Material Exchange Op-Ed: The Quest to Transform Sourcing

5 years ago, I made my way across the floor of Magic Fashion Trade Show in Las Vegas, a space buzzing with people and activity. All around me, samples were being shared, phone numbers exchanged, relationships cultivated. I meandered down the aisles, building my own connections in the busy hall.

In my mind, though, I imagined what would happen when these brands and agents, fabric reps and suppliers all went home. They’d cart their suitcase(s) full of samples onto airplanes and fly to various destinations across the world; they’d start numerous email conversations (dozens? hundreds?) with potential collaborators; they’d tell their teams about the fabrics they saw. In the midst of all of this came a recurring thought: there must be a better way.

Over the last couple of years, the material sourcing industry has changed. COVID brought an acute need for digital workflows. Now that the world has largely opened back up again, trade show invitations are filling inboxes – but flights aren’t being purchased at the same cadence as they once were. There’s an air of caution, and an assessment of the question, do we want to go back to the way things were?

I spent countless hours assessing the industry before founding Swedish start-up Material Exchange. At Material Exchange, we see the industry where it is today and meet the needs of sourcing players across the globe, whether they’re participating in trade shows in-person or tuning in remotely. We’re not out to replace physical events, but rather to extend the experience of the show so information can be easily shared across teams and beyond.

Entering a new era of material sourcing

Since our founding in 2018, Material Exchange has been working hard to transform material sourcing in the most effective way possible: digitally. My vision for Material Exchange is to change how the fashion industry sources materials by building the best sourcing team in the industry who – equipped with the company’s innovative software – can help brands make better, more sustainable choices in a fraction of the time. And we’re going about it by meeting the needs of the industry: improved organization, collaboration, management, and overall efficiency.

The secret sauce is in our Digital Sourcing Platform (DSP). This software is the first of its kind to offer the functionality necessary for sourcing to move into the future sustainably and in a way that will last. Material options for a new line of jeans, for example, may be greater than ever before – but the need for accurate data around those options is growing as end-consumers demand information about the impact products are having on the world. It can feel nearly impossible to access the details of a material’s origin, supply chain journey, and more – much less to find it all in one place. Material Exchange’s DSP has it, neatly accessible for each material in their system. And with a team of experienced sourcing experts to guide you, it’s the perfect sourcing resource combo.

For those unable to join trade show events in-person, our DSP offers digital showrooms where brands can browse curated collections of materials created with just their needs in mind. These showrooms provide the opportunity to communicate with others, whether they’re internal or external, through a chat box to keep everything in one place. Our platform also has a tool to compare and choose materials, as well as to order samples.

As for material visuals, Material Exchange’s 2D and 3D scanning services create superior-quality images that come second only to physically holding a material. Whether or not you’re at the trade show yourself, you’ll be able to confidently make decisions to support both your business and the planet.

It takes a village

Material sourcing has come a long way in the last couple of decades. The days of schlepping across the globe with suitcases full of samples are being replaced by an efficient, seamless online alternative. I hope that Material Exchange can help bring industry players together to take material sourcing where it needs to be in promoting high-quality, resilient fashion that supports the Earth and all its inhabitants.

Want to learn more? Material Exchange will be at the Kingpins Show in Amsterdam demonstrating our DSP, scanning services, and more. Don’t miss it!

– Darren Glenister, Founder and CEO, Material Exchange

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