After the in-depth look at the exciting Creative Process from our first installment of The Genesis of an Apparel Line, the creativity definitely doesn’t stop there! In this segment, we will take a look at the Building Process of an Apparel Line. After the blank slate we had started with in the creative stage, as well as the research and planning that has taken place, it’s time to put everything into motion. As with many manufactured products in the world, there isn’t only one way of getting from point A to point B. What truly sets one company apart from the other is the expertise involved and the attention to detail they possess to develop the quality products consumers receive.
The planning that took place in our first installment allows the designer and team to envision what the end result is supposed to look like, but relaying that vision to the other teams that are involved in building the garments and overall collection is vital. One of the first steps to relaying that vision is to create a “tech pack”. I personally consider this the blueprint to building an apparel line. This is a document that outlines the details of every style in the collection and it is used as a communication vehicle for all internal staff to review, as well as external partners. Part of this process includes the interaction with pattern makers. When you think about how fabric is transformed into a garment, the role of the pattern maker is to create a three-dimensional, wearable product from two-dimensional fabrics and pattern pieces. Along with this transformation, creating a comfortable fit is a skillset that’s often overlooked and sometimes, sadly, completely lost in the process from many apparel suppliers. Drafting a pattern is not a one-step process; once each seam and style line of a garment is planned out and drafted onto paper, samples are cut and sewn to test the fit, as well as the suitability of a particular fabric.
Fits and Samples:
Depending on the stage of development, samples may be made from actual fabrics or at times, very basic canvases. When designers work with rare and highly luxurious fabrics, like some wools and silks, the first few samples and fittings are made of less expensive fabrics with similar characteristics of the eventual versions. For example, we also often use substitutions when fabrics are being developed from scratch, as the timing of the garment development is frequently simultaneous to fabric development. This process allows us to keep the momentum of the building process up, while utilizing the time to perfect the quality of the end result.
Beyond the appearance of how a garment is designed and the comfort of the way it fits, its quality and functionality are equally as important. It calls for the same immense attention to detail to ensure the products meet and exceed customer expectations. Some of the tests put into place include: hundreds and thousands of formulated lap-dip swatches to ensure color consistency, the in-house and third-party lab tests that ensure fabric performance and quality (such as moisture wicking and snag protection testing), and quality control processes that include checking of garment specs, fitting of various stages of samples and inspections of the completed garments.
It’s a Wrap:
Finally, after what usually ranges from six to 12 months, the process of creating and building an apparel line is coming down to the final stretch! In addition to the parts of design and development process we discussed, the collaboration between various teams usually then results in a collection’s success, while contributing to the brand’s overall messaging. One of those teams that work closest with the Design department through this process is Marketing. The functions and objectives between the two must completely be in sync to bring the collection successfully to market, with the appropriate imagery and representation.
The fun continues when the Design department first introduces the completed new collection. This is one of the first opportunities to present the line to a group that hasn’t been fully immersed in the design process already. The months of hard work is now passed on to a new group of talented individuals who then put the products onto print, web and other materials that best showcases the collection to our customers. This material, in turn, will serve as supporting collateral for distributors who wish to share specifics with their end-users via presentations, web shops and other formats. One of the best ways to get this product onto a sharable format is through the use of photography. This process includes the selection of appropriate models, in appropriate settings, that best represents the product and brand (which we will dive further into the next installment of this article series). These collaborative efforts can be seen every day when you flip through a catalog, browse a supplier’s website, or watch a video that highlights these industry-leading products, which you may then offer to your valued customers.
In our next and final installment, we will take a look at the Launch Process and how what we have covered in the first two articles is brought to market. We will also explore how to utilize the tools that are made available by your suppliers and how they can benefit your sales efforts and support your customers. The design, development, along with the marketing of an apparel line, is filled with exciting creativity. Taking that creativity of the products and seamlessly merging that with functionality and quality, to meet the expectations of our customers (and your customers) is our ultimate goal. The Genesis of an Apparel Line is not complete and cannot succeed without keeping this in mind.
Elson Yeung is the Product Line Manager for Ash City, now part of the alphabroder family, which provides customizable promotional apparel for corporate and casual markets.