Samples are the heart of apparel production. They make up the collection, lead to the perfect fit, instruct production, and act as the showpieces that bring in business. Arguably, they are the most essential part of apparel production. But how do you go about making one, what are the types of samples, and how exactly are they utilized?
The first sample is your prototype. To successfully create a great prototype, follow these 5 steps:
1. Determine the size of your samples.
Ask yourself what the samples will be used for. Possibly as a sales tool, for photo shoots, or a runway show is usually the first response. But they also will most likely be used for your first fitting, which means that you will want your sample to be a size that can be logically graded both up and down to achieve a good fit in all your desired sizes.
2. Understand your sample size’s body measurements.
These measurements are not necessarily the same as your clothing specs, but knowing how the body measures underneath your designs will give you a better idea of what your clothing measurement should be. It is also important to understand that not all size 6 garments fit the same way, so understanding your brand’s definition of that size is important to your brand identity as well.
3. Create a flat sketch.
This is also known as a technical drawing or just simply, a flat. A good flat sketch has simple lines, with no shading or coloring in, and can be done by hand or with Adobe Illustrator. It is important to have a clear outline of your silhouette as if it were laying flat. You can then add a solid line at any place where there is a seam, and represent all stitching with dashed lines, zigzags or other renderings of specific stitches. Pattern makers use these renderings to create the patterns, so simple lines rather than stylized are always best.
4. Give initial specs.
Specs are the measurements of a garment laid out in an easy to read chart. For the most part, a patternmaker will need the basic specs such as body length, sweep circumference, across shoulder, sleeve length, etc. This is when knowing your sample size body measurements will come in handy. Be sure to note any placements of trims or embellishments. It is also helpful to understand your fabric and how the stretch, thickness and drape will affect your garment and therefore your measurements.
5. Organize all your fabric and trims.
To avoid mistakes, it is essential to provide your sample room with all the supplies needed for your garment in an organized and easy to follow way.
You have completed your prototype, so what’s next?
Many times, the first thing done with a sample is a fitting to determine what fit or style changes need to happen to the pattern in order to perfect the style. It is a good idea to get this process done early as it can mean resampling and can sometimes take more than one round of revisions.
Once your pattern corrections have been made, it is time to make your sales samples (also know as duplicate samples) in the colors you choose for marketing and sales. Ideally, sales samples consist of one piece in each color in the sample size. Since sales figures often are largest for the colors the sales rep has on hand, it is often decided to invest in a full set to sell.
Sales samples are commonly used for photo shoots and runway shows. However, if the designer opted for sales samples in an alternate size for the sake of proper fit or to better suit a particular target customer, it is possible the patterns will need to be graded prior to photo shoot samples being made.
The final sample needed is your production sew-by sample. This, along with your tech pack, is what your production team will use as a guide. Generally, designers give a factory a sew-by sample and all supplies needed to create a garment, then ask for a prototype to be made for approval. Once the approval is given, and the bulk supplies are delivered, the factory uses their garment as the standard for producing the larger order.
With all these samples and everything else that goes on in the meantime, it is easy to get confused about which sample is which! So, for the sake of organization, it is a good idea to create a sample card with your name/logo and general information about the specific garment.