When it comes to sourcing fabric for your collection, there’s a lot to consider. There’s questions around the cost versus quality, what city you buy your fabrics, whether they’re sustainably made, and if what you can afford is in line with your vision.
Is there any truth in the bias that fabric stores in London are better than the rest of the country? And do you really need to spend your entire student loan on buying fabric? GFW contributor Alexandra Hodgson shares her experience, and gets some handy pieces of advice about how and where to source fabrics.
As a fashion student, there’s a lot of emphasis on upholding certain standards of quality when creating a product — and this often begins with your fabric choices. Choose the wrong fabric and your garment could be ruined, so making sure you find that neutral ground between what you can afford and what your designs deserve is really important.
For my first project at university, I used cotton from a fabric store online and vinyl from eBay, which I soon found out wasn’t going to cut it. I had always bought fabric where I could, as there wasn’t a wide range of options for shops — especially when it comes to buying a very specific fabric. Not being from or based in London, like the majority of fashion students in the UK, all I knew about fabric stores in the capital is that they were expensive! Fabrics can be anywhere from £5 to £80 per meter in London — not exactly something many students can afford to splurge on!
I set out to discover whether this was an issue that other fashion students were facing. Is there really a stigma about shopping for fabrics online or sourcing a cheaper option outside of London? I talked to two of my fellow students at university, one studying menswear and one womenswear to see what they thought.
Denikah is studying womenswear fashion and moved from Birmingham to attend university in London two years ago. Denikah usually shops online for her fabrics or goes to Shepherd’s Bush, famous for it’s abundance of fabric stores.
“The idea that if you shop in London the fabrics will be expensive is true, they usually are,” says Denikah. “Plus if you don’t live in London, it’s very time consuming often with little results — when I shop at Shepherd’s Bush it is cheaper but at least 85 percent of the fabric is low quality” This doesn’t stop her from trying to find her fabrics from online retailers after doing her research into what she wants in London, which is the same for a lot of students in the same situation.
Geona is a menswear fashion student studying in London, she is from North London, who has experience the stigma attached to materials that haven’t been sourced in London. “If you tell someone where you get your fabrics from and it’s not London, they’ll either think the fabric isn’t good or look at it for imperfections,” she says.
But should this really be the case? From general consensus, students feel like they have to spend their whole student loan on fabrics from London, just to say they got their fabrics from well known and established companies.
GFW posed the question its Instagram following, asking where students source their fabrics. One trend became apparent: students are incredibly active in buying recycled or pre-loved fabrics. Anywhere from shopping in charity shops for fabrics to buying plain and creating your own! When it comes to saving money and the environment, this is certainly one of the best solutions.
Amber Brierley, a tutor at UCA Epsom and Rochester, really believes that you can create the garment of your dreams on the budget you have, you just need to be savvy about it. Here are a few of her top tips to consider when you’re sourcing fabrics.
Although expensive, it’s worth visiting fabric stores in Soho and Shepherd’s Bush in London because going to these places will allow you to expand your knowledge of fabrics, which is only ever a good thing!
Once you know your basics and what you are after, it is okay to then go and find the fabrics elsewhere, including online.
Consider recreating the fabrics yourself once you know what you want to help your budget
Source vintage cloth or materials that have been recycled to breathe new, sustainably minded life into unused fabrics!
Make sure you are using the resources you have available at your university, such as fabric research facilities so you don’t have to go hunting in fabric stores as much.
Do your research about fabric stores close to you — there are some good quality companies that can be found in Northampton, Birmingham, Bradford, Cumbria and other parts of the country.
Words by Alexandra Hodgson