What is an Apparel “Marker”?

When making a late-in-life career change from school psychologist to apparel entrepreneur, the learning curve for everything, including a whole new vocabulary, was steep. I had many “deer in the headlight” moments in negotiating with pattern makers to production partners, when I wasn’t always sure I was speaking the same language.

It wasn’t until I started scaling up my Luxeire innerwear production to larger numbers per style, that I was presented with the term “marker” and whether or not I should invest in one. At the time, I did not know what a marker was or why I would want one. I had previously been working with a pattern-to-production partner, found through Maker’s Row, that offered me one-stop shopping – product development, pattern making and grading, prototype and sample production, as well as small to large batch production.

I was now ready to manufacture my first run of 500 pieces for a style and wanted a manufacturer that could produce larger quantities in a smaller time frame. I arrived at the factory with my pattern in hand was told I needed to have the pattern graded by an outsourced pattern maker, and that I should consider having a marker made. A marker?

apparel marker

A marker is a puzzle-like guide of your pattern in its various sizes printed on a long sheet of bond paper, used to reduce fabric waste in the cutting process. A marker is typically good for one use – as it is cut up, so your production numbers need to justify the additional expense. The cost of fabric in apparel manufacturing is often 60-70% of the cost of production; so improving your yield will often improve your profit margin. Below is a sample image of a marker provided by Fashion Incubator.

Related Reading:  What is "Apparel Grading"?

My experience with a marker included the grading of a pattern for 6 sizes, with the marker reflecting the ratios of the most popular sizes. Expensive fabric, complicated patterns, and fabrics with prints will increase the value of using marker. The total cost of this process for me was $388. The estimated cost savings of a marker is 25-30% in fabric. The estimated savings in fabric cost for me for 500 units was approximately $900.

I believe in outsourcing my areas of weakness, thus do not ever anticipate attempting to make my own patterns, grading, or markers. However, for those of you who have a different skill set than I, or are more ambitious, design and manufacturing CAD programs are available for approximately $1,300 – $2,500.


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