Quality control is an often overlooked (and non-glamourous) part of garment manufacturing.
The truth is – there’s a lot of technical work that goes into making garments, from the initial design concept to the final delivery.
And quality control is a huge part of that, ensuring every seam, stitch, and fit meets the required standards.
If you’re curious about how quality control in garment manufacturing works, then you’re in the right place.
In this article, I’ll delve into the importance of quality control in garment manufacturing, explore different methods of conducting quality checks, address challenges, and guide you on navigating this process. Because whether you’re an in-house designer, freelance fashion designer, or starting your own brand, you need to understand the quality control process.
Why am I qualified to write about this stuff? In my 15 years of experience in the fashion industry, I’ve journeyed from being an in-house designer, starting my own brand (yep!), to growing my freelance career to $100,000+. Now, with all the knowledge I’ve learned along the way, I want to help fashion designers (and PDs, TDs, etc.) like you make it in the industry.
Quality control in garment manufacturing is a set of systematic procedures that ensures a product meets required standards.
It involves processes from inspecting the materials, checking for fabric defects, ensuring production methods, and reviewing the finished goods to identify and address any inconsistencies from the desired specifications.
If you’re sick of dealing with negative feedback on your product review page, quality control is not something you want to take lightly. And at its worst, product returns and recalls due to quality control failure are not only a big expense to fashion brands, but also impact the brand’s name negatively.
An efficient garment quality control helps nip these issues right in the bud.
There are several ways to ensure quality during garment manufacturing. These can be sorted into the different stages of production – during pre-production, while in production, and upon finishing production.
While each method of quality control inspection has a different goal, having these checkpoints throughout the entirety of the garment manufacturing process ensures potential issues are taken care of early, avoiding further complications down the line.
This phase involves a series of steps to ensure that all necessary quality requirements are met before actual production begins. Thorough inspection and assessment are done on the materials, equipment, and samples before they get approved for manufacturing.
Examples of Pre-production Quality Control Methods include:
In-line Quality Control takes place during the manufacturing process itself. For example, in-line quality control can be done during fabric cutting, sewing and assembly, finishing, and so on. This method ensures that potential defects are identified and fixed in real-time, minimizing the likelihood of large-scale quality issues later on.
Examples of In-line Quality Control Methods include:
Post Production Quality Inspection is the final step of quality checking done before garments are packaged for delivery. This phase involves a comprehensive inspection to verify that the finished products meet the desired quality standards and get green light for distribution.
Examples of Post Production Quality Control Methods include:
Honestly, I’ve gone through loootsss of quality control issues that I almost wanted to do the inspection myself.
Kidding aside, there are people in charge of doing this work. And especially for remote freelance fashion designers working for brands around the world – knowing who’s responsible for these tasks is important.
Let’s explore some potential candidates.
Oftentimes, manufacturers have their own team of quality inspectors in their factories. They can be tasked to check every step of the production process – from fabric spreading, garment assembly, up until final inspection. However, while it’s highly convenient to have QC inspectors from the manufacturer, a lot of fashion brands worry about bias and inconsistencies when it comes to using the factory’s own inspectors.
True Story: I once evaluated a poorly fitting garment with “perfect” dimensions as per the manufacturer’s measurements. My instinct prompted me to cross-check these measurements, and to my surprise, they were way off tolerance. And I’m not saying all manufacturers are like this, but it’s really important to be proactive when it comes to quality checking.
Hiring a third-party inspector can provide a more unbiased view towards garment quality checking. While it is possible to hire individuals or teams and train them up to do quality control inspection, there are also existing organizations that offer these services and may follow international standards set by organizations such as the ISO (International Organization for Standardization).
Larger brands may employ in-house inspectors who oversee the entire manufacturing process right from selecting raw materials to approving the finished products. This hands-on approach involves continuous monitoring and a well-established feedback system, enhancing overall product quality through on-going refinements.
Pro Tip: Big fashion brands may deploy not only one but two or all of the quality control methods mentioned above. Deciding which one to use for your fashion brand ultimately depends on your own circumstances including your size, budget, proximity, and overall goal for the brand.
Implementing best practices for quality control can offer you reassurance and confidence (and help you sleep peacefully at night!) – knowing that your products meet the quality standards and are made to last.
Here are the reasons why you should do it now rather than later.
Here are some tips to keep your quality control processes in check.
Quality control in garment manufacturing isn’t just a single step; it’s a series of processes that lay a solid foundation for manufacturing and growth. While these processes may take time and effort, they save you from much more trouble in the long run.
Your dedication to this process shapes not only your garments but also your brand’s reputation in this highly competitive industry.
In the garment industry, Quality Control (QC) involves inspecting products to ensure they meet set standards. Quality Assurance (QA), on the other hand, focuses on improving production processes to prevent defects.
Quality control methods span pre-production, in-line, and post-production stages. Examples include materials inspection, sample testing, fabric shrinkage, color fastness tests, random inspections, dimensional checks, stitching inspection, functionality testing, appearance assessment, and more.
Quality control inspections can be carried out by the manufacturer’s internal team, a third-party inspector, or in-house quality inspectors employed by larger brands. Each option has its advantages, from convenience to unbiased evaluation.
I’m Heidi, and I believe that you can do things differently in your fashion career.
Because the truth is, most industry jobs will underpay and overwork you. Having your own brand is far from profitable (and let’s be honest, most of them fail).
So if you ACTUALLY want to work as a fashion designer and get paid, the best way to do it is as a freelancer.
Now, maybe you’ve been told that “brands don’t accept remote freelancers”…
Or believe that freelancing means being an exploited temp employee working full time without benefits…
Or to freelance, you have to be a rockstar expert with allll the skills from design through development
I’m going to show that it IS possible to be a REAL freelancer in fashion, work remotely with brands you love, AND make money (even if you’re terrified you don’t have all the answers).