What You Should Know Before Sourcing Fabric From Overseas Markets

July 3, 2023

Procuring fabric is an expensive yet necessary expense for fashion manufacturers. Learn how manufacturers navigate sourcing from overseas to avoid scams and ensure quality materials.

The global textile market has a few major players that are predominantly responsible for most of the world’s textile needs. In fact, more than 50% of textile supplies for garment manufacturing in the United States are from overseas suppliers. Fabric sourcing from overseas gives local manufacturers access to the best cotton, bamboo, silk, chiffon, and other types of textiles at variable rates that are open for a bargain, a facility not necessarily available in middleman markets. This gives sourcing from international markets an edge over other options.

What Is Fabric Sourcing?

Fabric sourcing is the process through which you procure textiles for garment manufacturing. Different clothes have different requirements for fabric. The process involves coordination between the manufacturer and supplier to determine when, which, and how much fabric will be supplied.

Choosing a reliable supplier who can provide a one-time or regular supply of fabric  ̶  based on the brand’s needs  ̶  at pre-determined rates is important to keep business expenses and product quality consistent.

The Major Textile Exporters

As a designer, you have a few options for sourcing from overseas. China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, the UK, and Italy. About 41% of the world’s textiles are produced in China, contributing a significant portion to global cotton, silk, and cashmere products.

India and Turkey also contribute significantly to the global textile market, being major producers of cotton and denim, respectively. Pakistan produces a variety of fabrics, including cotton, synthetic fibers, wool, jute, etc. The UK produces wool, while Italy is famous for its dyed fabrics.

Recognizing Reliable Sources

As there are a lot of sources in the market claiming to offer similar products at lower prices, it is easy for newcomers in the field to fall prey to scams. To avoid sourcing from unreliable producers, the rule of thumb is as follows: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Knowing the options for fabric when sourcing from overseas reduces the risk of scams. Online sourcing is becoming increasingly popular with E-commerce platforms such as Amazon having various suppliers displaying their products. A background check on any of the suppliers is a good practice. Usually, manufacturers can differentiate between good suppliers from unreliable ones.


A person knitting with blue wool.

Apart from online platforms, trade shows are happening all over the world, which connect manufacturers and designers with suppliers. These events provide a platform to check different suppliers and their materials under one roof.

Fabric Testing

Before ordering materials in bulk from a supplier, it is important to check the integrity of the samples. Common fabric tests include performance, dimensional stability, and inflammation tests. The United States standards for textile imports are described by ASTM International. Before sourcing from overseas, make sure the supplier meets all safety and quality standards for imports.

Questions To Ask Before Buying

Common questions that are a good practice to ask a supplier are their minimum order requirements (MOQ)  ̶  minimal number of items for it to be complete  ̶, length per roll, width, colors, weight, etc. Make sure that you order a sample for quality confirmation before buying in bulk for mass production.

A common issue with sourcing from overseas is the lead time. This is the duration between placing an order and having it shipped to the manufacturer. Ask a supplier if the fabric(s) of your choice is/are in stock and how soon they can be delivered. Delays in shipping mean not getting the fabric on time which leads to delays in manufacturing, packaging, and sending garments to retail.  

Quality Checks On Fabric

Once you receive the samples, it is important to thoroughly check the fabric to look for potential defects. Often, the fabric can catch stains during transportation. Other common defects are discoloration on some parts of the fabric, drop stitches in the spread (leading to holes), uneven printing marks, etc.


Once most requirements are taken care of, you can decide to start a long-term partnership with a supplier whose services have proven good for the business. Long-term partnerships come with reliable services and discounts. As designers, manufacturers often procure samples for you. A reliable manufacturer can connect you to the right suppliers.

We are an activewear, swimsuit, and home curtains manufacturer in Los Angeles who help fashion manufacturers procure fabric that meets their requirements. We are also dedicated to ethical sourcing and provide clients with ethically-sourced fabric to create sustainable fashion lines. Get in touch with apparel manufacturing companies to set up an appointment.

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