackets. After stops in the world of retail women’s specialty stores, Jay moved to New York in 1980 and for ten years ran the family showroom, bought fabric and went to F.I.T. at night studying Textile Science and Marketing Management. For the balance of the 1990s Jay manufactured and imported outerwear and sportswear. For the last 15 years, Jay’s company, The Sourcing District, has been the preeminent fashion textile and garment construction necessity sales agency serving hundreds of independent designers and product developers. Jay lives and works in Oak Park, Illinois with his wife, two daughters, two dogs, and two cats as well as a seemingly endless collection of guitars.