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fashion 101, fabrics, designer, fashion designI’ve been asked this question several times so I thought it was time to write a Fashion 101 about it.

First of all, designers don’t go to fabric stores to get their fabrics, they buy it from manufacturers, wholesalers, or agents. In fact, fabric is usually the first thing they will work with when designing a new collection, as fabrics are usually chosen before the collection is designed or they’ve even begun research. Like fashion companies, fabric companies will create collections, but they work a season ahead of the designers (as the designers need a season to work with the fabrics to create the clothing.) I think it is interesting that fashion design is actually quite limiting, because designers can only work with fabrics that exist and are available. Very few fashion brands actually create their own fabrics, usually this is only done by large sportswear companies that need specialist fabrics (ex. Nike.) Luxury brands will be able to request special prints, colour combinations, or dyes, but they will rarely get a fabric specifically create and woven for them.fashion industry, fashion designers, fabrics, fashion 101 Here are the steps involved in getting the fabrics for a fashion collection.

Step 1: Look at fabric collections.
Major fabric tradeshows usually take place around the same time as the fashion weeks (except they are showing fabrics for the following fashion week.) This means that right smack in the middle of the shows, designers are already doing research for the fabrics for their next collections! The tradeshows feature most of the large fabric suppliers, they each build a stand and designers can visit them and go through the collections, which will be large swatches of fabrics. The designers will choose the fabrics they are interested in, and make a sample order.

fashion industry, fashion designers, fabrics, fashion 101Some brands will work with fabric manufacturers every season, so instead of seeing them at a tradeshow (which is a busy, dusty hellhole), their agent or representative will come to their offices. This is the same deal as the tradeshow, they will bring samples of their new collections, and the design team will choose which ones they are interested in. Samples will follow.

Step 2: Narrow the selection.

Designers will receive the samples (sometimes called hangers) and will start to narrow down their selection of fabrics. Say for example, a company needs 15 tailoring fabrics in their collection, they might choose twenty, and do a feasibility test to see which ones work the best.fashion industry, fashion designers, fabrics, fashion 101 They will order some sample metres of the fabrics (this will be in whatever colour the manufacturer has available) and make up a few garments to test the fabric. The garments will most likely be shapes from a previous season, as they haven’t started to design the new season yet. Let’s say they are looking at a wool tweed, they may choose to make a blazer from last season, to see if they like the drape, feel, and look of this tweed. In doing this, the designers will get a chance to see several of the fabrics in “action.” They will then make a final selection of fabrics for the collection.

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