Vendor Compliance Handbook 1

Another book I’ve been meaning to tell you about is The Vendor Compliance Handbook by David Secul. Useful for everyone, it is mandatory for some parties, typically retailers and anyone using contract resources offshore. If you’re a small domestic producer, don’t go trotting off just yet, there’s plenty here for you too. In fact, if I had to pick another book as a companion to mine, this would easily be my first (only?) choice as a supplement. I wish there were a way I could compel you to buy it. I suppose the only way I can hope to influence you is to do a good review of it. By the way, in case I didn’t mention it, this book is nearly all forms or at least it seems that way. That is a good thing. The downside is this book is designed for push manufacturers. Just take what you need and leave the rest.

Before I forget, don’t even dream of trying to sell to department stores unless you have this book. If you come crying to me about chargebacks and you don’t have this book, it’s a waste of your time and mine because I’m not going to feel even the tiniest bit sorry for you; I am a meanie.

Here’s a breakdown of the content by chapter.

1. Development Standards

  • Pros: This chapter details -in 11 separate forms- the oft mentioned “tech pack”. A tech pack defines the parameters of a product from sizing, fabrication, labeling, construction, costing, you name it. This is the real deal. Once you fill out one of these babies, you won’t be using more than four colorways anymore (the maximum default so it’s not just my opinion), the paper work alone will drive you nuts. I may as well give you the bad news now. Being a designer has little to do with sketching cute designs. It’s all paper work. Oh wait, I have said that a jizillion times already. heh
  • Cons: Inaugurating the book with a full blown tech package can be overwhelming. You’re having to do/direct a lot of stuff that you can’t possibly understand yet. I would have been happier with a softer entry point. Still, a tech package is often the backbone for a lot of offshore producers so there isn’t another way to start. I have other issues with tech package parameters that has nothing to do with this book so I probably shouldn’t have said anything, although the short version is I’d omit the grading and counter samples page for domestic producers, leaving that discussion for another day. Remind me later.

2. Specifications And Measurements

  • Pros: In this chapter, there’s seven different forms to aid you in developing the measures of the fixed points of your garment. It also provides samples of how your finished worksheets should look. There’s forms for various apparel product types including women’s, men’s, outerwear, tops, bottoms etc. Here’s a sample:

  • Cons: Again, my critique has nothing to do with this book; it’s about the process in general. While you can use this to specify general wants/wishes, you can only fill it out if you’re copying a garment in front of you. I don’t know why designers just don’t ship off the actual sample they’re copying from and dispense with it. Seems more honest -and accurate.

3. Action And Progress Reports

  • Pros: This contains 2, two page ‘calenders’ forms with separate examples on filling them out on the topic of tracking WIP and production (they look the same and nearly are). A strength of this text (ongoing) is that while the text (copy) is scanty, extensive definitions are given in a modified bullet format making it very easy to scan and find the definitions of abbreviations you need.
  • Cons: Developing project management calenders is difficult (this being the weakest chapter). I prefer the modified calender in my book for domestic producers (pg.45-46), adding the appropriate tasks as needed.

4. Sales Sample Procedures

  • Pros: The scantiest chapter, it gives you a trial run of how to go about ordering salesmen and publicity samples (one form). Perhaps more importantly (but we hope not) it gives you a trial run of what to expect when actually receiving the samples. This should be a painless process but often it isn’t due to customs, mislabeling, damages and what-not. Scanty though it may be, the inclusion of this as a chapter, implies the appropriate importance of this step.
  • Cons: None. Sales sample purchasing operations stuff is pretty straightforward and doesn’t need to be anything other than scanty at this point assuming you did all that stuff in Chapter One (the tech package) that you were supposed to.

5. Management, Evaluation and Compliance Forms

  • Pros: I’d break this chapter into two sections. The first provides a sample purchase order (PO), PO confirmation and a contractor contact sheet which is your basic data sheet you’d keep to track any supplier or customer. The second part has a five page form on the parameters of evaluating your contractor. This is similar to the forms in my book pgs 140-141. Lastly, there is another four page form (making for a total of 11 separate pages of forms) on the vendor compliance certification. The downside of this is that the evaluations and certifications are self certifications (unless you pay a pricey outfit to do it for you) so you don’t really know if people are telling you the truth. Admittedly, this is a downside of the process itself, not this book.
  • Cons: While this is a chapter for management, it isn’t managing anything other than contractor evaluations and standards. In other words, you can’t use this as a broad base to manage your enterprise, chalk it up to a misnomer. Also, it’s kind of quirky that purchase orders are stuck in the opening section of the chapter but based on how many large firms manage their process, this is how they operate.

6. Letters Of Credit

  • Pros: Letters of Credit or LOC or L/C are a necessary instrument in dealing with overseas suppliers. The strength here lies in explaining instruments of credit, the legalities of international commerce and banking, detailing all the steps you’ll have to go through to get payment to overseas vendors. This section is mostly much needed text. Only one form is included and it’s not one you’d use. It represents what an L/C issued by your lender or bank would look like.
  • Cons: None but I wouldn’t want to mess with this process. Too much paperwork and legalese.

7. Labeling

  • Pros: It’s in the labeling section that Secul begins to warm to the subject. While he’s certainly beyond competent to have written the entire text, his core strengths lie in product compliance. From here on out, the text is scrupulously detailed with plenty of diagrams and examples. With regard to the section on labeling legalese, you can find that anywhere (over in the left sidebar); the benefit here is organization of the material and practical examples of label placement. What many don’t realize until they get a chargeback, is that there are conventions of label placement. Another thing I thought was fabulous about this section was that you can just photocopy a page and use that directly, to show people how to place your labels, no reading involved. Here’s just one of many examples.

  • Cons: I thought this was a great chapter but Eric was quarrelsome about it. He did admit later that he didn’t scan backwards in the text to find the chart detailing which labels constituted A, B, C and D (we all can be stubborn about that). While this book doesn’t have much text overall, you do have to read what little is there for best advantage.

I’m going to leave off here today, this is getting entirely too long and I haven’t even gotten to the best part which can be found in part two. In the meantime, you may as well buy a copy on Amazon. The publisher also sells it on Amazon -and for less than what he sells it on his own site. I still have not received the CD with the forms on it as of 1/14/12 that I paid $20 for.

Get New Posts by Email


  1. Crackers says:

    Just bought it, and the Birnbaum’s guide.

    I had a look at them at material world today, but your outline critique of the vendor compliance book made the case very well for me.

  2. Darby says:

    I bought this book a few months ago and felt overwhelmed by all of the forms. It’s helpful to see you break it down with the pros and cons.

  3. Kathleen says:

    I’m curious how many people bought this book from the publisher. Supposedly, I get a commission because I’m giving him ad space for his books. So far, I’m only recording two sales on any of his titles in the past week and one of those was tuesday before I ran this review.

  4. sfriedberg says:

    I ordered this book, Hanford’s grading book, and a sourcing directory direct from Fashiondex on 27 September, starting from one link on fashion-incubator. I noticed that once I got to the Fashiondex site, the PARTNER=080807 part of the ad link URL dropped off the shopping cart. So their site might not be crediting all sales coming from ad links on your site.

  5. sfriedberg says:

    Now that I’ve had a chance to read through the book, I’ve got some questions. My first one is about the tech package process (chapters 1 and 2). As described by Secul, the designer is supplying a technical sketch and lots of measurements, with the obvious (but implicit) intent that the factory/contractor will have their own patternmaker work up patterns from that information. As Kathleen noted in her review, you could more easily send the prototype sample than take dozens of measurements off it.

    One hazard of having the factory work up the patterns was discussed on F-I (Anatomy of a Camel Toe, Part 2) where various contractors of a pants manufacturer were preserving the specified measurements while significantly changing the shape and fit of the pants (!) in order to reduce allocations. And (if I can say this without offending the experienced patternmakers and/or fashion artists) there may be innovative styles where different patternmakers will achieve significantly different results from the same original technical sketch. A DE would need to exert more control over the process to get a more consistent outcome.

    I am curious if it is an accepted alternate practice to send a pattern, rather than a sketch and measurements, in a technical package. There obviously has to be some lee-way for the factory to make their own production patterns suitable for the machines they have and the procedures their operators train on. So the first question is: do designers ever substitute a pattern for a measurement sheet? Maybe I should rephrase that as: is a pattern ever made the authoritative specification, perhaps supplemented by a measurement sheet? If so, what is the practice for marking the designer’s seam allowances unambiguously (or is the pattern in this situation an allowance-free “sloper”)? With the rise of electronic documents, does anyone send patterns as vector (e.g., Illustrator or CAD/CAM) graphic documents, or is everything still done with paper?

  6. J C Sprowls says:

    sfriedberg said: may be […] styles where different patternmakers will achieve significantly different results from the same original technical sketch. A DE would need to exert more control over the process to get a more consistent outcome.

    You are correct, Stuart! You’ll find evidence of that in the comments for Sewing Puzzle: skirt detail. While we did have significantly more context to go on than is in a common tech package, at least 3 different people interpreted the sketch in different ways – maybe more.

    While I can’t speak to standard practice within the industry, on the whole. I can share my experiences. Just recently, a company asked me to take on some of their production overflow. To do this, I told them I would need their medium block, their grade rules and their technical package for each style they want me to produce. When I walked their shop, I found that that had no idea what I was talking about (despite reassurances on the phone).

    The tech packs I’m accustomed to seeing are a less complete than Kathleen’s book recommends. But, the package should include (at minimum): a hard pattern (size: M), the grade rules, the cutter’s must/direction card and the allocation report (w/ sources). I like to include: the “sew-by” sample, sewing specifications(incl. needle size, stitch type, stitch length, thread weight, variances, etc.), QA specs, “jump sizes” (a nested grade) and time sheets, too.

    Any [qualified] patternmaker can draft to spec. And I think most will agree with me when I say this: we don’t like to do it. That’s really a “first pattern”, not a production-ready block. We need to fit the pattern, prove it, style it, etc. before it’s production-ready and pronounced a “block”. The qualified patternmaker knows this. The underpaid underling doesn’t know this yet or may not carry enough clout to interject this.

    (IMO) Sending anything less than a developed and proven block in the tech pack to the contractor is wasteful. I say this because the DE/Sponsor is saddling the contractor with Product Development responsibilities they may not be suitably staffed (viz. the aforementioned company) to handle. Either that, or, the DE/Sponsor fancies him/herself to be clever and is weasling free time out of the contractor, which frosts my weenie, too!

    In sum: I agree. :-)

  7. Angelique says:

    Does this book contain illustrations on how to fold garments for shipping? If not, does anyone have a resource for that?

  8. Kathleen says:

    Yes it does have illustrations for folding but it’d be unreasonable to expect it would have your exact garment type. There are no other books. If you’re selling to a department store, it’s likely the store’s vendor compliance standards would offer more detail.

  9. myriam says:


    i would like to make 20 samples of bras,thongs,corset and robes,and i would like to know how much that would cost me to get the flat sketches and the tech pack…
    thank you very much for your help…

  10. bente says:

    I got the book almost a year ago and it has been very helpful. I also used it to give my producer in Portugal the exact instruction how to write invoices and package labeling/instructions. It helps me to understand better how to fill out documents when importing. Also, as a foreigner, I got to learn the right terms/words to use. And sometimes it is a nice bedside lecture!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.