Manufacturing 101: How To Get Started

Over 75% of entrepreneurs don’t reach the prototype stage. Let’s change that statistic. We know how difficult it can be to get started and make a product, so inspired by our Production 101 e-course, we’ve put together this article to help jumpstart your design process. Throughout this article, you’ll learn everything from setting brand goals, advice on budgeting, and getting started on the sourcing process.

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BRAND GOALS

Establishing your brand goals is a key first step to getting the ball rolling on your design process. The first step is to take the idea of what you want to make out of your head and onto paper. You’ll need to set a few long-term goals for your brand that will serve as a framework for your design process:

Answer These Questions:

  • • What do you want to make?
  • • Who is your target audience or customer?
  • • What makes your product different or unique?
  • • Why do you want to create this product?
  • • What is your vision for you brand?
  • • Where do you see your brand in 5 years, 10 years?

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Photo Credit; Hunter White

LEARN THE LINGO

Key Terms

There are several different terms used in product development and design. We won’t bore you with a laundry list of words, but here are a few of the key terms you’ll want to know before getting started.

Tech Pack

A tech pack is a blueprint of your garment that designers create to communicate with a manufacturer all the necessary components needed to construct a product. It is one of the most crucial tools to developing your product and making the communication process more efficient between you and your manufacturer. Typically designers will include measurements, materials, colors, trim, hardware, grading, labels, tags, etc. The more detailed a tech pack is, the less room there is for error.

Learn More: What is a Tech Pack?

Patterns

Patterns are the backbone to the manufacturing process and have a lot of control over the quality of a product. A well-made pattern is crucial for making a great product. Pattern makers will make a blueprint of your idea. They make sure your design will be well constructed before going to production.

Learn more: Patternmaking 101; Demystifying Pattern-Making

Prototype

Your first sample, there are often several variations until you get to the final sample of your product.

Learn More: 5 Tips for Creating an Apparel Prototype

Sample

Your Sample (or Final Sample) is your production sew-by sample. This, along with your tech pack, is what your production team will use as a guide to manufacture your product. *An important point to note is that your prototype and sample costs will often be more expensive than your production costs since it takes more time and work to understand your designs and do the work that gets your design production ready.

Learn More: Q&A – Patternmaker and Sample Maker

Grading

Grading is the system used to increase or decrease a size, based on an average difference between sizes. This is how a brand takes a one-size sample and creates XS, S, M, L etc. version of it.

Minimums

The minimum quantity order size the factory will accept. Unlike going to your local tailor, for factories, smaller orders are often more of a headache for factories. For example, it might cost them just as much to make 20 units as it does 200 when they’re paying for all their workers, the rent on a large space, running their machines, etc.

Learn more:

10 American Small Batch Manufacturers

How to Negotiate Minimums

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PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

Next, we move on to product development. As you work through creating and refining your ideas, you will need to think through some basic questions about each product before you are ready to start working on the pattern or getting samples made. Before contacting a factory, you will need to bring your idea from sketch into a prototype or sample. This step is called Product Development.

Step 1: Starting a Collection: How to Develop Your Fashion Designs

The best way to do this is by working with a technical designer or a pattern-maker to make you a tech pack or pattern of your designs. However, before you contact a technical designer or pattern-maker, you will need to answer a few key questions about your product.

Step 2: Read 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Contacting a Factory

Step 3: Answer these questions

  • • Time frame
  • • Number of items in your line
  • • Quantity of each item you want to produce
  • • What is your target retail price point?
  • • Are you going to wholesale, or sell direct to retail.
  • • Do you have sourcing already figured out?

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BUDGETING

Producing isn’t easy – it takes time, dedication, patience, and money. One of the most important first steps is to determine your budget. Before you start contacting any factories or spending any money on your line, you need to think through what your budget is and how much each stage of the creation process will cost.

Below is a list of the major stages of the product development and sourcing process that need to be priced out to include in your budget:

  • • Patterns and tech packs
  • • Samples
  • • Fabric and materials
  • • Shipping of materials between manufacturers
  • • Production costs

Read: Financing Your Business: Four Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Spend

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STEP-BY-STEP: How To Proceed

Now that you’ve worked out your business plan, budget, brand goals, and developed your product concept and design, you can now begin looking for a technical designer or pattern-maker to take your product development to the next level!

Step 1: Complete your project

Include in Your Project:

  • • Budget
  • • Images
  • • Description of your product and brand
  • • What is your brand?
  • • Brand Goals
  • • Any existing samples or similar products you are drawing inspiration from

Step 2: Find a Pattern Maker or Technical Designer

A) Source by yourself on the site

– Conduct a search or browse by category

– Send your project

B) Connect with a Preferred Partner

Here are some Pattern Makers and Technical Designers we’ve vetted and work with closely, and think could be a great fit for you!

C) Speak to an Industry Specialist

Work with an industry specialist to manage your project and identify the right factory. Work on perfecting your project, narrowing in on the right factory and eliminate having to search yourself.

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