You want to launch your own clothing line to sell on Amazon, but you’re not sure where to begin. A number of sellers have seen significant success with the Clothing category on Amazon. Apparel not only can host high margins, but it also allows you to create a distinctive product with little need for invention.

However, this doesn’t make apparel a low investment business. In fact, sourcing and selling apparel can be a significant cost, time, and energy expenditure. With high rewards, though, it’s worth taking the leap into apparel and textiles.

But how do you get started?

Below we’ll go through each step to consider when starting your textile sourcing overseas.

1. Determine how you’ll source fabric.

There are two key ways to source your raw materials for production: through your manufacturer or direct from a fabric supplier.

Most manufacturers have relationships with materials suppliers. This means you can partner with a factory to produce your goods, and they will be able to source your textiles and materials for your products.

While this can be convenient, you can run into some problems. You could have the best manufacturer in the world, but their sources may not have the same high-level quality management system. This means you can have quality concerns and social compliance violations along your supply chain—even without your knowledge or control.

If you allow your manufacturer to source your materials, you should set and maintain specific standards that your factory must follow. They must understand that the quality of the raw materials is their responsibility.

Fabric source

Because of the concerns of not choosing your own materials sourcer, we often recommend partnering also with a separate fabric and materials sources. This means you choose the specific sources for your textiles. You have a direct relationship with the source, so you have greater control over the quality of goods and specifications of fabric.

Your fabrics supplier then sends the materials to your apparel manufacturer, who will then produce and finalize those goods you’ll sell on Amazon. This likely means you’ll want your material supplier and your manufacturing partner to be in the same country, like China, to reduce shipping costs and lead times.

The alternative is to work with a sourcing firm like Ask Idea Sourcing. We are able to partner you with the best manufacturers and fabric suppliers to ensure quality goods with cost-effective solutions. Learn more about our supplier assessments here.

Sourcing Fashion, Apparel, and Textiles 101 rolls of fabric against white wall

2. Choose the fabric.

What kind of fabric will you need? This is the primary factor when choosing a supplier. Pick the fabrics you’ll need and then find fabric suppliers who offer those fabrics for the best quality at the lowest price.

You may also want to consider the future growth of your business. If you plan to scale in the future, you might want to choose a supplier that not only specializes in your current fabric needs but also has the ability to provide additional fabrics as well.

However, this isn’t always necessary. You can also choose fabric sources based on specialty, like material or durability. You can source fabrics from 10 different suppliers, and those goods are all sent to a single factory for production purposes. It’s more important to have a single manufacturing partner to scale with your business, as you can always outsource fabrics and accessories to additional sources.

3. Consider the source.

The “source” is where your fabric comes from.

You want your fabric supplier as close to the source as possible. This helps cut out middlemen, thus reducing costs, chemical additions, and quality concerns. The closer you get materials from the source, the more “raw” and usable the material is.

Textile sourcing is critical in today’s competitive apparel market. Consumers are more conscious of the goods they’re buying and putting on their bodies. Customers care about where their fabric is sourced, ecause it has a direct influence on their health and social impact.

Customers care about two key factors in fabric sourcing:

  1. The chemicals on their clothes
  2. Social compliance

Chemicals

If your goods have a number of chemicals, this can start to irritate customer’s skin or cause health concerns. Even one lawsuit or complaint can cost you your entire business.

Chemicals can have smaller—yet still detrimental— effects as well. For example, unsafe dyes can rub off on customers and leave color on the skin. Or some chemicals might give off an unpleasant smell during unpacking. These “small” concerns can still cause a high rate of return, a number of negative reviews, Amazon complaints, a low seller ranking, and even suspension on Amazon.

With enough of these quality concerns, you can be launched into a negative cycle that kills your Amazon business.

Thus, it’s critical that you fully understand the safety standards for chemicals and textiles. In the United States, these standards are under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). This regulates certain substances to protect Americans from high levels of unsafe chemicals, like formaldehyde, AZO-colors, and asbestos.

It’s important to note that a lot of Chinese fabric sources and manufacturers, especially small ones, don’t know the regulated substances going into their textiles. Often, this is a deep-rooted problem that goes beyond your manufacturer—back to the source of the fabric.

This is why we often recommend working directly with a fabric source, so you can better maintain quality standards. You could also work with a sourcing firm, who can be present on the ground at the fabric supplier to ensure high-level quality inspections throughout the process.

Social compliance

Social compliance is the process of sourcing from socially conscious suppliers. This means these suppliers meet certain working and environmental conditions. Today’s customer is beginning to ask: where is my product coming from?

Consumers care more about just the physical quality of the goods. They also care about the quality of labor and production of their goods. If your materials are made in sweatshops or other poor working conditions, you will lose the trust of your customer and business partners.

Learn more about social compliance here.

4. Find a source.

There are three types of material wholesalers:

  1. Mills provide made-to-offer fabrics. They have a set catalogue of fabrics from which you can order with very little variation. The cost is moderate.
  2. Wholesalers or converters take unfinished products from mills and re-process them. They usually offer more options, like printed fabrics and unique colors. However, prices are often higher.
  3. Jobbers buy up excess fabric from mills and converters. They then sell that fabric at a reduced price. Although you get low-cost fabric, they often don’t offer consistent repeat fabrics. This can make it a challenge for ongoing orders.

There are two key ways to find the right raw materials source: trade shows and partnerships.

Trade shows

If you are in fashion and textiles, you need to be attending trade shows. From material suppliers to emerging designers, trade shows are a great place to learn more about upcoming styles, trends, cuts, and fashions. These shows are also strong networking opportunities for any kind of textile seller, from T-shirts to artistic designs.

Sourcing Fashion, Apparel, and Textiles 101 fashion trade show event arial view showing booths

Some textile trade shows to consider:

Partnerships

Contact Ask Idea Sourcing now to start finding fabric sources and production partners. With our supplier assessments and quality inspections, we will ensure that your sources are always reliable, credible, and valuable.

5. Ask questions.

You’ve found a potential materials supplier based on the fabrics they offer and their “closeness” to the source. Below you’ll find the key questions to ask a fabric supplier to ensure they will work best with your sourcing needs:

  • What are your minimum and maximum order quantities? (A typical MOQ for textile items is 300-500 per design.)
  • Will you offer a discount for buying fabric in bulk?
  • What is your lead time from ordering to shipment to the manufacturer?
  • What is the width of the fabric? (Note that most companies charge based on length, not width. Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth in width as well.)
  • What is the strength of the fabric?
  • What are your guarantees on your product?
  • How do you handle defective materials?
  • What is your pricing structure?

Still not sure if they’re the right supplier for you? Contact Ask Idea Sourcing to ensure that you partner with credible, superior sources.

6. Request fabric samples.

Ask for samples of the fabric you plan to order. You may have to pay a small fee, but it’s worth it. This will help you get the look and feel of the fabric firsthand.

Learn more here: Why And How To Use Product Samples For Quality Sourcing

If you don’t want to pay for samples, Ask Idea Sourcing can do in-person quality inspections that include experiencing the fabrics firsthand.

7. Partner your fabric source and manufacturer.

Now that you’ve chosen a fabric source, you can introduce the materials supplier to your manufacturer. You want both manufacturing partners to have a strong relationship, so they don’t have to go through you for all concerns

We recommend introducing your source and producer firsthand in-person. This is a great way to show your commitment to both parties, to quality standards, and to your shared partnerships. If you can’t be there in person, the Ask Idea Sourcing team is on the ground to make these introductions for you.

8. Set standards with your production partner.

In your sourcing contracts, you want to specify every aspect of your product and production.

Specifications for your product should include:

  • Design drafting
  • Design elements
  • Dimensions
  • Fabric type (% of each material)
  • Fabric weight
  • Printing/embroidery
  • Stitching/seams
  • Pantone colors
  • Buttons
  • Textile label (includes country of origin, textile fiber content, washing instructions)
  • Compliance requirements (like chemicals)

The more detailed your specifications in your contract, the more likely you will receive the quality of goods your customers demand.

Sourcing Fashion, Apparel, and Textiles 101 designer looking through fabric samples

9. Request samples from your manufacturer.

You’ll already have approved samples from your fabric supplier. Now, though, you want to make sure your manufacturer uses the materials in the proper way to make the perfect product. This ensures your finished product is up to customer-worthy standards.

When you receive “final” product samples, you should look at:

  • Quality of material
  • Stitching
  • Color
  • Sizing
  • Cut
  • Smell
  • Feel
  • Design

We recommend requesting samples before starting a partnership with a manufacturer to determine quality. You should also request ongoing samples to maintain these standards.

Keep in mind that reviewing your samples is often “too late,” because they come with a larger production run. This means the samples you’re seeing are part of a greater order; if that order doesn’t turn out well, you may still have to pay for the entire batch.

Moreover, samples themselves are also expensive. Thus, you want samples to be a verification of quality as opposed to a quality check. Frequent checks should come in the form of inspections. Learn more about performing consistent, ongoing quality inspections here.

The Bottom Line

Sourcing textiles to produce apparel can be easy—with the right partnerships and expertise. You can start selling your own apparel line with high margins in no time if you know where to source and produce.

Contact Ask Idea Sourcing to start finding the right suppliers for your Amazon apparel business!