Did you ever buy clothes online and received something that was way off? Maybe it didn’t fit you quite right, or maybe the fabric started pilling after a couple of washes. If you think that’s bad, imagine what it would’ve been like if you ordered them in bulk to sell in a store.
This is where samples come in. Before going into full-blown production, you’ll need to create samples to help you minimize issues and revise your design and fit.
Here’s a 7-step guide detailing what you need to prep before ordering your 1st sample from your manufacturer. This process culminates in the creation of a techpack, the ultimate manual to create your garment.
Want to see examples of full-fledged techpacks to model yourself after? Click here.
1 – Create a flat sketch
Your flat sketch is going to be a 2D technical drawing of your garment. Like the name implies, it’s drawn as if your product was laid flat to show its design details like seams and stitching.
Here’s what it should like:
As you can see, it’s drawn in black and white – with basic solid lines. That means no shading or coloring is needed and in some cases can make it more difficult to produce a pattern.
Note: Conventionally, seam lines are represented with solid lines, stitchings with dashed lines.
Your flats are going to serve as a blueprint to draft your pattern design. Pattern makers will use them to create the patterns so that your manufacturer can use them to create your samples.
Sketches and patterns are going to be the core items featured in the techpack you send to your manufacturer, make sure you spend extra time refining your sketches to reduce the chances of any errors during the production process.
What should I use to create flats?
The industry standard tool to create flat sketches is Adobe Illustrator. If you don’t have a background in fashion or simply want to delegate this part to someone else, you’ll need to hire a technical designer skilled in the products you’re looking to produce.
When designing yourself or hiring a designer to help you make sure you layout the requirements completely. Be clear on your design decisions and provide designs for each side of your product. In the case of t-shirts, you’ll want to provide flats for both the front and the back of the t-shirt to make sure the manufacturer and pattern makers get the cut and style correct.
Depending on your garment you’ll also need to include side and inside views to eliminate any guesswork that has to be done by the manufacturer. Chances are they’ll guess incorrectly and you’ll end up with a product that doesn’t meet your overall requirement or even look like you originally planned.
How detailed should my sketches be?
Skimping on details will only make your life much harder when you have to explain your design to your manufacturer, especially if your manufacturer doesn’t speak the same language and is located in a distant time zone. So be thorough.
Every seam, dirt, stitch, and button should be properly illustrated. You won’t be able to point out a design detail to your factory if they can’t see it on your sketch and it’s better to invest time in the beginning than to receive a sample that you can’t use.
Pro tip: Create templates for the inside lining or label placement of your garment that you can reuse in other techpacks, this will save you a lot of headaches when you go to produce similar garments.
2 – Select your fabric
Choosing the right fabric for the job is crucial. Choosing the fiber composition (cotton, nylon, wool), the weight and the color highly depends on the type of product you’re looking to produce. If you’re producing yoga pants or running apparel you may want to avoid wool and other heavy, non-breathable materials.
Getting an idea of how your fabric stretch, thickness and drape will affect your garment’s measurements is also crucial to producing properly fitting apparel. Make sure you test out each material first before committing to a production run.
Pro tip: Try the keep your sample fabrics as close to the desired production fabrics as possible. If not, your garment may need a new pattern to accommodate a different fabric down the line.
3 – Create a bill of materials (BOM)
A bill of materials is a list of all the components needed in order to create your product. This includes all fabrics, buttons, labels, tags, threads etc.
A BOM will keep your manufacturing partners aligned with your production needs, it can also be used to verify that a product was produced properly. It’s not uncommon for materials to get switched out for cheaper materials during production. This is why using a 3rd party for quality control is necessary when doing large scale production runs.
4 – Create a measurement table
In order to produce a product efficiently your product’s measurements need to be laid out clearly.
If you’re producing a garment you’ll need to include measurements for the body length, sweep circumference, across shoulder, and sleeve length. Requesting a “medium” sized item can mean very different things depending on which country you’re sourcing from, for example a medium t-shirt in China is more like a small in the U.S.
Note the tolerance column in the image above. This column indicates the amount of leeway for each measurement you’ll allow for your sample. Once you receive your first sample, it’s crucial that you check if its measurements fall within these ranges. After going into a production run there’s no turning back.
Note: For your first sample, you only need to provide measurements for one size (usually Medium) to your manufacturer. Once your sample is approved and you’re ready to go into production mode, you’ll have to calibrate these measurements for other sizes.
5 – Create a label file
This is a must-have. You have to include a care label file in your tech pack if you don’t want to run into problems with Customs.
The following is generally required in your label: fiber composition, care symbols, size, country of origin.
Important: Labeling requirements vary by country. You have to do your own due diligence and check them beforehand.
6 – Assemble your techpack
Let’s sum-up. You’ve got your flat sketches, a bill of material, a measurement table and a label file in hand. Now, all you have to do is assemble it all in a neat document called a techpack.
Think of it as the instruction manual your manufacturer needs to turn your design into a finished product. Using something like Techpacker, you can complete this step in a matter of minutes.
Your techpack will be instantly formatted and rendered in a PDF which is recommended as PDF files are easily opened by almost every factory and they remain intact even when opened in different programs.
7 – Submit your project on Sourcify
With your techpack completed, you’ll be able to quickly submit an RFQ for production through our own platform. Not only will your job be easier but this helps factories reviewing your project send production quotes much faster.
What comes next?
Don’t expect your first sample to come out perfectly. It typically takes a few rounds of revisions before your supplier gets it right. Once you receive your sample thoroughly check for defects, quality issues or any construction that deviate from your techpack.
If you find any defects send a message to your supplier immediately to get it taken care of on your next sample run.
Once the product itself looks good you’ll need to check it for fit. Fit can be tested by using a real model or a mannequin, for casual wear using a person typically suffices. If the sample doesn’t fit as expected you’ll need to measure it to see if the measurements match up with the measurement table you sent the manufacturer.
If they measures match the measurement table you’ll need to revise the table itself and try again until your garment comes out as expected.