[No, there are no other such titled entries but I’ve written of it plenty.]
From my mail:
I have been reading your book and I am very excited to be part of the community. My partner and I are starting a novelty sock line and I’m looking for a patternmaker. I’ve been scouring your site and reading your book on how to hire a pattern maker and searching for sewing contractors. I set up an appointment with a pattern service [site deleted] for next Tuesday, but I am thinking of canceling or postponing the appointment based on some of the advice offered in your book. The lady I spoke with (Rebecca) was quite friendly but vague about pricing. She said that “prices vary from project to project”. I clearly stated that I wanted a pattern and dummy made. Since I’m designing socks, I can’t imagine the patterns costing more than patterns for a shirt or pants. She asked that we set up an initial meeting and that I bring my sketches, flats, swatches and prototype. Being a newbie (aka a bit paranoid), it seems that her site and what she told me is not that much to go on. On the other hand, she has worked with many designers and stores that I recognize. Should I do more screening before I meet with her in person?
There’s several things going on here:
- Selecting an appropriate pattern maker for your product
- The scope of needed services (and the costs)
- What you need to bring to a meeting
- Site and corporate image
- Existing client list
- Verifying the veracity of a service
Selecting an appropriate pattern maker for your product
Everybody knows I’m a pattern maker so my experience -none, as it happens with this product- couldn’t be more direct. If you came to me, I’d have to refer you elsewhere. Just because one is a pattern maker, doesn’t mean one is qualified for this job. Based on a review of this pattern service, I’d guess they aren’t either and they should have said so rather than setting up an appointment with you. You don’t want someone who’s going to wing it, learning at your expense. We have a couple of knit sweater designers who hang around here so maybe they’ll pipe up. One of our pattern makers (Esther) has also done some knitwear and I look forward to her response.
The scope and costs of needed services
I couldn’t begin to estimate how long it’d take to make a sock pattern. There’s knit pattern, shape and potential color changes. If anything, I’d guess that pattern prices for garments (sportswear you mention like shirts and pants) would be lower because these are largely template items. The size of the garment or product is immaterial. Pants and shorts cost essentially the same. From a drafting standpoint, it costs nearly nothing to extend a draft. It costs more in fabric usage but not drafting time. Another example; I declined to submit a bid for a utility glove yesterday because it was so specialized, with an enormity of possible configurations, that it’d be too costly (ROI). Many people think that because something is small, the engineering costs are too. Also, there aren’t as many pattern makers for knitted sweaters and the like so they may be able to charge more hourly. Just as a garment pattern maker must know how to sew, a knit wear pattern maker must know how to knit -and know knitting in a commercial environment- and not all pattern makers do. I don’t. From what I can tell, this service does not specialize in pattern design for knitted products.
What you need to bring to a meeting
Rebecca wasn’t out of line in her suggestions. Any professional will need these items to render an estimate.
Site information and corporate image
The quality of one’s site (or lack thereof) should never be the defining criteria to select a service. Frankly, many are too busy to mess with it so they don’t need to. There’s a big gap between the expectations of sophisticated web users getting into the industry and those already in the business. While there are exceptions, posting prices on a website is most typical of consumer sites. There are plenty of sites selling products for mom and pop operations that post their prices but generally, services rarely do. There’s too much potential for confusion. DEs often think their products are really simple and will base their cost expectations according to prices (assuming they’re posted) and will then think they’re being ripped off if their costs are quoted at a higher rate. At best, services may quote their hourly fees for given services or provide broad estimates (with respect to services like grading per piece).
Existing client list
Other than the caveats below (see verifying the veracity of a service), have you looked at the products from these clients? I did. Names don’t impress me, product quality does. One of those clients (the highest profile one) was reviewed here on F-I and if that had been my client, I’d never admit it publicly. Not that the quality was bad, just that the product line was diffuse, comprised entirely of orphans. And not that the service is to blame (although I’d refuse to work with a client who did that) but the result isn’t something to which I’d want to associate my name. Maybe if a service is new and they can’t be picky but I am wary of services who do whatever the customer wants if it is not in the client’s best interest (be careful what you wish for). Clients need guidance and advice to avoid pitfalls. If a service doesn’t speak up about that, what else are they not saying? Likewise, the final product quality put out by a client isn’t necessarily the service’s fault either but I wouldn’t advertise a past client who put out stuff that embarrassed me. Summary: none of these clients impressed me. Based on the client list, I think the service is taking whatever clients they can get. Sure, we’re all in business to make money but you have to build a reputation to get work. We get most referrals from our colleagues -not our customers- so I’d worry more about how a competitor evaluates my work, rather than how a client does. I’m not saying this service is bad but based on their client portfolio, I wouldn’t send anyone to them without knowing more about them. Perhaps they have other unadvertised clients that have great products.
Verifying the veracity of a service
Have you contacted the companies she advertises having worked for? I notice there are products on her site that belong to other customers. Are these items there with the knowledge and consent of her clients? There’s been a lot of problems with services advertising without expressed consent (also discussed in the forum). I would contact these clients and ask. I wouldn’t hesitate either. If it’s with permission, the client must assume people will be contacting her or him for references. If it’s without permission, well, I think that’s an answer unto itself. Why would the service extend you the courtesy of confidentiality if they’re not doing it for their existing clients?