Sampling is a crucial step in the pre-production phase of any apparel development process. It is vital for buyers to determine quality and for suppliers to estimate production cost and time.
Samples are a visual representation of a supplier or exporter’s potential to deliver desired products based on the buyer’s brief. For fashion buyers, samples help determine a product’s quality before starting on bulk production. For suppliers, sampling provides an estimate of the time and cost, producing the garments will require. Sample quality is vital, as it can establish (or terminate) future orders from buyers, lead to more business, and help the suppliers determine the type of fabric, trims, and accessories needed to design the product at a cheaper price without compromising on quality.
What are important considerations before starting with sampling?
Bringing your first product sketch to life can be very exciting! However, it involves many sampling stages, until you develop the ‘PERFECT’ garment you had envisioned. Even before you reach the sampling stage, you need consider key factors which will help you save time and money.
- Determine your budget:
Knowing how much you have to spend is vital as that will determine how many rounds of sampling you can afford. Working with a set budget from the start will save time and money later in the sample-making process.
- Focus on product design:
- Sketching kicks off product development and is the easiest and cheapest way of designing, even if you’re not an artist. Remember that the aim is just to get your ideas down on paper. Churning out samples is expensive, and the better your ideas translate as drawings, the more planning you can do and, thus, the less you have to spend on modifications later on during product development.
- Research your materials to see if they are cost effective.
- Knowing your sample size body measurements will help establish your product’s basic specs (such as body length, sweep circumference, v-neck cut, length of sleeve, etc.). It’s also useful to understand your fabric and how your garment is affected by the stretch, thickness, and drape.
- Work backwards:
A timeline is crucial to help you stay organized. Since there are so many entities involved, working backwards with your timeline can help you ensure your production schedule works.
For example, start with the last step in your timeline, i.e. when you want final product in hand. Then work backwards from that and communicate deadlines to your supplier as per your product launch plan.
- Team up with an expert:
Once you’re happy with a final sketch of your product, producing a blueprint is the next step. And here is where working with a professional, like a Patternmaker or Technical Designer, is crucial to ensure your design is well-constructed before product development starts.
- Patterns help control a product’s quality. Take time to find the perfect fit model and provide their measurements to your Patternmaker.
- Technical Designers draw up informative sheets which designers use to communicate their product requirements to manufacturers. These professionals ensure all the details of your design (measurements, materials, colors, labels, etc.) are included on the technical sketches or a tech pack.
How many samples are needed?
This, plus the time it will take, depends on how detailed your information and ideas are at the beginning. With proper planning and a clear budget in place, the total number of samples made can go up to 12, i.e. Proto, Fit, Size Set, Pre-production, Production, Shipment, Salesman, Photo shoot, TOP, Wash, GPT and Shipment.
Fortunately, not every sample is essential, yet their production will depend on your operation. Generally, samples can be grouped into three major categories: Fit, Sales, and Production.
- Fit samples are made in your final fabric to establish the correct hang of the garment. As it’s only intended to test the designer’s idea and finalize the correct design and fit, it usually doesn’t have any trimmings.
- Sales samples are shown to fashion buyers when presenting your collection. These include all brand-approved fabrics and trims and are sewn by your factory to cut production costs.
- Production samples are made by the factory prior to production to test consistency in production. This is meant to be the final approved version of a style and should ideally be used for marketing, promotion and pre-sales.
Don’t make the same mistake as many fashion designers who think that one sample of each design is enough to show to a customer or buyer. Everyone from the designer and manufacturer to the photographers, fashion buyers, and product development team need to see a sample. A single sample slows down an already long process. And what if something goes wrong with the only sample you made?
Luckily, you don’t need to cut several samples at every stage. One proto should be enough when working out the design, but up it to a second sample when you proceed to the next stages.
Do I need to pay for samples?
Many designers believe that sampling costs should fall under marketing and be covered by the supplier. But this is not always realistic for suppliers and manufacturers. After all, there is always the risk of someone simply posing as a legitimate buyer when they are really a price-checker (a supplier’s own competitor) or simply “shopping around”.
Paying for samples is how one is recognized as a serious fashion buyer who’s not pretending to be a customer. Consider paying for samples as a two-way relationship that benefits both supplier and buyer.
In some cases, a supplier won’t mind generating free samples for a known brand or past client. However, they will continue charging for new clients and unknown brands to make sure they are a real company truly interested in production. And should you decide to start production with that supplier and a trusted relationship is set up, it’s possible that you won’t be charged for future samples. It could also happen that the supplier becomes more open to the possibility of lower costs / free samples if you’ve submitted a purchase order. Just don’t expect mold fees and other set-up expenses to fall away.
Working with a supplier or manufacturer with an in-house sampling team is as an added benefit to develop an affordable and high quality sample. This builds up credibility and establishes trust, saving time and cost.
Working with Ecico, you gain the advantage of working with an experienced in-house sampling team to help transform your sketches and ideas into samples within 2 – 3 days. We have the capacity to produce 200 – 300 fashion samples per month. Visit www.ecicogroup.com to know more about us.
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