Reviewing your Samples
We love the feeling of receiving a in the mail, knowing it’s a box of samples to review. Especially if it’s the first sample and you are seeing it all come together. It can be a very exciting and nerve-wracking experience.
What you say or don’t say to your manufacturer now will have major implications for the final product and clear communication is key.
We are going to go over everything you need to know about the sample review process so you can communicate clearly and concisely with your manufacturer to deliver the best product possible.
The steps needed to review your garment include:
- Taking measurements
- Reviewing the construction
- Fitting your garment on a model
- And sending clear and concise comments back to your manufacturer
The package came and you are reviewing your darling for the first time.
The first breath is usually one of excitement, then you take a step back, tilt your head, and start analyzing.
The sample intent and development stage is important to keep in mind when reviewing the sample.
If you haven’t read Part One of this series, we suggest you do that now: Key Concepts You Must Know About Samples Before Launching A Fashion Brand. In part one we review the different types of samples you will receive during the development process.
Each sample has its intended purpose and it’s important that you and the manufacturer are on the same page with the sample type and intent before the sample is created.
If you receive a sample that you use as a Fit sample but the manufacturer was only intending for it to be used as a Proto Sample you are going to experience a lot of confusion and frustration. So before a sample is made, make sure you review with your manufacturer the expectations you have.
Also, keep in mind that people may name samples differently. We ran into a manufacturer who, no matter the sample intent or stage, would refer to all samples as TOP Samples. So be sure to state the name of the sample type along with a description, especially if you are planning on combining a couple of the sample types.
“We would like to see an initial proto/fit sample. As we intended to use it for fit purposes, all materials and trims must be in the final quality and no substitute qualities can be used. Spec measurements must be met and all construction outlined in the tech pack must be followed.”
If you and your manufacturer are on the same page regarding the intent of your samples, the world will be a much more glorious place.
If you’re looking for more tips on how to get started building a fashion brand check our our Top Ten Items to Research list below!
If you are at the fit stage of the development, then measurements are key before putting the garment on body.
You want to have the flat measurements of the garment before going into a fitting so you know if anything is already out of tolerance. Having those measurements ahead of time is essential to having a smooth fit review.
Do make sure that you have the spec sheet and how-to-measure guide, located in your tech pack, in front of you. You want to make sure that you are following the same POMs (Points of Measure) that the manufacturer followed.
Do use a new tape measurer. Tape measurers get stretched out over time and will no longer be accurate. When in doubt, get a new one.
Do take notes of any measurement that is out of tolerance from the spec sheet. You will want to refer back to these notes during the fitting.
Don’t wear the garment before measuring. Wearing the sample will stretch the fabric leading to incorrect sample measurements. If you got too excited and put the sample on to strut around the neighborhood and make your neighbors jealous, just make sure to let the sample breathe and lay relaxed for a couple of hours before you take measurements.
Don’t stretch the fabric to make the measurement. The seam or point of measurement should be fully relaxed as you guide the tape measurer across the garment.
Don’t take this step on if you don’t feel comfortable with it. If you doubt your sample measuring skills, ask your sewist or designer to step in and measure the sample for you.
This step can often be overlooked. Get familiar with all of the construction details of your styles. You may not know what you are looking at at first, but will learn in time as you go through development.
Do turn your garment inside out so you can see all of the seams and how they are finished.
Do clarify any discrepancies with your manufacturer. Sometimes a manufacturer will make construction updates because it is faster and ultimately cheaper for them to do. The manufacturer should call out any changes they make that are contrary to the tech pack before sending the sample but sometimes will neglect to do this.
Have an open conversation with them about the construction details and if it makes sense, update the tech pack to reflect the new construction.
Don’t neglect to review your tech pack. Compare the sample and the tech pack construction and be sure to make any comments or updates to the tech pack as needed.
Don’t get stubborn about the construction. Different operations are easier or harder for different manufacturers depending on their equipment so being open to changes makes things easier for the manufacturer and can save you money.
Fitting The Garment
If you received a fit sample make sure that you review the sample measurements and construction before putting on body. Here are the dos and don’ts of fits:
Do hire a professional fit model if you can but using a friend or family member is ok too.
Do make sure that your fit model matches the body measurements you have specified for your brand and for the sample size.
Do review any spec measurements that might have been out of tolerance. If you like the out-of-spec measurement, update your tech pack to reflect the new measurement. Tech packs and patterns are working documents and should be treated as such. Update them as much as you need to during the development process.
Do take photos, front, side, back. This will help as you write comments back to your manufacturer. If you see any problem areas, take a photo. These visuals will be important for your manufacturer to see as you write
Don’t fit the sample with the model standing stagnant the whole time. Make sure the fit model walks around in the garment. Have them sit down and stand up without adjusting the sample so you can see how it lays naturally.
Don’t use yourself as the fit model. It’s not ideal since you can’t get a full view of what is happening.
Don’t assume your fit model’s measurements will stay the same. Our bodies fluctuate so take body measurements once a month to make sure that the fit model you are using is still within the measurements you need them to be in.
Don’t view your tech packs or patterns as the final word on your style. These are working documents throughout the development lifecycle. Make updates and changes as needed.
This is where it all comes together. Communicating clearly with your designer and/or manufacturer is critical at this stage to get the results you want.
Do use visuals. A picture is worth a thousand words. A photo can also break down any language barriers that might be in place.
Do be concise and clear. Use bullet points and take the time to organize your comments and thoughts. No rambling or over-explaining.
Do have clear next steps for the manufacturer.
“The first-fit sample is rejected. Please review the comments and send the 2nd fit sample by May 15th. “
“The size set samples are approved. We are approved to move forward with production”
“The 3rd fit sample is approved with corrections. Please proceed with the size set samples making all updates first as outlined in our comments.”
Don’t be harsh. Were there a lot of measurements out of tolerance or was the construction changed dramatically from what you outlined? This is a relationship you are building with your manufacturer and needs to be treated as such. There is usually a reason why they did what they did (keeping cost low, timing, misunderstanding). Always assume good intent and talk it through.
Don’t send a separate document with notes. To keep everything well organized and clean, it’s best to send the pattern and tech pack with all notes and comments included in the tech pack. This keeps everything streamlined so all information is in one, easy to access location.
If you are ever unsure of what the next steps should be don’t hesitate to ask your designer or consultant. The more you review samples, the more comfortable you will become with the process.
Never hesitate to ask questions and take the opportunity to learn. Never forget that you are building relationships during this process. When frustrations occur, and they will. Take the time to understand why something was done. Your manufacturer is learning your process and ideals just as much as you are learning there.
If you take the time to build a strong working relationship with someone, you will be unstoppable!