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Design, Manufacturing & Product Development

Determining the total cost of importing textiles

Q: I’d like to manufacture kids clothing with fabric certified safe from toxins per the Oeko-Tex Standards. These fabrics are only available overseas (I’m US-based). How should I contact with these fabric suppliers given the language barrier, and what information is critical to determine the total cost?

Susan Langdon says:
Most companies deal internationally so you can't assume they don't speak/write English. Reach out to them and try to keep your request simple. You'll need to ask if there's a surcharge on sample orders, what their production minimums are, what currency do they deal in (usually it will be USD or Euro), whether the price quoted is FOB, CIF or LDP and how they like to be paid. If it's by LC (letter of credit) there's a cost to you to get your bank to arrange this.

Also ask if you have a choice as to which shipping carriers can be used to ship the goods to you since this will be your cost. For example, consolidated shipping using a freight forwarder like Panalpina will be less expensive than using a courier company like DHL or FedEx but it will take longer to ship. You'll also have to investigate how much freight insurance will cost. Finally, you'll need to contact a customs broker to find out how much import duty tax will be on the fabric (this is based on fibre content and where the fabric was made).

Advice on breaking into the Canadian market

Q: I am a BCOM gradute currently living and working in Canada. I am writing to find out how I could go about introducing a foreign brand to Canada. My father runs a garment brand/stitching unit in Pakistan and we are looking for ways to break into the Canadian Market.

Susan Langdon says:
As with any proposed business model, before you spend any money you need to do some extensive market research to find out if there's a need for your service and if yes, if there's enough demand to ensure your business will be sustainable over the years. As the business is located in Pakistan and if your potential customers are located in Canada, then you'll need to find out what the cheapest and fastest way is to ship samples and production to your customer. An expensive shipping cost could negatively affect your ability to attract and sustain customers. You can find a directory of Canadian apparel firms at www.apparel.ca. If you’re satisfied that you can secure clients in Canada, the next step is to prepare a business plan and cashflow projection. In your business plan, I'd suggest including a travel expense as you will likely need to go on the road across Canada, several times per year, to find/meet with clients.

Online support group for fashion accessory designers

Q: I am looking for an online “support group” of entrepreneurs in the fashion accessory business or jewellery (like me,) who would discuss business ideas and problems that they might be up against who would support each other to move forward in their business. Do you have any suggestions? I am based in Calgary.

Susan Langdon says:
I’m not familiar with any organized “support group” of fashion accessory/jewellery businesses in Calgary but there’s an emerging fashion design business in your city. Perhaps you could reach out to designers in your community like Paul Hardy and Lara Presber and ask them if they know of a group for accessory designers. Paul and Lara have done fashion shows before and therefore have worked with stylists and accessory designers so they might be able to connect you. Networking is essential for any business person so be sure to attend fashion events, industry functions and any events where you know fashion insiders will attend. What if the support group met only online? Whether you’re located in Calgary, Toronto or Vancouver, the challenges and issues you’re facing are shared by everyone. Why not take the initiative and start an online group yourself? You could start off with a blog, chronicling the problems, situations & inspirations you’re encountering and invite other jewellery designers to comment & reply. Finally, don’t forget, but if you become a TFI member you can chat with our mentors via Skype, email or telephone and can ask them for advice/feedback. They’re all here to help you!

How Do I Become A Retail Buyer?

Q: Hi, I went to school for Commerce, worked for a big 4 firm and obtained my CA designation. I realize that my passion still lies in fashion and was wondering how I can become a fashion buyer/other fashion fields with my business background.

Susan Langdon says:
Almost all retailers promote from the floor up because they want their buyers to have had direct interaction with customers. Before you can become a buyer, you need to know who your customers are, what size they are, what can they afford or not, what are they looking for, what they're buying or not buying and why. You can only learn these things from working the floor; not from school and not from being parachuted into a buying position. Your best bet is to get a retail job at a store you want to be a buyer for, then work your way up.

Sizing From Small to Medium

Q: If I have some really good measures for a size 'small', how would I go about converting those measures into a size 'medium'? Is there a general rule?

Susan Langdon says:
Yes, there are precise, technical rules to increasing and decreasing garment
size and this process is called "Grading". The first step is to define how
much larger you want the medium to be. For women's wear apparel, it's
usually a 2" total circumference increase in the body, ½" longer in the body
and ½" longer sleeve length. From a medium to a size large, there is usually
a 3" total circumference increase, another ½" longer in the body and another
½" longer sleeve length. Take this information to a professional grading
service and tell the grader this is what you want. An experienced grader
will know exactly how and where to distribute the increase (for example:
through the neck, through the armhole, in the sleeve cap etc.). Never
attempt to grade without fully understanding the process as you could end up
with a very costly mistake. There are many books on "grading" where you can
learn about the process better.

DIY Fashion Illustrating: Using A Croqui

Q: I'm drawing a fashion line for a scholastic art and writing competition. Do you think I should draw my own models when I don't know how or should I draw them on pre-drawn models?

Susan Langdon says:
The term for pre-drawn models is called "croqui" and yes, it's best that you use a croqui template as generally their proportions are great for fashion illustrations. They're readily available online for free if you simply Google "croqui". Try to choose a figure and pose that's elegant and not too clubby or action-oriented.

Fashion Design Jobs in Canada

Q: I'm from Brazil and work in the fashion industry as a fashion designer for 4 years. I'm thinking about moving to Canada. I'd really like to know if I'll have difficulties finding a job or if it's better to start over and go back to university. Tks!

Susan Langdon says:
Unlike many countries, fashion designers in Canada are expected to also do patternmaking, draping and sometimes grading. Unless you have these skills, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to find a job here. Also keep in mind that the industry jargon we use to describe things may be different than in your country. For example, we call basic patterns "blocks" whereas in the United States, these are referred to as "slopers". If you lack the skills mentioned above, it may be a very good idea for you to take a course at a technical college such as George Brown to learn patternmaking and construction. Here, you'll also learn the "language" of Canada's fashion industry.

Hat manufacturing questions

Q: When you approach a manufacturing company to produce your product, do you have to bring them your patterns or samples, or hats in my situation? What are the manufacturing steps from a weekend crafter, to a hat distributor, to smaller independent retail stores?

David Dixon says:
Hi there. Yes when you go to a manufacturer to produce your product, it is always best to bring a production sample as well as a perfected pattern. This will allow the contractor to see what your quality expectations are as well for them to give you a quote on the manufacturing costs.

If you get a collection of hats together, you can get an agent to represent your collection and sell your product to retail. Do your research on where your product will be placed, take into consideration price point, deliveries, and the retailer’s payment history; have a credit application completed requesting references from other lines that they carry to determine credit terms. There are also accessory trade shows that the TFI would know about.

All the best,


How Are Brand Collaborations Made?

Q: How do brands go about doing collaborations, more specifically on the business side of things? For example, if a brand does a collaboration, how is the money divided? How do you decide if a brand has more distribution than the other?

David Dixon says:
Are you collaborating or licensing? When collaborating, both parties come to the table equally with a common vision. Meaning each party brings forth what each other may be lacking but appreciates the value the other brand brings. So 50/50.

If it is a licensing agreement, a % or dollar figure is determined. That dollar or percentage value really depends on the amount of work that is required. If minimal work is required on your end, then a lower %, however if you are doing a considerable amount you can ask for more.

How can you tell someone has more distribution? Do some online research and look at who their channels are. Then you can determine if that is acceptable.

Hope that helps, your question is a bit vague.

Good luck,


Textile Quotas Between China and Canada?

Q: Are there still limitations between China and Canada in terms of textile quotas?

Larry Weiner says:
Quotas no longer exist between Canada and China.

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