…and my Ode to Phee Fabrics
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First, I’d like to preface Part 2 of this Mindful Sourcing Series with the following:
I’m writing this series as an outlet for self-exploration. This is my way of evaluating my own habits and figuring out how I can navigate in the world as a businesswoman, seamstress, bonafide DIYer, human in general, while staying true to my core values. By no means am I staking claim to any moral high ground.
I am not here to tell you “you should shop here, and not here” or “you should care about what I care about, otherwise you’re wrong”. I simply don’t operate that way, and trust me when I say that I’m just a simple woman. And all I want is to be open and honest with you.
This will be a continuous series (for an indefinite amount of installments) because I personally haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of mindful sourcing. Therefore, I’m continuously researching. Continuously exploring.
So thank you so much for hanging out with me through this journey!
Now that that’s out of the way…Let’s dive into Part 2.
A Little More Backstory
If you remember from the previous post, I abstained from purchasing fabric at the end of 2016. By that time, I had amassed an obscene amount of stretch fabric (yes…I had a shopping problem), so I was determined to use it all in my endeavors as a competition suit designer, swimwear designer and pattern maker.
Fabric is definitely an important element in any designer’s aesthetic. But, my random mishmash of prints, fabric weights and colors would have told you nothing about my design story. However, I will say that completely abandoning fabric as a design element actually made me crystal clear on the style lines and shapes that I wanted to employ. Ultimately, that was the defining factor of my design aesthetic. But, I digress…
Let’s skip forward to the summer of 2018. I was living in Southern California and I solidified my swimwear vision: sporty cuts and cheeky butts, swimwear made for sports. With functionality, shapes and lines defined, I felt ready to build my athletic swimwear story with fabric. And this meant that I had to break my fabric fast.
Where I Purchase Fabric and Why
What’s that marketing rule?
You know, the one that says if you see or hear a brand’s message seven or more times, you’ll be compelled to take action with that brand. Have you heard of that?
Anyway, that’s how I feel about Phee Fabrics. I was in the market to acquire fabric for my handmade swimwear line, and while my mind was focused on buying, I swear I saw Phee mentioned at least seven times in various sewing groups.
So, I researched the company and the fabrics offered. I took the breakup with my fabric fast very seriously, and I didn’t want to fall back into reckless habits. A month had passed between the time I first started looking into Phee to the time I felt ready to purchase.
A Short Aside: I have very specific criteria regarding material properties for swimwear fabric. My purchasing decisions in the past were based on prints, colors and the general “4-way stretch” descriptor. I learned the hard way that I needed to define better criteria. So, I now take into heavy consideration the following three properties when shopping online: fabric weight, fiber content, amount of stretch. I’ll go into further detail of my criteria in a future article.
The fabric that Phee offered definitely met each criterion. But the question remained: Will I feel guilty if I buy this fabric? My personal relationship with shopper’s guilt posed a whole new set of criteria to consider. Like I said, I took my fabric fast breakup very seriously.
So, of course, I researched more into the company. And the more I learned, the more affirmed I felt that Phee was the right fit for me. Here’s why:
Melissa, the owner of Phee Fabrics, is extremely considerate and careful on where she sources her fabric. Stocking any and everything is a seductive route for fabric companies. But, Melissa refuses to do that. Knowing that she is selective gave me comfort, and watered that budding trust I was growing for Phee.
When browsing through all of the listings, each description contained as many fabric details as possible, especially one that I had not encountered (at that time) with many online shops: lengthwise and cross grain amounts of stretch (in percentages). Of course, it might seem like a minuscule detail to some, but this was a detail that I greatly appreciated and wanted for my purchasing decisions. Which leads me to the next reason:
Melissa thoroughly tests her fabric before even deciding to list it for sale.
Finally, something that has been gnawing at me for years was the steady decline of US textile and apparel manufacturing that began in the mid-90s as doors opened for inexpensive manufacturing overseas. Of course, inexpensive and rapid manufacturing ultimately lead to the boom of fast fashion. When I learned that Melissa’s priority is to source from US mills as an effort to support stateside manufacturing (again, a bigger topic than the scope of this article and will be discussed in future installments), my confidence in purchasing from Phee soared. I couldn’t hit that “Buy” button fast enough.
These reasons do not indicate why I wouldn’t buy fabric from other companies. These are just the reasons that compelled me to break my fabric fast last summer and purchase from Phee, and why I continue to purchase from Phee as one of only two current fabric sources. I’ve also happily developed an affiliate relationship with Phee and a friendship with Melissa. I adore the quality of Phee fabrics and the transparency that Melissa volunteers, and I am confident in giving others my highest recommendations for Phee.
Conclusion to Pt. 2
I personally still have a lot more exploration to do in regards to manufacturing standards and how they correspond to what I want to value. But, while I explore, I have felt comfortable and confident with purchasing my swimwear and activewear fabrics from Phee. All of this definitely affects my purchasing decisions, both as a home sewist and as a supplier for suit supplies (which again, is another topic for discussion).
So I appreciate you all for taking this hike with me as I learn more about industry standards and more about myself. But, I would love to hear from you! Tell me about your fabric purchasing criteria!
Part 3 of this series will dig into my source for hologram fabrics used in bodybuilding suits.
I’ll talk to you soon.