How to Fabric Shop in New York


Originally Posted 9/19/16


Sourcing in New York; nothing sounds more elite. “Oh sorry. I‘m gonna be  in New York that weekend. Going on a hunt for some polyester softshell.” That statement right there will make anyone’s eyes pop out of their head. So yeah, enjoy the ego boost, but afterward you are going to have to get to work. It’s fun,  but you will enjoy it more if you are prepared. Here are a couple of tips to make  that process easier.

Know what you need

Do a little fabric research before your trip. By knowing what you need you can communicate with ease and avoid wasting time somewhere you don’t need to be.  I learned that many of the dealers I interacted with were not familiar with the outerwear fabric I am using.  It helped that I could describe it as synthetic performance fabric used for outerwear. It would have helped even more to have a swatch as well.  To get familiar with fabrics, read a few books.  The Mood Guide to Fabric and Fashion is one option that will help you communicate what you are looking for ( and it’s available in the Fashion Week Or Die Trying Store).

Know the difference between jobbers and wholesalers

Kathleen Fasanela of Fashion-Incubator defines Jobbers as  “fabric suppliers who sell mill ends, odd lots and seconds”.  Great for smaller manufacturers, but not in cases where one needs to reorder. They do not guarantee quantities for reorder or that the coloring of the fabric will be the same in the future. What you order to sample your collection may not be there when it’s time to produce your orders. Personally, I need to build relationships with wholesale dealers and fabric reps that offer low minimums. A jobber won’t allow me to stay lean and competitive. You will find a lot of jobbers in the garment district, but if they meet your needs, shop on.

Dress Comfortably

Initially I wanted to dress up to “ look like a designer,” but all that is garbage. I was in New York in August. I was sweaty, my makeup was running and my blown out afro was the victim of massive shrinkage. It was all for naught. Be comfortable. You don’t have to be flashy. You are a designer shopping for product; you deserve to be there.  Worry more about the flights of stairs you are going to climb in the garment district and the New York weather. Heels in January and suits in July are probably a bad move.

Don’t be scared to make friends

New York has a reputation for rude residents. I have found that New Yorkers are direct, but not mean.  So be polite and ask questions. You will get tips on where to go to get what you need. I met a number of good people who pointed  me to stores that I would never have known about.

Bring twice as many business cards as you thought you would need

I ran out of cards. Don’t run out of cards. Give your cards out liberally and make sure they are accurate. This is an awesome opportunity to network. You will be meeting potential suppliers and customers. Make sure to leave them with a tangible memory  of your conversation.


Have you been to New York for a sourcing trip? What tips do you have?



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