How We Found Great Fabrics for Our Plus-Size Dresses

Posted by baker miller

How did we find our fabrics? We knew what we wanted to use to make our plus-size dress collection but now had to find vendors who could meet our needs.

We had no idea where to start. Since we're in Los Angeles, we decided to head to the Fashion District and started shopping at this neighborhood's many fabric retail stores.

We visited Mood Fabric of Project Runway fame (yes, they have a Los Angeles store in addition to their NYC store). But shopping at retailers is not the way to go. They have a limited supply of each fabric and wouldn't be able to meet quantity needs for production.

Instead, we needed to find wholesale suppliers who would be able to provide us with the 1) amount of fabric we needed and 2) continuity in fabric stock – meaning the fabric would be available season after season.

You won't find much information when you Google "wholesale fabric suppliers." Many wholesalers are behind in their online presence.

We asked our industry network for supplier references and realized there were different types of wholesalers.

You have fabric mills where fabric is woven or knit. Best-selling materials and colors are usually in stock, while others are made-to-order.

Importers and stock houses buy large quantities of fabrics from domestic and foreign mills and then sell the textiles.

Converters purchase large volumes of greige piece goods (unfinished textiles) directly from the mills, then dye and print it into finished fabric. This method allows for quick response to trends in color and print.

As we navigated the world of suppliers, there was concern they wouldn't work with a small, startup brand like baker miller. We knew vendors often had large minimums, and we planned a small production run for our launch with less yardage.

We then turned to another type of supplier called a jobber. These wholesalers work with deadstock, fabric that goes unused by the mill, converter, or brand that produced it. Maybe the material had slight damage or came out the wrong color. Perhaps the brand ordered more than it could use or decided it was no longer useful for its designs.

We sourced fabric at one of the largest jobbers in Los Angeles, Ragfinders. Below are photos showing the inside and outside of this 3-floor warehouse.

baker miller fabrics for plus-size dresses

Ragfinders carries all fabric types, from velvets to lace to silks to denim. It's where Los Angeles-based contemporary brands such as Trina Turk and Karen Kane sell their unused fabrics. It was fun - and daunting - to explore the maze of beautiful fabrics.

After several trips, we found a lovely animal print viscose jersey for our collection. Here is a photo of the jersey in our fit & flare dress.

baker miller plus-size fit & flare dress
Jobbers are a great place to find inspiration – you can see and feel all kinds of fabrics in a fantastic assortment of color palettes and prints.

The best place to find suppliers, however, is trade shows. You can see textiles in person to determine if they will work for your clothing line. We attended trade shows who welcomed emerging designers like baker miller, including a show in our hometown, LA Textile.

LA Textile occurs every year in March and October at the California Market Center in downtown LA's Fashion District. More about shopping LA Textile in the next blog post.

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