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Guide to Growth: How can I investigate sourcing projects?

Are there companies or individuals that do freelance investigations for key sourcing projects?

Drapers’ Guide to Growth programme is produced in partnership with Clipper.

Most well-known consultancies often require a big budgets for sourcing projects. But finding individuals who investigate sourcing is likely to depend on an entrepreneur’s personal network. 

Joel Jeffery is co-founder and chief executive officer of luxury pyjama brand Desmond & Dempsey, which launched in 2014, and now counts Harvey Nichols, Net-a-Porter, Selfridges and Anthropologie among its stockists. He says the process is not a straightforward one, and that research is necessary for a young brand determining what it needs from a supplier.

“The biggest thing I wish we’d known more about before we started the brand is how to find suppliers and more information on the whole process,” he tells Drapers. “Even things as basic as the language and the terms we should be using to speak to suppliers – there are so many acronyms when you get into manufacturing that were foreign to us.

He chose to visit trade shows to find its first suppliers, combing Parisian textile show Première Vision for businesses he could learn from. 

“We wrote a hit list and just pounded the aisles to find people who would give us five minutes of their time. One of the best possible decisions we made early on was to work with factories that were close by. Because we were so new to the industry, we wanted to be able to visit the factory regularly to learn.

“We found a factory in London and the prices were crazy, but we knew we could make the margins work over time. We felt we were never going to have respect from suppliers or negotiate effectively if we weren’t willing to learn and understand every single process that goes into making our pyjamas – why a French seam costs more, details like that.”

Frankie Thorogood started his athleisure brand, TCA, from his bedroom in Hackney, east London, in 2012 with just £100 of his own savings. He says brand founders need to focus on finding suppliers who can grow with them, and that a trade fair in China helped him find this.

He says: “We’re fortunate that many of the suppliers we work with today are the same ones we found on our first sourcing trip to a trade fair in China. The best advice I got was to pick suitable suppliers. If you’ve got big aspirations, then you’ll want to go with the biggest suppliers with all the resources who work with power brands.

“The truth is that as a start-up, you’re too small for those businesses and you won’t get the attention you deserve. Find suppliers who are on the same page as you, who will support you and can grow with you.”

Our advice portal for retailers and brands, Guide to Growth, aims to solve the problems and challenges fashion businesses encounter as they grow. Email your questions to associate editor graeme.moran@emap.com and we will get them answered. 

Plus, read our Growth in a Changing Economy report here to learn how fast-growth brands and retailers are overcoming barriers to growth. 

In partnership with Clipper

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