They say a picture is worth a thousand words but in some realms, like online dating, a great shot can be all kinds of misleading; what you see isn’t always what you get. And sometimes, even when a 6-foot-2 woman specifies she’s looking for height in her perfect partner, a 5-foot-5 man might still end up in her pool of potential matches.
The same can be said for fabric sourcing. It’s not unheard of for a new fashion designer to think he’s paid for 100 percent organic cotton grown in California only to discover down the line that he was actually duped into buying conventional cotton.
What if there was a website where that designer could have outlined a laundry list of requirements and trusted that the results he received in return were legit? Now there is.
Fabrium, an online platform that’s been engineered from the ground up to satisfy the specific needs of sourcing professionals in the fashion industry, launched recently during NYC Textile Week.
“We realized that there was a great need for an open platform intuitively built by people that were in the business who knew the business,” said Aydin Cubukcu, a textile agent for 10 years who co-founded Fabrium with fellow go-between Burak Topcuoglu. “We do know the business. That gave us an incredible edge when we were trying to establish this platform and its functionality. We knew what the customers wanted and what the mills needed.”
After spending about two years in development mode, Fabrium made its market debut with more than 10,000 designs in 12,000-plus color combinations from over 30 reputable international mills. Hundreds of new designs are added daily as mills update new collections continuously for each season.
Its granular search functionality, however, sets the platform apart from existing online sourcing solutions. “We have more than 260 keywords in our dictionary and every design, from black-and-white tweed to paisley to a double-faced fabric for jacketing, is tagged with multiple keywords,” Cubukcu explained. “Users can specify a two-by-one weave to an antimicrobial finish to animal prints, or weight grade to fiber content.”
Essentially, if a customer wants a yarn-dyed stripe jersey knit in blue and heather with a production lead time of eight weeks or less for under $10 per meter, the platform will spit out images of square-inch swatches from any relevant mills, along with such details as what fabric shows they attend, who their customers are and what agents represent them.
Using advanced search options, users can even choose to select or exclude certain mills. “Because sometimes customers are very limited with whom they can work with or where,” Cubukcu said, “they can search specifically by country of origin if they’re trying to stick to Turkish mills and avoid Chinese mills because of their high minimums.” Or a customer who saw a particular mill at a textile trade show can two months later log in and check out its latest designs.
Then, once the sourcing side has connected with a supplier and made its selection, Fabrium steps back and lets the two parties get down to business. There’s no charge for customers to use the platform, while mills have to pay a subscription fee. The biggest challenge, Cubukcu said, lies with the mills keeping their online collections up to date. “It’s very labor intensive, and some mills have between 20 and 30 new designs every week so they have to be fast enough to upload them,” he noted, pointing out that if stay up to speed then in two to three years every mill in the system will have access to a great internal archive.
Tricia Carey, director of business development, denim, at Austrian fiber maker Lenzing, called Fabrium “the future.” She added, “It’s an excellent resource to bring our industry forward with the support of technology which we use at every aspect of our lives today.”