Discount Fabrics and the Savvy Shopper

When visiting a comprehensive fabrics store, it is, at first glance, somewhat overwhelming. All you can see is a sea of fabric, maybe, even an ocean of fabric.

Where to start, Oh where to start?

Apart from the choice of apparel or home furnishing fabrics, you need to know how the fabrics ended up in the store. Fabrics are, to some extent, fashion items and sometimes seasonal. The apparel fabrics are more seasonal and volatile than home furnishing fabrics. A lot of apparel fabrics are timeless in some basic colours but mills cannot go to market with those 5 or ten basic colours. Along the way, we get the new season colours, trial runs and short runs are produced. So, what happens to all the stock that is not picked up for general distribution once introduced? They end up being sold off at a discount.

Fabric is being checked for flaws and printing defects. Some mills accept 5 weaving flaws for a roll of fabric to be categorized as ‘first’ quality. Depending on the nature of the flaw, a roll of fabric may contain more than this arbitrary number. As a matter of judgment, these rolls can be called ‘useable seconds’ they end up being sold at a discount.

Printed and dyed fabrics may go through the colouring process and end up looking different from the ‘master’ sample. There is nothing, from a durability standpoint, wrong with these goods. They just don’t match the original. They get sold at a discount.

Printed fabrics are often produced in, up to, 20 different colour ways. However nice the pattern is, it will not sell in all twenty colours. A mill is lucky if 20% of the colours sell well. So what happens to the other 80%? Ah, yes, it gets sold off at a discount!

For a print run to be economical from a production standpoint, the mill needs to commit more than 3000 yards of a colour way. Some of this won’t sell out. Oops!, we thought we could sell 3000 yards. Now the rest has to be sold off at a discount.

Now you see where some of the discounted fabrics come from. Most of this is not bad-after all, everything has a price. When you see a roll of fabric in a discount fabric store, the main thing to watch out for is weaving flaws and printing defects. What does it matter if it doesn’t match the original ‘strike off’ or is last season’s colour, just as long as it is good for your application? If you have to buy extra fabric to cut around flaws, it has to be a really good price before it is worth it. Be sure to get enough, because, in all likelihood, you won’t be able to go back to the store for more.

What is there after ‘discount’- it gets sold by the pound or kilo, shredded and reclaimed. Here the content label will say ‘100% unknown fibre’ 100% unknown fibre does not mean shredded or reclaimed, it just means mixed fibres in variable proportions.

BOLA TANGKAS