Welcome back! Since the launch of my blog, we have made some exciting changes! I will be bringing you bi-monthly video blog episodes (“Vlogs”) that will give you a little taste of what we do here at Fabric to Finish. So…put on your seat belts and get ready for some high octane inside scoop into our wonderful world. Follow my journey as I show you what it takes to get from runway to reality…
“I have an idea for a new brand but do not work in the fashion industry and have no idea what I’m doing.”
-Said no new client ever…
Happy Friday! Sorry we’ve been a bit M.I.A, but we’ve been busy designing and launching some really exciting new brands. With spring season in full bloom we figured it would be the perfect time to share Episode 1 of our vlog so you can join the newbie club. Be sure to check back in often to watch the whole series so you can learn what it takes to get from “Fabric to Finish”…
As we all know … trying to conceive is no easy task! You have to make sure all of your eggs are lined up and in working order before you can even consider having a child. Oftentimes you have to involve the help of fertility tracking tools or a specialist to help tighten up the process and ensure its success. The journey of starting a clothing brand is very much the same. Tune in to Episode 2 of our vlog series to find out why!
There’s so much unknown and so many hardships in starting a new business and no one is immune to it, especially in our industry. You have to have a really solid and well thought out idea, extra thick skin, and be able to flex your muscles in ways that you never knew were possible. After one year of building her brand together, our client, Christine Griffin, talks about the learning curve of launching a new line. Congrats Christine on your first, and definitely not your last write up in WWD! Click here to read more about what Christine has to say.
Ok, so you’ve done a DNA test and you know who you are and what void you’re looking to fill out there in the market. At this point, you have at least some level of a brand identity and market research under your belt, and you’re actually ready to have an intelligent conversation about it. Congratulations! You’ve taken the first steps toward making your dream a reality and you did it … You have conceived! Now you’re probably wondering, what’s next? Well, once all of your I’s are dotted and all of your T’s are crossed, we schedule an in-person meeting to initiate the start of our working relationship. Welcome to F2F! Tune into Episode 3 and see what goes down in a “jump off”.
OK, so we’re not talking about diving blindly into the middle of the ocean! We’re referring to the initiation of the design process. What goes into a design deep dive?
This critical research phase allows our designer to get an in-depth look into the specific market for which they are designing and ensures that they are assembling a collection that is both appealing and on-trend.
The retail market acts much like a baby. (Wahhh!) It always knows what it wants and it won’t be satisfied until it gets it. We don’t really know what it wants until we take the time to properly sink our teeth into it, or, as we say, dive into it… Check out episode 4 to learn more!
Now we get to the fun part: Line Review! Once we have had the chance to sink our teeth into your brand, our designers put pen to paper, start sketching, and let all of their creative juices flow.
At this point in the process, you start to see your product coming together in 2D form: flat sketches, detailed finishes, color breakdowns and CADs. This all might sound like a foreign language to you, but we will be with you every step of the way and be your very own “Rosetta Stone” to help you translate…
Scroll down to watch episode 5!
Fabric sourcing! It’s such an easy concept, so can it really be considered the most important part of building a garment?? I mean, just design a garment and choose a cool fabric to make it in right? Nope!! Choosing the right base cloth for a garment impacts everything from fit to cost to delivery, so, newsflash: Fabric R&D should never be taken lightly.
We’re not gonna lie to you: This process can be extremely tedious and frustrating and, oftentimes, is difficult for new brands to wrap their heads around from a technical perspective. But that’s why you’ve got us canvasing the fabric market for you (#punintended). It happens to be our favorite part of the production cycle, so scroll down to watch Episode 6 and find out why!
We aren’t done with fabric just quite yet…
The fabric R&D phase is so important that we dedicated a second episode to it! Scroll down to check out part 2.
Trims … so small in size, yet so critical! It’s really the trim that sets the tone on a finely tuned garment, however many designers like to leave trim sourcing and development until the very end of the production cycle and they wind up facing major fit and construction issues, and not to mention, delivery delays. Yikes!
Trims make your garment functional and help customers identify your brand, so you can see why these small components pack a big punch and should never be left to the last minute!
Scroll down to watch Episode 8 and see why size really does matter!
Question: How do you translate a 2-D design concept to a 3-D physical garment?
Answer: Have a kick-ass tech pack!
Without an iron clad tech pack, you’re going to have a really tough time navigating the murky waters of sample making and production with any factory you elect to do business with. This “bible” of a document, if done correctly, will properly guide the patternmaker, factory, and sewer from A to Z with the least amount of drama. (Can we get an Amen!!) And believe us, there is a LOT of drama in this part of the process. Just you wait!
But, we can mitigate that so called drama if you spend the time to build a proper tech pack. This is where we get to the number crunching and the technical nitty gritty. It may just look like a bunch of pretty sketches and charts of numbers to the untrained eye, but it is so much more than that … scroll down to learn why.
Relationships … they are crucial to our well being as humans and they need to be nurtured. It takes a lot of time and energy to get to a point where both parties in a relationship achieve a solid level of comfort and trust with each other. Well, the same goes in business (#preach).
A good relationship with your supply chain will make all the difference to your product and, not to mention, your overall product development and production experience. You would never leave your child in the care of someone you didn’t fully trust, so imagine doing that with your business?! A lot of consideration goes into the factory allocation process and we’ve spent 25 years cultivating relationships with partners all over the world so that you can feel at ease knowing your “kids” are being well taken care of.
Scroll down to learn more about the importance of factory relationships in this week’s episode!
You often hear in the fashion industry that pattern making is a lost art, much like reading a map or spelling. (Seriously, right?) But the truth is that the pattern is the start of the real building phase and, much like an architect’s blueprint is to a home builder, a pattern maker’s blueprint is critical to achieving the proper fit of your garment. The pattern maker’s job is to convert a 2-D concept into a real-life 3-D garment. They do this by creating a pattern, or “blueprint”, using the information from your tech pack (i.e.: the bible). The sewer then uses this blueprint to cut & sew your garment. Hallelujah!
This week’s episode is a little longer than usual, but we hope it will answer all of your questions about pattern making. Scroll down to watch!
The time has come to see your design come to life! Yippeee!
A prototype, or, as we like to call it, a “proto”, is the point in the process when we really start to see how your product (that we have spent so much time designing, building and engineering), is going to perform on a human body. During a proto review, we take the time to look at EVERYTHING; things like fit, construction, fabrication, trims, design details, seam finishing, and overall aesthetic. It’s the first time we are seeing the garment in physical form so you can imagine that this is also a very tedious and time consuming part of the process (as are all aspects of the development and production cycle! Sigh…).
To be frank, this stage can be quite frustrating for a first-timer because a proto sample typically doesn’t look pretty or fit very well out right out of the gate. Remember our giving birth analogy from a few episodes ago? (Well, if you’ve ever seen a new born baby, you know what we’re talking about…lol!) So set your expectations accordingly because it only goes up hill from here!
We still get excited over protos! Press play on Episode 12 to see why!
Fashion design, it’s everybody’s dream job but we hate to break the news to you … this is not something that everyone is born knowing how to do. It takes many years of training and working in the field to get to the point where you can actually call yourself a designer. (And a good one at that!)
So why do you need a designer? Well, because you’re either an accountant, an engineer, a salesperson or a full time stay at home Mom, for example, and your professional background, while quite impressive, just won’t cut the mustard in getting a fashion line put together. If it did, then for certain you wouldn’t be calling upon us! (NB: For those of you who ARE seasoned designers and simply need a Product Development, Sourcing and Production team to manage your flow, well then, don’t count yourself out. We welcome you too!)
Our designers are all are senior executive level industry veterans and have worked for some of fashion’s finest names. They certainly have the creative tool box necessary to oversee the design process with you and your collection, and you can count on them to establish your “determining factor” or “why me” as you go on this exciting journey together.
Want to know what it takes? Scroll down to view Episode 13.
Don’t you hate it when you go into a changing room at a store to try something on and it doesn’t fit? Ugh. Well, welcome to the club!
Unfortunately though, we can’t just blame this on the big birthday dinner we just ate! When something doesn’t fit right, you risk facing disappointed customers and, more tangibly: returns, which is something that we want to avoid. This is why it is soooo important to have a top notch Technical Designer on staff when launching your brand. The TD works closely with the creative director to build the foundation and FIT of your garment. TD’s are the keepers of the specs and, while armed with fit comments, they go to battle with the factories to fight for your garments right to fit! (Insert corny garment picket sign here!)
More than anything, fit is the most critical part of any successful collection out there, and it is the technical designer’s responsibility to establish, manage and maintain your specs and sizing. As a wise sage once said, “No matter how pretty it is, or no matter how well priced it is …. If it don’t fit, you don’t got a business” Scroll down to watch Episode 14 and learn all about the importance of the Technical Designer.
WEEOOOO! WEEOOOO! WEEOOOO! ?
The tech police are in town and ready to arrest any specs that are out of tolerance!
JK!! But seriously though, the whole purpose of a fitting is to try on your samples and adjust where necessary and maybe even catch any “crimes” made by the factory in the process. This is when you finally get to see your idea come to life on an actual live form. Exciting right?! We fit using professional fit models to be able to transform the sample into a functional garment, so you can be one step closer to being production ready. At this point, tech and design come together to review and ultimately revise the sample.
While the designer handles the overall aesthetic and construction of the garment, the tech designer is really the one who starts getting their hands dirty to handle fit call-outs and, not to mention, cross-checking specs and measurements before a sample is even put on a body. Fittings can be tedious, but all-in-all they require a real team effort to fit, make corrections and revise techpacks. Want to know what goes into a fitting? Scroll down to see this week’s episode!
Okay…so we’ve just spent the night in fitting jail (c’mon work with me here!), and F2F pulled through and posted your bail. So what’s next?
This is when our team of designers, product developers and tech designers come together to rework, revise and issue fit comments. This process can take anywhere from a few days up to 1 ½ weeks depending on the number of styles in your collection. It might be a simple “correct + proceed” directly into the next approval stage, or it might require a total rework.
Then, a few weeks after our comments are sent out, when the next round of fit samples come back in, we wash, rinse and repeat it all over again until we are production approved and ready to go into cutting and sewing.
Scroll down for more post-fit recap interesting tidbits:
BOM? Spec? TNA? POM? WTF!
Do I need a dictionary? A translator…? Huh? Most of what we do for our clients is help them decipher industry jargon, so I guess you could say we are the interpreters to help you understand the day to day lingo. This week’s episode is pretty straight forward and explains the difference between two major parts of the tech pack: the BOM and the Spec page. Scroll down and tune in for this week’s lesson:
Ready, Set, (Time &) ACTION!!!
So how long does it really take for a concept to get from your head to the consumer? 6 months? Maybe 8? Try an entire year! We all know that the design and production process takes quite a bit of time, but the real question is how do we get from point A to point B? The answer is to have a thoroughly detailed time and action (“T&A”) plan that outlines exactly when and how we’re gonna get ‘er done.
A well-planned T&A is essential for a new designer and their production team to have because it allocates time for various parts of the process like design, sketching, sourcing, fitting, and waiting for an entire country to open up from being on holiday for the month!! Yup, not kidding! A year-long time frame is ideal because it eliminates the chaos that accompanies rushing a process and permits enough time for any obstacles or pushback to be remedied. In our experience, it’s always better to under promise and overdeliver.
In short … slow and steady really does win the race! Scroll down to learn more about creating an effective T&A and all that it entails! #ohbehave
Pardon the expression but, sh*t happens, and trust us, if it hasn’t happened, you can bet that it will!
The process of getting your product to market is not pretty or smooth, but we’re here to help fly through the turbulence together with you and get you to your destination in one piece! For example, when your fabric is late because of a massive typhoon in Hong Kong, or when the seam taping you ordered can’t be used because your fabric has a special waterproof coating and the trim vendor never sounded the alarm during the development stage, it’s our job to steer you in the right direction during these unpredictable moments.
It is incredibly scary, but we need you to remember that we are on your side. Got it? Good, because class is in session! And remember: teamwork makes the dream work, and everyone involved in this process from the fabric mill to the sample maker is part of the team. Scroll down to learn more about why trust is key!
What does it take to finally be runway (or retail market) ready?
It not only takes blood, sweat, and tears but also requires photo ready pre-production salesman samples, or “SMS” in our native tongue! With the help of pins, clips and tape during the photo shoot, the digitally altered appearance of samples can fool anyone into thinking that it is the final product, however, there is a lot more required during the SMS development cycle in order to make the garment truly production ready. Planning and managing the development calendar are key factors to completing this process along with answering the questions beginning with how and when.
Every detail from the tech pack is brought to life and tested in a final SMS (the ones we can get done in time, anyways…). SMS are aesthetically the closest you will have to a production ready garment and can safely be used for your website, look book, fashion show, press requests and retail market appointments.
It really is fun to see your collection come together at this stage! Unfortunately though, there is still some more work to do before you are production ready ?
Scroll down to learn the importance of salesmen samples in the pre-production process.
EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!! This episode’s topic is on our friend, the oh-so elusive, Costing; what is it? Where does it live? Why does that brand sell the exact same product for double the price? Why does it matter? Ignoring this part of the process or leaving it for the very end is not advised (like many choose to do!). We actually like to start the discussion of costing from the very start.
When you build your biz plan, you should be taking into consideration where you want your brand to stand in the marketplace. You need to come armed and ready with this information, so we can then work back into a production strategy that works for you. Your market strategy determines pretty much every other aspect of your process: from where you source your fabric to where you produce your goods, to the type of materials you use, who your customer is, and where or how you distribute your product. As your business grows, we’ll be here to help with a few more tools of the trade. Tune into this week’s episode to get a small look into our dear friend, Costing.
On a scale of 0” to 5” how high do you score?
Uhhhhh … what?
This week’s episode addresses something that affects all of us…grading. No…not the kind that your math teacher gives out, but the kind that determines what size garment will fit you.
A graderule is put together by the technical experts in a company and determines how your fit is going to be sized. This must be built around the type of product but also ultimately is determined by your target customer. Are you going for the European slim and tailored fit or will you yield more to a relaxed American fit?
Once you have established your graderule, it is implemented in the marking and grading phase of production. Your approved fit is handed off to the marking and grading team to be reduced and increased in all major POMs to get you your size XS, M, L and so on.
What’s more important than implementing a graderule? TESTING IT! Ha…get it?
In a size set fitting you get to see how your garment fits on a small or large sized human form. Check out this week’s video to see how you can make the grade!
Wow, we are almost at the end of our series and this production order is nearly complete! Okay, but enough celebrating …
The next step in the process after your sizing has been approved and your graded markers have been printed out is CUTTING. At this point, your marker is laid out on top of your fabric and it is now the cutter’s job to assemble and cut your pattern pieces in preparation for the final step of this long and arduous process: sewing! After this comes the final steps of finishing, pressing, QC inspection, packing and shipping … and jeez it feels like this process never really ends! But hold on, we’re nearly there!
As you probably guessed, it is important that we do not shortcut the cutting process. How do we avoid this? Well, let’s cut right to it and watch this week’s episode to find out. (See what we just did there…)
If you’re in fashion, it’s more than likely that you’ve heard the phrase “QC” but what exactly is it besides short hand for Quality Control? QC is an undeniably important facet of apparel production. Regardless of the quantity of product you are producing, one should never have to choose between quality and quantity. Human hands put in time and care to meticulously ensure that each garment has the same impeccable craftsmanship you originally intended it to have so each of the garment factories that we work with works tirelessly to ensure that their hard work is consistent and is measured at the high quality that you have signed off on.
QC follows a hierarchal order in which routine inspections are done. In our overseas factories and other production centers, QC is a vertical operation conducted on-site, where the internal staff manages daily operations and conducts in-line sewing inspections.
Scroll down to see what all the fuss is about. It takes a village, but you are SO worth it!
Well … you made it to the end of our series. Mazel Tov! But, as you are probably aware, this isn’t the end, it’s the beginning because it all truly gets started from here. Your collection is about to ship, you’re on to the next season, your head is probably spinning and yes, you got it, this is all going to happen again and again … Oy, it’s a vicious (but fabulous) cycle!
While testing doesn’t really belong in any particular part of the process because it happens on the sidelines, like a waterboy, it can’t be overlooked. Bypassing this step can make or break your product and your production timeline.
Testing every component on your garment is especially important if you are considering starting a childrenswear or high performance, function-driven clothing line. You’ve gone through all the trouble of sourcing, sampling and fitting, but now need to make sure that your garment passes all necessary requirements that have been set in place by the federal govt or your brand (i.e. lead and flammability for childrenswear or waterproofness for a rain coat). We build testing into your TNA early on into your sourcing process to give you enough time to re-source materials if necessary. This step must also be built into your development budget since oftentimes fabric mills and trim vendors will require you to pay for a 3rd party lab to conduct your testing.
But tests don’t always have to be done in a lab…there are wear tests, market tests…so many tests! Just make sure you time yourself appropriately and don’t forget that #2 pencil!
We appreciate your support and hope that the journey we’ve shared so far has inspired you. Be sure to stay tuned, as we intend to bring you even further behind-the-scenes with more content… and yes, there’s even more! It’s a long journey to get from Fabric to Finish but we promise if you just hold on tight, We Get You From Runway to Reality.®