December 8, 2015
Hello! Things have been crazy with work, life, and other things here recently…I feel like it has been a while since I have posted a new DIY look. I will have some looks coming up shortly! Recently, I traveled to Taiwan for business. Weeks leading up this trip, I worked some long, hard hours. After I got over the jetlag, I was able to plan a little downtime. I always have fabric shopping on my agenda! I wanted to share a few tips on fabric shopping abroad.
Funny story…ok…so I am not sure if there is a Chinese word for “bullsh#t” or not! I am pretty sure that in one of the booths where I was negotiating pricing for fabric, the woman was saying “bullsh#t” as she and I were negotiating a piece of ITY knit! She wanted to charge 900NT…which was equal to about $27 USD! If you are familiar with ITY fabric, you know that it is about $5-15USD. Needless to say, that fabric is still in Taiwan…lol! Check out some of my tips for fabric shopping abroad…
I have visited Asia several times for both work and personal travel. When it comes to fabric, every country is completely different. Fabric shopping in Taiwan is great…but the key was to have a budget and goal in mind. This was my second time visiting Taiwan’s Yongle Fabric Market. Luckily, I knew what to expect beforehand. There is an endless sea of fabric from low to mid range quality. There are some higher end shops with Italian fabrics…but why buy fabric from Italy in Taiwan? The importing cost and markup would not be worth it. Nevertheless, my shopping list goals were fun fabrics, buttons and notions.
Here are my tips:
- Know what the specialty fabrics are in the country that you are visiting . For example, Thailand is known for Thai Silk and Japan is known for Japanese cotton and cotton/linens and some of the best denim in the world. Do your research before your trip. Use that as a reference point for your shopping list. Taiwan’s fabric shopping, in my opinion, is limited to lower-mid quality fabrics mostly synthetic blends. They have nice knit fabrics, synthetic blends, some denim and vinyls. There was a range of quality of fabrics from really high to most low to mid price range. I still had to use my discerning eye to decide if the quality was decent or not.
- Do your research on the fabric stores in that country. Taiwan has a shopping market called Yongle Market that is a huge shopping center for fabric and notions. There are several floors of fabrics, buttons, notions booths packed into very tight spaces. Surrounding the main building, there are several actual shops. All of the shops are tightly spaced with unorganized assortments of fabric. Merchandising was definitely not their strong point. Patience was key to rummaging through tight spaces and assorted stacks of fabric.
- 3. Plan your luggage accordingly. Check with your airline to double check your check-in AND carry-on luggage. For this particular trip I flew Hello Kitty EVA Airline. They have a VERY strict policy on the weight limit of check-in AND carry-on luggage (which is something that I had never heard before). Nevertheless, I was allowed to check in two bags. I purchased a cheap large tote at one of the street markets, the night before, to carry my fabrics on my shopping trip and pack as my carry-on.
- Dress comfortably. Merchandising and booth space planning were not their strong points! On the lower level of the main building you might find a woman creating custom garments in one booth and in the booth next door, a fresh pig’s leg and foot laying on a cutting table! However, the nice part about places like Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and Korea is that most of the fabric shopping is concentrated into one area of town. For Taiwan, it a few blocks of fabric shopping including a huge building with floors and floors of fabrics and notions. On the exterior of the building, there are smaller little shops.
(seriously, this slaughtered pig was on a table about 5 steps from a great notions shop and a few tailors!!)
- Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. Take a simple snack and water along on the excursion.
- Know the currency conversion. For my daytime job, I do a lot of converting currencies for sales between country to country. My favorite tool is xe.currency converter. You can download the app on your phone so that you are always aware of the daily rates. You may also want to check before you travel to your destination to check rate trends.
- Understand the prices that you are negotiating. I always take a calculator with me so that I can make sure that the price that they are quoting me is in line or BETTER than what I would pay domestically. In addition, your calculator (or phone) will help you communicate with the seller what you are willing to pay…numbers are a universal language!
- Take the appropriate currency with you on your shopping trip. Trade in your currency at either a local bank or at the hotel. The rates at the airport are typically higher. Use the cash in the country’s currency as this is likely to be your best negotiating power.
- Always negotiate! In places like Taiwan, the sellers are always going to start at the highest price. If you are buying several yards of fabric or a variety of fabrics/notions at that one store…assume that you can negotiate pricing. What would you pay for that fabric in your native country? Don’t pay more than what you would expect to pay at home…(although there are exceptions). Your calculator or phone will come in handy!
- Don’t walk away from a fabric that you love. I have done this so many times and I can tell you exactly where the fabric was and what it looked like. The reasons why I walked away and did not purchase at that time…I don’t know. But I have made it a rule that if I think about it too long and hard…that I refuse to walk away.
- Get the hotel concierge to write the address to the shopping area. I don’t speak Chinese and not many of the cab drivers spoke English. I had the hotel concierge write the address to the fabric shopping center in their language. There was no confusion as where I wanted the driver to take me. I had a business card from the hotel that helped me on my return trip.
- Have fun and think outside of the box! Look for fabrics that may not be available at home or online. I buy fabric that I love and can use in everyday sewing. I have found fabrics that are unique and that I have not seen in the US (or just a really great price). But buy what you love!
Here’s what I found on my shopping trip… Fabrics: (bottom left: poly blouseweight leaf print, red alligator vinyl, faux leather stretch, blend large plaid pink and black)
Assortment of buttons and large snaps and die cut set.
I love fabric shopping in Asia. I did not take a lot of pictures…the tightly spaced booths look similar from one to another. I also did not buy a lot on this trip…but I am VERY satisfied with my treasures. For this particular trip, I traveled to Taiwan only. Check out my link of fabric shopping in Thailand HERE.
What are your favorite fabric shopping destinations?