Behind the Scenes with TÉLIO’s Merchandising Team; Jeanne and Katelyn.
TÉLIO is a fabric wholesaler; importing thousands of meters of fabric every year. The head office in Montreal houses more than 10 000 textile variations in a range of colours and prints and more than 8 million meters of fabric is handled by our warehouse every year! We also develop several hundred new textile products each and every season. These large quantities of fabric are then sold to manufacturers, designers and retailers around the world! We are proud to say that we have the largest collection of fabrics in North America, offering a diversified and complete selection.
As you already know, behind every successful company is a chain of people who help bring this all together. Today I want to focus on our hardworking merchandising team that researches trends, chooses fabrics, creates colorways and approves all the fabrics that come into our warehouse everyday. If you want to find out more about the process, here is a glimpse into the world of fashion fabrics through the eyes of our merchandising team; Katelyn and Jeanne.
First of all I want everyone to know a bit more about both of you! How did you get into working in this industry?
Jeanne: I studied fashion design at LaSalle College thinking I would eventually design clothing one day. Little did I know, the future had other plans for me. My first job out of school was here at TÉLIO where I started as a sales representative in the showroom working with local designers. It was a great learning experience and I slowly realized that launching my own line wouldn’t be as easy as I once imagined. My passion slowly shifted from garments to fabric. After some time a great opportunity came up, where I was able to help the head merchandiser in my spare time. Within a year I was on the merchandising team! Flash forward 14 years and I have been the head merchandiser at TÉLIO for almost 10 years. I have also managed to develop a serious addiction to fabric.
Katelyn: I studied Fashion Communication at Ryerson University in Toronto (which is basically everything related to fashion and design except designing clothes). I had classes ranging from graphic design and product development to marketing/advertising and package design. I had to do a minimum of 400 hours interning during my studies, so I came to Montreal one summer and interned at TÉLIO. After I graduated I decided to make the move to Montreal and was lucky to have stayed in contact with Jeanne because a job became available. The connection I made was great and the timing worked out really well.
What is the best part of your jobs?
Jeanne: Every day is different, which is something I find to be very motivating, as new challenges present themselves and keep you on your toes. I also love working with colour and being able to develop and source such a large collection with our team, it nourishes my creativity and keeps me interested. Plus traveling to Paris twice a year to source fabrics has to be one of the best perks of working at TÉLIO.
Katelyn: I agree with Jeanne. Every day is different and that is one of the fun parts. I personally love getting to develop our collection themes; we have 4-5 themes for each season that we launch here on our website.I get to compile inspirational images and create a theme and palette that give a story to smaller fabric groups of our large collection. Creating visuals to represent the competition theme every year is also really fun because I get to be so creative and think of a new visual identity for the competition theme.
What inspires you most?
Jeanne: The fabric itself and colour. I’m inspired by touching fabric and am attracted to colour hues everywhere I go. I don’t necessary wear much colour but I would say that the inner me probably wears a rainbow uniform on a daily basis.
Katelyn: Colour, amazing print motifs and strong visual images inspire me. I LOVE seeing the new colour direction every season. Seeing them developed into new novelty fabrics is always a great reward we get out of our work. Also, I am always inspired by strong visual images, especially amazing landscapes and photos from my personal travel experiences.
What is the most challenging part of your jobs?
Jeanne: Working within constraints; when you are developing a fabric and working with several Asian countries, many constraints present themselves and this is where your imagination HAS to kick in, in order to find solutions quickly and effectively. On a good day, these challenges keep you busy and on other days, they can drag you down. Staying focused and positive can sometimes be a challenge when a program you’ve been developing for weeks/months is badly rendered. Especially when bad news comes all at once from every angle, which is usually the case. In French we say “jamais deux sans trois” kind of like the expression “when it rains it pours”.
Katelyn: It’s always hard to say no to beautiful colours and prints we develop. Sometimes we put a lot of work into a print group or new fabric item and in the end the price is too high or we can’t go forward with our order and it’s disappointing to say goodbye to something we worked hard on.
When choosing new fabrics what are the key components of a TÉLIO approved fabric?
Jeanne: First the price has to be right (laughs). You can find the most amazing fabric but if the price does not work with your clientele, then there’s no point. Second, we try and find fabrics that are different (we like the word novelty at TÉLIO). Fabric’s that will spark our customer’s imagination and make them want to design a unique piece with it. We also follow seasonal trends and always look for classic basics. Every collection needs good quality basics as they are often your best sellers.
Katelyn: The only thing I would add to that is we often get requests for different fabric qualities and if many of our customers desire a similar item; we try to find this item to meet our client’s needs. So this also affects what new fabrics we look for at TÉLIO.
What steps do the merchandising team go through when choosing a new fabric? From the moment you see a bunch of samples that you receive from the mill every day to hanging it up in our showroom to be sold?
We work very closely with Andre Telio throughout this whole process. As mentioned before, we always ask the price first! In some occasion, we know right off the bat whether the fabric is made for TÉLIO and that it will be an instant hit. In these cases, we go straight to the drawing board, develop a colour story and send out lab dip’s (tiny samples of dye baths the mill prepare for colour approval before we proceed to production). Once colour selections are confirmed and price and delivery are negotiated with the mill, official purchase orders are then issued by our Purchasing Department. When production is ready, shipping samples are sent for our approval. (Shipping samples are a 1-2 meter piece cut from our production). The team in charge of sample approvals must verify a series of characteristic, for example; the weight, the color accuracy, the stretch (if present), the hand feel and must make sure there are no other defects like pulls, bowing (when a print is not straight along the grain), bleeding (when ink from the printing is smearing of the fabric) and so on. Once all is approved, our Traffic Department prepares all the documents for import and goods are sent via boat to Vancouver and then hop on the train to Montreal. It’s a long journey. This takes on average 4 weeks but can take up to 6-8 weeks depending on where the goods are leaving from and its about an 8-12 weeks process from when the fabric was first spotted. The goods then make their way into our warehouse and are received, labelled and ready to be sold!
When we travel and go to shows, we usually collect many samples that we later review in meetings with the merchandising team and choose the top 10/20. We like to review these top hits with our sales team and get their feedback, as they are in contact with our clients on a daily basis. Developing a fabric can sometimes be quick, as in 2 weeks, and sometimes quite long, as in a few months.
What is the weirdest fabric you have ever seen?
Katelyn: Hmmm, we see a lot of unique and sometimes odd fabrics weekly! It’s hard to pick one. But sometimes fabrics are developed that have every possible novelty quality. Tie-dye rainbow prints on a novelty knit with saggy ruffles; pick-ups and awkward ribbon type embroidery on top are up there among the weirdest. And it’s not that rare that we get these fabric styles that are saturated with as many design details as possible. It proves the validity of timeless phrase – “Less is more”. We also see some fabrics that are just so plastic and stiff (and not for the right reasons) sometimes I think- what could anyone make with this?
Jeanne: I agree with Katelyn, the weirdest fabrics are the “all dressed designs”. Fabrics where mill was obviously trying to create something new and just mixed all their ideas into one.
What is your favorite current TÉLIO fabric and why?
Katelyn: My current favourite TÉLIO fabric would have to be a new Printed Jacquard for Spring/Summer ’15. The Allegria Jacquard Style 35097 Col. 01. It’s a colourful but soft print design that I would love to have on a fit and flare dress for the summer or on a great summer jacket. It’s more colour and pattern than I normally wear, but as a fabric I’m really drawn to it and the quality is lovely!
Jeanne: Hmmm, that’s a hard question. I would say my favourite at the moment is…I can’t pick just one! Our Denmark Quilt and our newest bottom weight the Gemma Cotton. This cotton is AMAZING. It’s a woven bottom weight but almost feels like a scuba, our colour palettes are bright and cheery and I really need to make something our of this fabric for the upcoming season.
Hope you guys enjoyed this little sneak peak into our merchandising department. If you have any questions for Katelyn and Jeanne free to ask away in the comments section!