(1) Yes!! Interested in this too. We’ve tried to work directly but then came up against customs/ import complications /communication issues..which I guess is one of the benefits of working with domestic wholesalers :}
(2) We tried it too and only found a few groups (Batsiranai, AYNI, NEW Sadle) that were worth working with directly. We decided we wanted to be great retailers and that it was too much to do both. There are so many great wholesalers out there there really is no reason to reinvent the wheel, unless there is no outlet for their goods.