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How to find a supplier

In this article, Ethical Fashion Forum introduces you to several key trade shows and platforms for finding prospective sustainable suppliers.
workers from Herbal Fab factory in India
© Mysource Ltd

Armed with your framework of what you need from a supplier in terms of both product price, quality, quantities, sustainability criteria and certifications you now need to find a supplier than can make your products, whether you are creating clothing, accessories, jewellery or footwear and/or supply your fabrics and other components.

Finding a supplier can be tricky, especially if you are small, but don’t be put off, it is possible.

There are three time honoured ways of doing this: attend a trade show, use an agent, leverage personal connections and one newer one…the internet.


Agents already have a network of factories and production sites they work with and have relationship with. For a fee, usually a percentage of sales, they can help you both source production and also manage your production. Find agents through trade shows, personal connections and the internet.

Personal Connections

Ask around. Go to events and conferences. Attend webinars. Build up as many connections as possible.

The internet

The internet presents both opportunity and challenges when it comes to sourcing suppliers. You could get a fairly long way with Google and calling up prospective suppliers, but how do you sort out the good from the bad? Many suppliers are still not maximising their internet presence. Using databases and directories from focused portals such as the the SOURCE Database or World Fair Trade Organisation (for fair trade suppliers) can help.

Trade Shows

Trade shows give you the first-hand opportunity to browse the aisles of suppliers, whether in person or virtually through an online trade show, and reach a company that may have appeared on page 9,999 of your Google search. The relationship you build with the company on a personal level is more likely to create lasting working relationships. See below for more information on key supplier trade shows.

Some key supplier trade shows


Held online SOURCE Expo is the world’s leading sustainable fashion sourcing event, bringing together suppliers of sustainable materials, components, ethical production, and business support tools, with brands and designers at the forefront of sustainable design.

Premiere Vision

Premiere Vision is without doubt the first supply trade show that pops into any discerning sourcing expert’s head. Held in an increasing number of cities that currently include Paris, New York, São Paulo, Shanghai, Beijing, Moscow and locations in Japan, you are sure to find an option that’s reachable for you.

Premiere Vision offers the trade show blueprint, displaying suppliers alongside progressive designers and professional seminars. The trade show is the leading destination for innovation and new concepts. The Parisian show is held twice a year alongside the industry’s biannual Spring/Summer, Autumn/Winter fashion weeks. Approximately 50,000 visitors pass through the doors, reaching a very wide market in the fashion capital. Visitor prices are upwards of €30 depending on your status.

Texworld Paris & USA; Intertextile and Planet Textiles

Texworld, each February in Paris, and Texworld USA, annually in July, New York, are two sister trade shows both organised by Messe Frankfurt. Currently, Texworld is the largest trade show in North America. Similar to Premiere Vision, booths here are in great demand.

On the other side of the world, Messe Frankfurt also organises Intertextile, Shanghai, China. This ‘international trade fair for apparel fabrics and accessories’ is held every October at Shanghai’s New International Expo Centre.

ITMA, held in Barcelona in September every four years, is the world’s largest textile and garment machinery showcase, held at Fira de Barcelona Gran Via, Spain. ITMA introduces cutting-edge solutions and assembles the leading names in machinery and manufacturing. As the event is only held every four years, this makes it an excellent platform for leading industry bodies to share new concepts. Production methods and machinery potentially have the most damaging effects on the environment, so sustainability is a popular topic here.

Textile Forum

If the large global trade shows are a daunting and expensive prospect for your company and you are based in the UK, the Textile Forum could be your top destination, the show is targeted at ‘designers, small to medium sized manufacturers, dressmakers and retail fabric specialists.

© Mysource Ltd
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How to Build a Sustainable Fashion Business

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