I know the feeling. You are in your first textile trade show, you feel out of place, there are a lot of booths, you don’t even know where to start, sounds familiar?
What if I tell you if it doesn’t have to be this way?
In this article I compiled 10 simple tips on how to be successful in Textile Trade Shows and look like a pro even in your first fair visit.
Are you ready? Let’s go.
1. Have Business Cards For your Credibility, have many of them
This seems like an obvious one or maybe not.
Creating a business card is so easy, I personally recommend Moo, quick and easy to place an order and pretty affordable.
Everybody can create one nowadays and for that reason a business card in my opinion doesn’t mean you have a business.
But here’s the thing:
Business cards are still seen as sign of legitimacy for a lot of mills, especially Italian ones.
The first thing many Italian suppliers ask you as soon as you try to or enter their booth is: “Do you have a business card?”.
If you haven’t got one they will not take you seriously and you might have just jeopardise a possible collaboration with them.
The same applies with pretty much every mill from other countries.
2. Never Ask for Minimums
This might sound counter-intuitive, right?
You’re a fashion start-up, you have a tight budget and you can’t afford to buy 1000 meters of a fabric per colour.
I know what you are thinking:
“So, why shouldn’t I ask for minimums?”
This is why:
I found out in my experience that maybe apart from Turkish and Chinese suppliers that really have huge minimums and it will be tough for them to sell you 60 or 70 meters of a fabric, other European mills are normally flexible and they will try to help you by selling as little as they can.
Normally less than 50 meters is not possible but you might get away with 70/80 meters/colour.
Also, mills have some available stock in some colours that might just be a good compromise for you at the beginning to buy in small quantities.
Never, never, never enter the booth and ask straight away “How much are your minimums?”
Browse the stall, choose your fabrics, have a nice chat with mill sales people and order the samples.
Only when you receive the samples and you choose exactly what fabrics you are going to use you can start negotiating minimums and ask for what colours they might have available in stock.
If you ask for minimums at the beginning you are passing the message that you are a newbie.
That’s a red flag for a lot of mills as they will suspect you won’t be a big costumer.
You might be a newbie but don’t behave like one.
One thing to note:
Normally, for low quantities there’s a surplus, sometimes up to 50% but that’s fine, as you grow your brand you will be able to buy bigger quantities and you will start getting the margins you wanted in the first place.
3. Never Take Photos, Really, Don’t do it.
Textile Trade shows are always no-photo event.
Fabrics are presented one year in advance and the last thing mills want is their fabrics, patterns or colours to appear all over the place on internet.
I don’t mean taking a selfie if you feel like it or a panorama photo telling your friends where you are but I mean taking photos of fabrics of course.
Don’t do it, besides not being elegant disrespecting rules there’s a lot of staff checking all the time if people are taking photos.
I remember spotting a lady who took a photo of a fabric during Premiere Vision.
A member of staff noticed and forced her to delete the photo and didn’t let her go till she did so.
I found that to be pathetic and embarrassing especially because we are talking about a 50-year old woman.
Be a gentleman or a lady and do not take photos of fabrics in the common areas.
If the mill allows you to do so in their booth that’s fine but that’s not going to happen unless you ask and have a well established relationship with them.
4. Do your Homework Before the Event to Not be Lost
This is probably the most important rule of all.
Textile Trade Shows are normally huge fairs, they are overwhelming and even intimidating especially in your first attendance.
For example Premiere Vision is very well organised, despite the 900+ suppliers.
The fair is organised per fabric type.
For instance if you are looking for silks, you will be find that silk suppliers will all be in the same area close to each other.
However if you don’t know exactly what fabrics you are looking for next time you will look at your watch, five hours will have passed and your feet will be hurting.
Do your homework before the fair starts.
If you know the mills you want to talk to contact them and fix an appointment.
If you are looking for technical fabrics have a look at the catalogue before arriving, organise yourself very well in advance.
5. Be Friendly and Don’t Be Shy
If you are in the fashion business by now you know how important human relations are in this industry.
I guess in every industry but in fashion even more so.
For example Premiere Vision gets tens if not hundreds of thousands of visitors a year and mills representatives talk to a lot of people.
Be friendly with them, say hello when you enter their booth.
Being friendly will make them remember you and it will increase your likelihood of creating a great relationship.
And this leads me to my next golden rule:
6. Ask for Recommendations
Don’t just stay hello and start browsing fabrics.
Tell the mill representatives what are you looking for.
What kind of fabric did you have in mind.
What’s the garment you are creating.
Ask for their opinion.
They know their fabrics inside out much better than you can possibly do.
Textile Fairs are really busy and it is sometimes difficult for mills to sit down and talk to everyone in detail but they will at least show you the section of their booth that is more relevant to you.
By the way never forget to ask when will the samples arrive.
That will be important to assess if they are reliable or not.
7. Ask Technical Questions
Apart from asking for recommendations don’t forget to ask these fundamental questions about the fabrics you chose.
They are extremely important for your business and will also show that you know what are you talking about.
Question #1 – When will the samples arrive?
Why? So you know when to expect the samples as you might have to follow-up with the suppliers, do write this information down!
Question #2 – What’s the lead time?
Why? -The Lead time means how long would they take to produce the fabric, this is extremely important, first it shows you are really interested in buying their fabrics, b) it will help scheduling your production and c) it’s a very important thing to make you decide from supplier a or b. Let’s say you find two very similar fabrics from different suppliers, one is only 1 month lead time and the other is 2 months lead time, obviously go with the quickest mill, for one of my brands for instance for my fabrics I have to admit I didn’t write the lead time down and I had to wait much more than I wanted to. Lesson learned.
Question #3 – Can you please send me the technical sheet together with the sample?
Why? – The Technical sheet of a fabric will tell you at what temperature you can wash the fabric, shrinkage test, sometimes in case of technical fabrics if the fabric is resistant to chlorine or salt for instance.
Obviously this is very important to have and read before you take a final decision, if you have doubts about the technical sheet just ask the producer, don’t be afraid to ask technical questions.
8. Don’t Talk Money, Yet
Together with talking about minimums that’s another huge red flag for mills that show them that you are a newbie.
Sure thing, fabric cost/meter is an essential factor to take into consideration but unless they mention it don’t ask for prices.
In the majority of times they don’t even know them by heart.
They would have to double check and they have no time to do it there and then.
Educate yourself beforehand about average prices for the fabrics you are looking for.
Then at the fair just select the fabrics you love the most, the mills will send you the price list with the samples.
9. Take a Lot of Notes and Breaks
You will end up walking a lot and talking to a lot of people.
It is exhausting, take a lot of breaks between mills, drink a lot of water and also take a lot of notes.
Stay positive, don’t be upset if some supplier was not kind.
It happened to me and it will happen every time until you are an established name everybody wishes to work with.
I have to say that the vast majority of mills are friendly.
Which mill did you like the most?
Who was maybe not that friendly with you so you don’t loose your time with them next time?
Who did you ask samples from?
All this is fundamental so you stay organised and productive during the fair.
10. Follow-up With the Suppliers
This is a rather post-event tip.
As mentioned above don’t forget asking the mill “How long will you take to ship the samples?”, whatever time they tell you they will take, follow-up with them exactly at that date if you haven’t received them.
It is not uncommon that they forget as they have a lot of costumers, follow-up with them at that date.
First send an email, if they don’t reply in a couple of days pick up the phone and give them a call, if after that you don’t receive the sample, forget about them and move on, working with a reliable mill that respects their word is absolutely critical for your success.
If they don’t send you the samples within a decent time frame when it will be time for ordering production fabrics they will probably be late and get yourself into a lot of trouble.
This is it. My 10 top tips for when you attend Textile Trade shows, I hope this was helpful to you guys.
What about you, have you been to premiere vision or another textile trade shows? Would you have other tips?
I’d love to read your comments, just write them below!