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Published July 2024

SOURCING 101: It Starts Here

 

Launching a fashion brand requires more than great taste and a good idea. Success lies in thorough, methodical planning.

 

Even the most talented designer must understand that there are many steps involved in turning a sketch in a notebook into a tangible garment or product. From having a solid business plan to creating a reliable tech pack to protecting intellectual property, sourcing incorporates everything from selecting the basic materials a product will be made from to how it will be delivered to the retailer or end consumer. Here’s a primer on the foundations required to get a great idea off the page and to the place where the consumer can discover and buy it.   

Keep in mind that learning continues throughout our lives and careers. As SOURCING at MAGIC Vice President Andreu David explains, “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the industry or how much you know. Nobody knows everything about this industry. There’s always something new to learn. Some people attending SOURCING at MAGIC have no experience in the fashion industry, while others are career professionals. Some people know business but don’t know fashion, that is they may have run a Fortune 500 company and now believe there is a need for a fashion product, but they won’t know the first thing about how to create it. Some people start a business because it will be their livelihood or career, while others do it as a hobby.”

 

HAVE A BUSINESS PLAN

David’s first piece of advice is to have a solid business plan and know your customer. “Product development and sourcing will flow from there. Have a firm grasp of your brand and the values it’s built on. Many designers and entrepreneurs make the mistake of creating a product first and then trying to find the consumer. Knowing the audience will help determine what goes into the product, which will, in turn, affect cost and price point, driving the other decisions you make.”

David also recommends being a savvy sourcing pro. “Part of entrepreneurship is compiling information. Information equals knowledge, which equals success,” he says. 

 

 

"Knowing the audience will help determine what goes into the product, which will, in turn, affect cost and price point, driving the other decisions you make.”

- Andreu David, Vice President, SOURCING at MAGIC

 

 

PREPARING FOR TRADE EVENTS

Once the business plan is in place and product design is underway, it’s time to go to market. To be fully prepared, head to the SOURCING at MAGIC website to register for the next event, then navigate to the Events page, and locate the Attendee Checklist

Ashley McPherson, SOURCING at MAGIC’s Buyer Relations Specialist, says, “Start by exploring the exhibitor list online. Get a sense of who is coming to the show. Plan your day (and remember to wear comfortable shoes). There are more than 1,400 exhibitors at the Las Vegas event. Check out our exhibitor list jot down who you want to meet, and then seek them out onsite.”

The show is laid out by region and country, so check out our Region and Country Guides before you get there to get a feel for each nation’s unique specialties and opportunities. Once you know where you’d like to source, most exhibitors from the same geographic neighborhood will be in the same area of the show. "SOURCING at MAGIC encompasses a diverse spectrum of product categories, making it essential for attendees to approach with a strategic focus. By having a clear objective, you enable exhibitors and our team to provide tailored guidance, bettering your experience and potential business outcomes." (Pro-Tip: McPherson will be leading a “world tour” on Tuesday, August 20th at 4PM PST at SOURCING at MAGIC in Las Vegas, and she is happy to make introductions.)

 

BE PREPARED WITH QUESTIONS 

Have a list of questions ready for your first meetings. Be prepared to introduce yourself and have an elevator pitch—a quick explanation of your company and product—ready to go. Look at these conversations as the beginning of developing a genuine partnership with factories. Being upfront and honest about your requirements will help build trust and commitment. 

There are some essential pieces of information that you’ll want to know from any potential manufacturer. Here are a few just to get started:

*What is the company’s “MOQ,” or minimum order quantity?

*How much will things cost to manufacture there? You’ll need to understand how that fits into margin and how that impacts revenue. 

*What are the company’s lead times? Once an order has been placed, how long does it take to make the product? If you are not meeting large MOQs, will your order be pushed behind    brands with larger orders? How long does it take for the final product or its components to be delivered? 

*Does the company have an in-house design team? You may have a vision, but in-house expertise in a particular category may save some production hassles. 

*What are the company’s shipping and logistics methods? FedEx, DHL, or by boat? Cheaper is not always better, and sometimes it makes sense to pay to have smaller, lighter pieces or   smaller quantities delivered via air rather than boat. 

*Is the company located in a Duty-Free zone? 

 

Full Package Production

Full package production (FPP) refers to a comprehensive service provided by manufacturers or product development agents specifically within the fashion industry. It includes managing all aspects of garment production from initial design concept to the final product ready for distribution. Many providers who offer full package fashion production will include design and development services, sourcing and procurement, manufacturing, quality control, packaging, shipping, logistics and distribution, as well as adhering to compliance requirements and sustainability standards. As you can imagine, it can be a daunting task for a brand to bear responsibility for all these product lifecycle steps. With a full package production partner, they absorb the burden and serve as proxy on your behalf with the various contractors, middlemen, and third-party entities to get your product realized and ready for distribution. In contrast of a full package option, a designer or brand would be responsible for all the necessary steps to connect vendor A to vendor B, vendor B to vendor C, and so on, which can be time consuming with ownership of liability falling on the designer or brand if any mistakes or damages occur. Whereas, once they are contracted, a full package partner assumes full liability until the finished goods are delivered.

 

Some of the services that Full Package Production includes:

*Design and Development – Assistance with developing initial design concepts, offering services such as pattern making, sample development, prototyping, and setting up production markers.

*Sourcing and Procurement – Sourcing of raw materials such as fabrics, trims (buttons, zippers, etc.), components, and accessories (labels, tags). This includes selecting suppliers, negotiating prices, and ensuring quality standards.

*Manufacturing – Manufacturing of garments, which includes cutting fabric, sewing, assembling components, and finishing details according to the specifications provided.

*Quality Control – Conduct of inspection and quality control throughout the production process to ensure that raw materials and garments meet predefined standards for stitching, fitting, fabric quality, and overall finish.

*Packaging – Once garments are manufactured and inspected, FPP includes packaging the finished goods according to the client’s specifications. This can involve labeling, folding, bagging, and preparing for shipment or retail display.

*Logistics and Distribution – Some FPP providers also assist with logistics, like shipping, customs, import and duty taxes, and organizing the transportation of finished goods from the production facility to distribution centers or directly to retailers or consumers.

*Compliance and Sustainability – Increasingly, FPP providers are expected to adhere to environmental and labor standards. They may offer options for sustainable materials and practices, ensuring compliance with regulations and certifications.

 

Overall, full package production allows fashion brands and designers to outsource the entire manufacturing process to a specialized partner, streamlining operations and allowing them to focus on design, marketing, and sales. It provides a turnkey solution that spans from concept to delivery, helping to bring fashion products to market efficiently and with consistent quality.

 

TECH PACKS 

A tech pack is one of the most essential tools a novice sourcing professional should know how to use. “These documents are considered your contract with the factory,” says McPherson. “They can be expensive and time-consuming—and are often overlooked but are absolutely necessary.” David describes them as “The blueprint for your product. And you can’t build a house without a blueprint.” 

A tech pack will include a sketch of the garment/product being developed, construction details, measurements, trims, packaging, and specifications on every single component. The goal is to create a universal document that presents these guidelines in simple, easy-to-understand terms that will transcend language barriers. These documents are ubiquitous in the fashion industry, so standard templates can easily be found online. 

If you are unfamiliar with tech packs, there will be a session, "Crafting the Ideal Tech Pack," at SOURCING at MAGIC on how to assemble these vital documents—which describe every detail of the end product in minute detail—and an industry-standard template will be distributed to attendees.) View the most up-to-date Education Schedule in Las Vegas here.

 

 

“[Tech packs] are the blueprint for your product. And you can't build a house without a blueprint.”

- Andreu David, Vice President, SOURCING at MAGIC

 

 

SUSTAINABILITY ORIENTED RESOURCES

These days, manufacturing practices that are good for the planet aren’t just moral imperatives; they are also demanded by consumers and, increasingly, required by governments. (Learn more about these new requirements by reading our recent editorial, Validating the Vision). Environmental, social, and governance regulations are standard in the European Union. They are also gaining traction here in the United States, with legislation in New York (The Fashion Act), California, and Washington state either passed or under consideration. These laws will or do require companies to report and offer proof of their sustainable manufacturing methods, providing a legal framework to verify best practices while eliminating greenwashing.  

SOURCING at MAGIC partners with sustainability verification company Hey Social Good (HSG). Dr. Cindy J. Lin, HSG’s CEO + Co-Founder, says, “Anyone starting a business today has no choice but to consider sustainability because of recent regulations on everything from carbon emissions to social due diligence. Some retailers also require vendors to address carbon scope and environmental considerations.”

“If you’re starting a business, you’ll probably save money by starting with stainability in mind," says Lin. “It’s much harder to shift to sustainability once a supply chain infrastructure has been established. It may seem more expensive to source sustainable materials initially. Still, you will pay the price in different ways when it’s time to convert to practices your competitors have already instituted. Also, many verified businesses at SOURCING at MAGIC incorporate these cost-saving principles like more efficient water and energy use. It’s a good business decision.”

SOURCING at MAGIC can help guide new brands and exhibitors with certified green practices through its verified exhibitor program. Click here the learn more about this program.  

 

LEGAL AND FINANCIAL PROTECTIONS

There are far too many instances of companies engaging in disreputable practices, particularly in the fashion industry. Protect your investment by planning and budgeting for professional legal and accounting advice. Hire licensed professionals who can guide company budgets and oversee legalities to keep the business running smoothly and save on legal fees that may arise later.  

No matter your experience level, sourcing comes with its own challenges and opportunities. As the saying goes, “Begin with the end in mind,” and create a detailed plan to help bring your vision to life. Most importantly, don’t try to do it all alone. 
 

 

 

With our SOURCING at MAGIC community of entrepreneurs, you are not alone.

Meet your peers, join us at SOURCING at MAGIC Las Vegas and SOURCING at MAGIC New York.

 



SUGGESTED FURTHER READING:

By its very nature, the fashion industry requires us to keep on top of trends, but that goes way beyond knowing the latest styles. MMGNET, home of the fashion industry’s ecosystem (and SOURCING at MAGIC's parent brand) produces leading content such as reports, guides and seasonal trend sessions. Navigate to SOURCING at MAGIC’s Resource tab where we offer valuable industry insights, reports, guides, and more. SOURCING at MAGIC's Seasonal Editorial page houses our library of Region and Country Guides, as well as event recaps, digital issues, and editorials. Check out some of our latest sessions and reports below. 

 

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