What we expect from designers pt.2

It was in the process of writing today’s intended entry (Your first meeting with a pattern maker) that I realized I needed to write a preamble to explain what pattern makers expect from clients. From the latter hyperlink, one could surmise I’ve done this before but as are many entries on this site, it was woefully inadequate. Hence, part two. Here’s some context from Christine who writes:

I will be in Los Angeles next week meeting with a pattern making company… It’s my first time meeting with any pattern makers and I’m not sure how the first visits usually go… What should I expect when checking out their facilities?

Apparel manufacturing has changed a great deal over the past fifteen years, expectations on both sides are constantly evolving. Previously, a designer was responsible for myriad duties which were to be completed before passing it off to a pattern maker. Most entrepreneurial designers today are closer to product developers and often lack the experience and staff infrastructure to either perform or provide the typical job duties expected of designers (that’s not a criticism). These duties still need to get done so it has increasingly fallen to service providers to provide additional services. Below are some of the expectations from those who will work with you; the only thing undetermined is who will do them. And depending who does these things is what determines what a service provider would need from a designer client.

  1. Determine the target customer
  2. Design with continuity
  3. Sourcing fabrics, trims and guts
  4. Provide working sketches
  5. Provide seam detail information
  6. Know who they want to hang with (determine price points)
  7. Define the dimensions of sizing for their target customer
  8. Do the product costing
  9. Ultimate responsibility for putting together the disparate bits of information that comprise the technical package (if needed)

Other than determining the target customer which only the designer can do, there are firms that will do everything else but you can expect to pay for it. The typical scenario is a designer will do designing (some like feedback, some don’t), do most of the sourcing (but often seek suggestions), know who they want to hang with and to do the costing. For the things left undone, you need a service who can help you. However, there are those of us who are uncomfortable with those duties so be sure to outline your needs and expectations to see if you’re a match.

What you need to bring:

  • A sample of the fabric you intend to use.
  • A good technical sketch. If you don’t have one (most do not have a good one), some pattern makers can do it but this is not their job. You may have to hire an illustrator.
  • If you don’t know seam terminology, bring samples to show what you mean.
  • If you like features on existing products and would like to incorporate those into your line, bring samples of what you mean.

If you don’t have these items yet, you’re probably not ready to take this step. Of them all, the fabric and the sketch is most important. A friend who owns a pattern service said “Sometimes my patternmakers spend more time going over sketches than they spend on the actual pattern. It’s very sad”.

What you should not expect from a pattern maker:

  1. Sourcing
  2. Responsibility for the technical illustration.
  3. Research: who you hang with and the sizing dimensions of your target customer.
  4. Putting together a tech pack

It is true that a pattern maker may be able to help you with all of these items (except for #3) but expect to contract separately, this isn’t included in the price of pattern making. If you want help determining the sizing dimensions of your target customer, you will need to bring a range of product samples in consecutive sizes so they can be analyzed. If you don’t, you are expecting a pattern maker to go shopping for you and it’s not going to happen -or shouldn’t. There is no centralized database we can access that lists the dimensions of your competitor’s products.

If you are already midway into the process and have done some patterns and samples on your own or with a previous provider, this is excellent. In addition to the above (including a sketch), you will need to bring:

  • Garment or product samples (no matter how atrocious)
  • Patterns with a pattern card (ditto)
  • Seam specifications (seam allowances used on the pattern)
  • A tech pack, however rudimentary (read the comments too).

Tomorrow I’ll continue with what you can expect at your first meeting with a pattern maker.

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7 comments

  1. bente says:

    This is very good complementary information to your book. I have always been working with informative sheets with all possible thinking details included. This info points out exactly how you can avoid misunderstanding and bad communication.
    By the way; how can anyone let their pattern maker source for them? Sounds like picking your fabric and buttons with your eyes closed..or the pattern maker must be your best friend.
    I will be prepared when I am ready to work with an outside pattern maker..

  2. Perry says:

    I can’t find women’s pants that fit. I have a waist, but most pants don’t. Why do we more mature women have to dress just like teenagers? I can see it in men’s clothes, too, with the teeny-weeny cargo pants for babies, the same as for giant men. I remember when clothes for kids were different than those for adults. What in the world happened?

    Pants for women have a one or two-inch zipper, which makes the “waist” huge on my body. I weight only 100 pounds, so it’s no like I need great big clothes. I want tailored clothes like what used to be sold at Nordstrom and Talbot’s. All clothes are the same no matter where you go. I call it, “The same store with a different door”.

    Costco, Walmart, Talbots, Nordstrom, Target all have the same styles. Where is the variety? I guess it must be cheaper, there’s a surprise.

    I just don’t buy clothes anymore and hope I can make what I have last.

  3. Dawn B says:

    The timing on this entry was so perfect – I had my first meeting this morning. I was able to bring sewn samples, fabric swatches, trims…and most importantly give the impression that I might have some small clue that I know what I’m doing, thanks to this site! Thank you!

  4. Jill says:

    In one of the other posts about pattern making, it was noted that a pattern should be shipped to the designer & one should be kept with the pattern maker in order to make it easier to communicate changes that would need to be made. How does the designer know what changes need to be made to a pattern? Perhaps I’m thinking of changes that would be made to the pattern once a sample is complete?

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