How to Communicate Your Designs to Factories

Just a month ago, we introduced a new program at Maker’s Row: Gold. This year-long membership is targeted at designers and entrepreneurs that are committed to launching new products in 2017. Along with full-access to Maker’s Row, gold members are provided additional resources, such as webinars, to guide them along the process.

Our first webinar was led by Sean, founder of a The Pattern Makers – a full service apparel factory in Ohio, and focused on communicating designs to factories. Accurately communicating your designs to a factory is crucial to creating the perfect product that you imagined. These tips will help you be more prepared when approaching factories for quotes on product ideas:

The Importance of Understanding Trim

buckles trim
“Sometimes we have clients that will send us a drawing but in their mind the fabric and the drawing is the design, and that’s it.  But the trim and buttons are just as important as fabric. So if you are picking something with buttons, like a button-up shirt or something with labels – knowing that that’s part of the equation from the beginning is important. Thinking about trim and all the components that go into the garment.” 

 What You Need For Samples 

hanging samples prototypes“Factories build samples based on what you give them. That’s why it’s important to give a good fit reference garment.  A screenshot that is really close to what you are looking to do or a sketch that includes all those design details. That’s all the information that’s going to the factory to make a sample.”

“If you’re using a tech pack that helps troubleshoot before any fabric is cut. A tech pack is going to call out all the details so you can catch things like pocket shapes – whether its a patch pocket or a well pocket. We recommend tech packs as much as possible because they help weed out any problems before anything is cut and sewn. You don’t want to waste any money because you will be spending money with every step of the process.”

Production Process Overview: From Sourcing to Production


“There is a lot of working that goes into the front in with samples and patterns, but sourcing is a huge part of getting into production. The factory won’t want to begin unless every single component for every single garment is there because they’re not going to want to cut and have these cut pieces laying around. You can’t get into production unless all the components are there and the sample is approved.”

“Work in tandem – work on patterns and fabric (materials sourcing) at the same time.  Factories can control what they have under their roof, but sourcing and vendors sending things can vary.  Even if you order it on time there is customs sometimes or there is a snow storm…”

“Even when the factory gives you a time quote, give yourself extra time – add a couple of weeks.  Fabric reps are infamous for taking their time. It’s not necessarily their fault. They have to take your request and give it to the company. So maybe they are sitting on it for a couple of days then the company sits on it for a couple of days.” 

  Work Backwards from Your Pricing 


“Wholesale vs direct to consumer – what business model do you want to use? For example, if you want your product to retail for $100 so it has to cost me $50 for direct to consumer. For wholesale,  it might cost $50, and you might sell it at a wholesale price of $100.  Then the retailers will sell for $200+.  So from the beginning, you want to know your business model.”

Ready to Reach Out to Factories?

Our community of 11,000 manufacturing leaders can help you along any step of the design, development or production phase. Get Started!

Related Reading:  The Beginnings of Green Manufacturing in 2018

mannequin making dress