Is Sourcing at Magic a good trade show for a start-up?

Today’s “Ask Jane” emerging designer question comes from a member of my “How to Start a Fashion Business” program. We’ll call her April (I didn’t get clearance to use her name so better safe than sorry – might be bad for her day job).

“Hi Jane,

“With a new start up T-shirt line, would attending the apparel trade show “Magic” this February in Las Vegas serve as a good place to source fabrics? Loving the program so far, thanks Jane!”


The show she’s talking about is called SOURCING at Magic, a section of the regular Magic Trade show in Las Vegas. It generally starts 1 day ahead of the main show (Feb 13 – 15, 2011).

Hi April,

My quick answer is no, this would not be a good show for you. SOURCING at Magic is geared for large companies doing high volume. If you want to order thousands of T-shirts at a time, great. But if you’re an emerging designer doing a simple T-shirt line, this show will frustrate you.

I consulted with J. Sprowls on this, to get a 2nd opinion. Jay has worked for many years in lean manufacturing and production and here’s what he had to say…

RE: t-shirt lines. I think that Sourcing at Magic isn’t worth your time. If that’s all you’re looking for. The reason for that is because you’ll walk into a booth and get bombarded with all the other products the factories are pushing (hard).  You’d be more productive on Alibaba looking for Pakistani companies – whether a retailer doing ‘own label’ or a designer finding a gateway product.

If you’re doing T’s domestically, I’d say to partner up with a great screen printer with corporate apparel contacts. I have one that I refer all my clients to in Denver that I’m happy to offer up. If your client just needs basic blanks from Alternative, American Apparel, etc. they can get those from their suppliers: www.superscreenprint.com“. -J. Sprowls

It really depends on what quantities you will do, what fibers you’re using, how much experience you have in the industry etc. Although I know a lot of people have used Alibaba successfully, I am wary of it and suggest you check out any company you want to do business with very carefully. To be fair, I’m wary of a lot of things…

Magic is a huge show and you can see a lot of what’s going on in the industry. It’s great for research but it’s definitely for the big boys and not a lot of independent designers show there.

I would add to J.’s comments that another person to ask about sourcing T-shirts domestically is Boaz David, my partner in the Indie Design Association. He is a production genius and works with designers on sourcing, manufacturing, and product development out of New York. You can reach him at info@loveindiedesign.com. He’s honest and really smart.

To sum it up: Skip SOURCING at Magic if you’re a start-up company.

And April, let me know what you decide and what happens!

Thanks for your question,


P.S. Do you have anything to add to this? What’s been your experience? Please comment below and let me know!



3 Responses

  1. It absolutely IS a lot of fun. If you can go, do it! Just know that it will be mainly for research to see what’s out there re: big companies and not necessarily a place for an emerging designers to find sources.

  2. Well reasoned arguments in response to this start up – I would only add one thought – although SOURCING at MAGIC is correctly described as being more geared towards large volume – it does provide context and perspective for someone looking to grow a business – they should be attending for educational reasons such as the How to Source seminars, Made in USA session, Trends and understanding marketing/branding, etc..happy to help intro them to some smaller factories in the US.

    Christopher Griffin | President | Sourcing at MAGIC UBM Advanstar
    2901 28th Street | Suite 100 | Santa Monica, CA 90404 | 310.857.7602| cg@magiconline.com
    2 Penn Plaza | 15th Floor | New York, NY 10121 |

    1. I like your comment here too Christopher. As a curiosity what about a fashion startup exhibiting at your trade shows? Im new in the industry and looking to get our tropical collection to market.

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