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Brainstorm: Problems with the Process of Fabric Selection

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Baverso, Jun 18, 2011.

  1. Baverso

    Baverso Well-Known Member

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    I would like to compile a list of disadvantages to the process of choosing a fabric. This thread will be a good way identify and validate the shortcomings of the process and hopefully generate ideas on how the process could be improved.

    So if you want to participate in this thread, our objective is to: identify, validate, and generate ideas regarding the process. It'll be interesting to hear your experiences.

    Here's a list of problems I've identified from older threads which have touched on this topic. Hopefully we can get a decent brainstorm going about this.

    1. You can't take the swatchbook with you. Resultantly, your time of choice is limited to the time you spend in the shop. Some of us may feel under pressure by this unfavorable situation.

    2. You can't always bring a swatch home. This occurs frequently.

    3. The swatch is too small. Resultantly, your choice is a crapshoot until you get to see the big picture.

    4. The desired fabric or brand is not stocked by the tailor or distributor.

    5. On the internet, fabric colors are inaccurate because of lighting, the monitor, and camera lens.

    6. On the internet, fabric quality is underappreciated due to a lack of high resolution photography. This occurs frequently.​

    I hope you can continue the list, or validate what I have already posted. Have fun!
     
  2. courty

    courty Senior member

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    All of those problems ( but no. 4) can be cured by asking your tailor to send you swatches, including larger cuttings if necessary, of the cloths you have chosen from the books.
     
  3. mmkn

    mmkn Senior member

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    My maker has one of the below magnifying loupe in his atelier, and I have one at home.

    Looking at the fabric swatches magnified with natural lighting really helps one to get a sense of color, structure, and how it might look and feel when made up in a suit.

    So far examining fabric swatches this way has not failed me.

    [​IMG]

    My maker also requests different swatches from vendors and sends them to me.

    I leave the swatches by a natural light window in front of my desk, and let the swatches "speak" to me over time and eliminate themselves. This method combined with the loupe has never failed when the garment is constructed as well.

    - M
     
  4. shakattk

    shakattk Well-Known Member

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    I just ordered a suit from a swatch. I was concerned about how the fabric would look on the suit. To mitigate my concerns, I researched fabric types both in store and online. I thought of differences between fabrics such as flannel vs. twill. I handled the fabric on several occasions using only large swatches. In the end I chose a solid navy twill for a clean, crisp look.
     
  5. Baverso

    Baverso Well-Known Member

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    All of those problems ( but no. 4) can be cured by asking your tailor to send you swatches, including larger cuttings if necessary, of the cloths you have chosen from the books.

    First, in respect to #1: I don't see how that problem could be resolved. If you want to look at many fabric choices you are limited to either the tailor's swatchbook, or the, IMO poor quality online catalogs.

    In regards to problems #2 and #3 - I feel the tailor isn't always that cooperative. But I have very little experience working with them so it's good to have your feedback regarding this.

    My maker has one of the below magnifying loupe in his atelier, and I have one at home.
    I leave the swatches by a natural light window in front of my desk, and let the swatches "speak" to me over time and eliminate themselves. This method combined with the loupe has never failed when the garment is constructed as well.
    - M


    mmkn, that is an awesome way of choosing fabric. Well said. You really have a masterful approach to it.
     
  6. Baverso

    Baverso Well-Known Member

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    I just ordered a suit from a swatch. I was concerned about how the fabric would look on the suit. To mitigate my concerns, I researched fabric types both in store and online. I thought of differences between fabrics such as flannel vs. twill. I handled the fabric on several occasions using only large swatches. In the end I chose a solid navy twill for a clean, crisp look.

    How big was your swatch? Did you ever handle a size that was too small to make a decision from?
     
  7. mlongano

    mlongano Senior member

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    You can mitigate part of the risk by ordering additional suits from the same fabric family once you've determined that the first choice (riskiest) came out the way you intended.

    Actually you can mitigate almost all of the risk by ordering a full yard of the fabric and having it sent to your residence to be examined at your leisure. Dugdale, Fox, and others will sell you a piece of fabric to the nearest tenth of a meter, so perhaps even 1/2 of a yard will suffice.

    Whether you end up making up the garment or not, compile a list of your findings during the examination, including your thoughts on weight, color, pattern size, weave, hand, etc. After examining enough fabrics you will have a fairly accurate idea of what you like, what you don't like, and why. These preferences may be sufficient to eliminate 90% of the available choices for your next commission.
     
  8. Baverso

    Baverso Well-Known Member

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    mlongano and mmkn, great feedback about the process. It's good to hear that many of the fabric companies will mail you a piece. Here's an open question for discussion:

    Do they (the fabric companies) like dealing with individual customers who order something like a 1/2 yard swatch? Or the amount of fabric necessary to make a suit? What has been your experiences in this regard?

    I remember reading somewhere that they prefer doing business with tailors and distributors and dealing with customers on an individual basis was not preferred.
     
  9. mlongano

    mlongano Senior member

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    mlongano and mmkn, great feedback about the process. It's good to hear that many of the fabric companies will mail you a piece. Here's an open question for discussion: Do they (the fabric companies) like dealing with individual customers who order something like a 1/2 yard swatch? Or the amount of fabric necessary to make a suit? What has been your experiences in this regard? I remember reading somewhere that they prefer doing business with tailors and distributors and dealing with customers on an individual basis was not preferred.
    Not sure if I was clear, but let me restate...I did not mean to imply that the manufacturer will send you a meter for free...you'll have to pay for the meter, but it's a small price to pay to ensure you do not choose the wrong fabric. The fabric companies that I deal with (Huddersfield Cloth Online, Fox Flannel, and Huddersfield Fine Worsted have all been wonderful to work with. While they may have previously dealt with tailors only, modern economic conditions have most likely pressured them into selling to the end user. Please note that not all manufacturers will sell to the end user.
     
  10. mmkn

    mmkn Senior member

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    individual basis was not preferred

    Yes.

    I suppose it would be as if one asked for a prescription medication sample directly from a drug company. Better to go through one's physician, as they get samples to hand out all the time.

    For example, my maker sent me the following five swatches for a dinner jacket and trousers set. There are four left as I've unselected the below using the process described above.

    [​IMG]

    If your tailor isn't able or willing to offer swatches, establish a relationship with one who can/will.

    - M
     
  11. forex

    forex Senior member

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    My maker has one of the below magnifying loupe in his atelier, and I have one at home.

    Looking at the fabric swatches magnified with natural lighting really helps one to get a sense of color, structure, and how it might look and feel when made up in a suit.

    So far examining fabric swatches this way has not failed me.


    My maker also requests different swatches from vendors and sends them to me.

    I leave the swatches by a natural light window in front of my desk, and let the swatches "speak" to me over time and eliminate themselves. This method combined with the loupe has never failed when the garment is constructed as well.

    - M



    I like your approach to choosing color, I do the same thing with samples,look at them throughout time and decide whether or not I want something although I never thought about magnifying glass.
     
  12. ginlimetonic

    ginlimetonic Senior member

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    mlongano and mmkn, great feedback about the process. It's good to hear that many of the fabric companies will mail you a piece. Here's an open question for discussion:

    Do they (the fabric companies) like dealing with individual customers who order something like a 1/2 yard swatch? Or the amount of fabric necessary to make a suit? What has been your experiences in this regard?

    I remember reading somewhere that they prefer doing business with tailors and distributors and dealing with customers on an individual basis was not preferred.


    while if you get directly from supplier, you cut out a lot of people in the value chain. You get textiles for cheaper, and pay for CMT separately, which cuts out the value in the shopfront/tailors doing a markup on their more limited cloth selection
     
  13. Baverso

    Baverso Well-Known Member

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    I appreciate everyone's responses. It's interesting to hear your "scientific method" to the process and how you arrive to your choice of fabric. Great responses, I hope the discussion generated didn't seem to elementary to readers.

    I'm going to (try to) change the gears of the thread a little:
    What if there's a website which represents all major fabric brands. It provides dslr quality photos of the fabric. The photos include variations of sun, incadescent, and fluorescent lighting. You select your monitor resolution to get an image of optmized accuracy. Contact information for stockists would be provided on the site.
    All that this company specializes in is providing the most and best of images, and mailing swatches. You can purchase these swatches at a price comparable to the brand's vendors. To purchase enough fabric for a suit, the website would refer you to a stockist close to your location.

    By no means would this company be breaking new grounds, it just tries to make that process easier and more convenient for users. It's competitive advantage is providing the widest variety of multiple brands, providing the best quality photos, and expedient delivery of user's desired swatches.
    Do you see any benefits to such a website? Would you use it? What are your thoughts on it?

    Feel free to slam the idea if you like! It's just a thought I had today, and it inspired me to make this thread so I'm just tossing it out there.
     
  14. ginlimetonic

    ginlimetonic Senior member

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    I still feel that some people are old fashioned, in the sense that they expect to walk into their tailor, and its an "end to end process" where you get the full service of selecting fabrics, measured up, fittings and collect the finished suit there.

    Not everyone is a SF maniac to spend their time daydreaming about fabric selection.,

    People looking for price sharpness, and something different in terms of fabric might go to you way.
     
  15. apropos

    apropos Senior member

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    Sorry to rain on your parade but honestly you're talking about a niche of a niche type scenario. Those of us who are fortunate enough to try bespoke are already a small population, and those who have enough problems with swatches to be motivated to try out your website are an even smaller subpopulation. The Scabal site already does almost all of what you mention but then you have to take into account monitor colour variations which kinda torpedoes the whole point of having swatches photographed in different types of lighting. FWIW, I find examing fabric with a loupe to be a little [​IMG] - I find the problem is visualising what a the entire garment will look like when made up from a small swatch, not the other way around - the problem is zooming out, not zooming in. I'm sure that there are others here who would agree with me on this.
     
  16. Baverso

    Baverso Well-Known Member

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    I agree with the feedback. Way too niche of niche. Guess I've been spending too long on this website. I should probably take a step out for fresh air. [​IMG]
     
  17. shakattk

    shakattk Well-Known Member

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    I agree, the problem is visualizing the fabric as a complete garment. But I found it helpful to classify the fabric type and see other similar fabrics on ready made suits. It is a small leap of faith from that point on. My fabric swatch was about 6 x 9 inches, which was substantial enough to handle (fondle).
     

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