If you’re a fashion designer, you know the mix of excitement and anticipation while waiting for your garment sample. After pouring your heart into designing a garment, you want the final product to turn out as you envisioned. The reality is, it’s not always that easy.
Picture this: You rip open the package with your long-awaited sample, hoping to see your design in all its glory. But as you examine closely, disappointment kicks in. The fit isn’t quite right, the construction is off, or the materials don’t meet your standards. All your hard work and creativity feel like it went to waste.
It’s a common challenge faced by fashion designers during the garment sampling stage. I’ll tell you now, it’s not the end of the world.
With the right skills and understanding of how to review a garment sample, you can troubleshoot and ensure the final product matches your vision.
In this blog post, we’ll go through how to review a garment sample properly. You’ll learn the key elements and practical tips to navigate the sampling process.
Let’s get started!
Sample-making involves creating prototypes (also called protos, apparel samples, fit samples, or development samples – check the different types of garment samples here!) before full-scale production begins.
A well-executed sampling process and prototype review saves fashion brands heaps of time and money as it helps catch issues early to avoid costly and irreversible mistakes during mass production.
Throughout these steps, the design team, including technical designers, merchandisers, and manufacturers, collaborate to ensure samples meet all requirements.
For smaller startup fashion brands with a sole fashion designer, or those starting their fashion brand independently, you may be responsible for all these roles.
Pro tip: When developing a new garment, fashion designers can study reference garment samples as a guide for their designs. By studying these reference garment samples, designers can analyze existing garments’ aesthetics, construction, detailing, and fit to identify what works well and areas that can be improved.
Now that we have covered the garment sampling process, let’s dive into the tools and process of garment sample evaluation.
Before we learn how to review a garment sample, here’s a quick check-list of the tools that’ll come in handy:
Apparel samples can range from a simple plain white tee to a more complex denim jacket with multiple panels, stitch lines, and trims.
I’ve broken down the garment sample evaluation process into five key steps, allowing you to focus on each aspect of the garment step by step and keep a consistent sample review process.
It’s crucial to measure the garment sample early on in the sample evaluation process as you’ll use these measurements to discuss discrepancies and adjustments when fitting the sample.
To start, lay your garment flat on your work table and gently iron out the wrinkles using your hand. By gently, I mean reaaally gently. Don’t stretch or force the fabric as this will lead to inaccurate measurements.
Pro Tip: It’s common practice in the garment manufacturing industry to measure a garment laying flat. This means most horizontal measurements are actually half of the full garment measurements.
Whip out your measuring tools and record the garment measurements.
Tips on measuring a garment sample:
Examine the garment construction and stitching closely. Again, use your tech pack as a guide to check for any inconsistencies.
Scan the garment from top to bottom, flip it front, back, and inside out to catch any garment stitching and construction issues.
Are seam allowances neat and properly finished? Assess the overall construction for any stitching defects like loose threads, puckering, or irregularities, and double-check common problem areas.
Don’t be afraid to gently pull on the seams and check for any breakage or slippage. There’s no quality issue too small, this is your chance to prevent any defects from arising during bulk production.
Tips on checking the garment construction and stitching:
Evaluate if the fabric meets quality standards in terms of texture, drape, and weight. Verify if the correct materials were used.
Check garment detailing, including trims, buttons, zippers, and labels. Ensure labels are securely attached and provide accurate information.
After checking the materials, assess any finishing techniques applied, such as dyeing, printing, or embellishments.
Tips on assessing the garment’s materials and finishing:
Most fashion companies use professional fit models to ensure sizing consistency when reviewing fit samples. Some brands just use an employee.
Observe the design sample and see if you’re getting the desired fit. Does it hug the body in the right places? Is there ease of movement and comfort?
Also assess how the garment functions in different positions, such as sitting, walking, or reaching. Consider other practical aspects, such as pocket placement, closure mechanisms, and overall wearability.
Tips on checking the garment’s fit and functionality:
Be clear and specific with feedback, highlighting positives and areas that need improvement. For example, if the armhole is too tight, don’t just say “armhole is tight.” Instead, provide clear instructions like “The armhole is too tight, add 1″ to the armhole straight measurement.” Also, update the revised measures in the specs sheet and POMs, and include photos of the garment on the fitter, clearly showing the trouble area.
It helps to have a Sample Evaluation Sheet, where you can put all your comments from the first original sample to the final sample. Tech pack softwares that includes this feature may be helpful, or a simple tech pack made in Excel works great too.
Pro-tip: Always keep a physical copy of the final approved sample (also called a pre-production sample or counter sample) that reflects all the correct details such as design, fit, construction, and materials. I’ve heard horror stories of garment manufacturers switching out the material in the bulk production run! Having a 100% accurate approved sample (sometimes called a red tag sample) gives you leverage to discuss what went wrong and negotiate solutions such as a refund or product recall. Check out my guide on 12 types of garment samples (and which ones you actually need).
Now, let’s explore the next crucial step: communicating feedback.
When it comes to providing feedback during the garment sample evaluation, I recommend direct communication like a Zoom call or even a face-to-face meeting (if accessible!). So much misunderstanding can happen in the sampling stage, and direct conversations with the sample-making team can make everything easier. .
For remote technical designers who can’t meet in person, phone calls or video conferences are excellent options. Make sure to review and reiterate all the revision points with the sample-making team and discuss the feasibility of your suggestions. This way, you avoid multiple incorrect samples.
These discussions are excellent opportunities to share ideas and learn from the expertise of the sample-making team. Over the years, I’ve gained so many valuable insights from these interactions. Remember, regardless of your experience, there is always room for growth and learning from others.
The garment sample evaluation process may seem overwhelming, but it’s a great opportunity to bridge the gap between your creative vision and the physical realization of your design.
Use this garment sample review checklist to make sure you haven’t missed anything!
You got this!