THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS CAN BE DAUNTING
If you’re a freelancer or new designer trying to figure out what to include in a tech pack, you’re in the right place! Snag the free fashion tech pack template here, plus step by step video tutorials on exactly how to use it. I’ve used this template to successfully produce thousands of garments, and it’s customizable for any product.
If you’re starting your own label from zero or supporting startups as a freelancer, going into production is intimidating. Sourcing fabric, finding a factory, and then putting together a fashion tech pack (a term you only recently learned) is intimidating.
Or maybe you’re working for a brand, and while past seasons went into development without tech packs (you were manufacturing locally), you know errors in sampling and production would be minimized if you spent the time to put these “blueprints” together.
But you make excuses that you don’t have the time to learn and tell yourself it can wait.
BUT WHAT IF TECH PACKS WEREN’T THAT HARD (OR SCARY)?
You stare at the google search bar wondering what to type in to get started. “How to create a fashion tech pack” gives you some results (some of them are even mine!).
So you click through to the various tutorials, read blog posts on Maker’s Row and Startup Fashion. It feels like you’re making progress!
But when it comes to actually putting your tech packs together – you still have questions.
And you have no one to ask.
So your frustration builds.
Which is why I created this guide.
To answer questions like what is a tech pack is? What does a tech pack include? Exactly how do I assemble all the pieces and parts?
I’ve even included step by step video tutorials to help you with every part of the tech pack process, and my free tech pack template that you can use for any design to create a polished, professional tech pack for your freelance clients or your clothing line!
Before we get to that, let’s go through some of the essentials to make sure you’re solid on what a tech pack is and why you need one.
Note: This article references terms and abbreviations you may not be familiar with…but don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with the Ultimate Guide to Fashion Industry Terminology & Abbreviations. Use it as reference for a complete understanding of what a fashion tech pack is and all the things that go into it.
Good? Ok, now let’s get some of the essentials out of the way.
What is a tech pack?
A tech pack is a blueprint or spec sheet to get your designs made. Think of it like an instruction manual with the exact steps and materials required to manufacture your product.
What’s the goal of a tech pack?
With a complete tech pack, the factory should be able to make your entire product perfectly without having to ask any questions. The goal is to minimize the number of protos / samples, decrease costs and speed up production time. It also serves as a master document to track production development including comments, revisions and changes made.
As a freelancer, producing complete, professional tech packs means factories will take you seriously, your clients will be happy, and you’ll be able to charge more!
Why do I need a fashion tech pack?
If you’re working with a FPP (Full Package Production) factory, they can help you create your fashion tech pack. But if you’re working with a CMT (Cut Make Trim) factory, they’ll expect you to provide one. If you show up empty handed, they’ll see it as a red flag that you’re unprofessional or don’t know what you’re doing. Most of them won’t give you the time of day.
Think of it like the instructions you get from Ikea. Without a step by step guide, how would you know how to assemble a bunch of wood, nails and screws?
Or what if you got a photo of a finished product and were told to make it? How would you know what materials to use? What size the pockets should be and where exactly they go on the product? What the inside of the garment looks like?
This is exactly why you need a tech pack.
Now, before you go any further, stop!
BEFORE YOU GET ANY FURTHER, DOWNLOAD THE FREE TECH PACK TEMPLATE TO FOLLOW ALONG!
Got it? Good! Now you’re ready to proceed.
So first things first. What the heck even goes in a fashion tech pack!?
Here’s the quick checklist. Don’t worry, we’ll go into each part in detail. But to get started, let’s do a 10,000 foot overview.
Your tech pack should include these 6-7 parts:
- A cover page
- Tech Sketches
- A BOM (Bill of Materials)
- A Graded Spec
- Colorway Specs
- Artwork Specs (if relevant)
- A spot for proto / sample / fit comments
Not sure what all of that means? That’s ok! Let’s take a look at each one, complete with tutorials on how to assemble all of them…starting now.
A Cover Page
A cover page is an overview of your design. This page should include high level details about your design with a finished color flat sketch. This includes:
- The Brand’s Name & Contact
- Style Name / Number
- COO (Country of Origin)
It also includes an area to track any changes or revisions.
Your tech pack acts as a living breathing document to track the entire product development process, so anytime you or your clients make any change (no matter how small), you’ll want to make a note of that in your fashion tech pack. Best practice is to note what you changed something from and what you changed it to and a reason, if applicable. This helps keep your factory accountable and responsible for implementing all changes. In the worst case scenario that they mess up in production (it happens), you can often use your tech pack as leverage for negotiating.
Example: “Changed decorative side seam stitch from contrast color to tonal per request of Design Director.”
Here’s an example of a tech pack cover page:
Tech sketches are flat black and white sketches with text callouts to specify design details. They should include every detail from stitching and trims to construction techniques and placements and are most commonly drawn in Adobe Illustrator. You may need to show more than one angle (front, back, side, inside) or closeup sketches.
The best practice is to create them using layers in Illustrator. Here’s exactly how to do that:
Once you’ve finished your sketches in AI, this is how you want to bring them into your tech pack in Excel:
Here’s an example of a flat sketch page in your tech pack:
A BOM (Bill of Materials)
A BOM is the master list of every physical item required to create your finished product and where it goes on the product. This includes everything from fabric and labels to hangers and poly bags.
(Psst! Wondering where you get all this info? The suppliers you buy your fabric and other materials from will have them. Here are the exact fabric details to include.)
This can be one of the most tedious parts of the tech pack to fill in, especially if you’re creating product with lots of details and trims like outerwear or complex bags.
One of the best tricks to fill in the BOM is to reference a similar product in the market. Examine it closely and make sure your BOM includes every material used, whether it’s on the outside or inside of your product (even on the very inside like interfacing or elastic), or part of the packaging materials.
It also helps to close your eyes and do a mental scan of your design in your mind. Envision each and every part of your product as it would look when it leaves the factory (remember, this includes things like hangers, tissue paper, cardboard inserts for stability, etc.) and make sure you’ve included all materials in your BOM.
Here’s an example of a tech pack BOM:
A Graded Spec
A graded spec is a chart of POMs (Points of Measure) for your product in all sizes.
It’s crucial to how your garment will fit and should be created by a technical designer or pattern maker, so unless you’re skilled in this area, it can be best to hire a freelancer who specializes in pattern grading.
I personally don’t create graded specs, and it’s ok if you don’t either. Remember, you don’t have to know how to do everything!
If you do want to learn more about Graded Specs so you’re familiar with how they work, The Spec Manual by Michele Wesen Bryant and Diane DeMers is the best (and only one that I know of) reference book. Check out the video below to see why it’s a must have for fashion designers:
Once you have all the numbers from a technical designer or pattern maker, here’s exactly how to use Excel to auto-calculate your grade rules to avoid any math mistakes or make sure your sizing auto updates if you do make any changes:
The colorway specs show each of the colorways and what color goes where in the garment. Pantone is the most common color reference in the industry and what most designers use to spec colors for their designs.
After you’ve loaded Pantone colors into your AI workspace, use this video to quickly create colorways that you can add to your tech pack:
Here’s an example of a tech pack colorway page:
Artwork Specs (if relevant)
Shows details for any textile patterns or prints including colors, scale, repeat, placement, etc. I typically spec these in Illustrator and provide the factory with native artwork for development.
If you’re working with repeating patterns, you can spec them like this:
If you’re working with placed / engineered artwork or cut and sew panels, use this trick to mock them up at full scale to make sure they execute correctly in production:
Here’s an example of a tech pack artwork page for a repeating pattern:
A Spot for Proto / Fit / Sales Sample Comments
Since your tech pack serves as a master document for tracking, these are pages you will enter measurements / comments / approvals / rejections about various samples (protos, fit sample, sales sample, photo sample, etc).
It’s common to include photos of samples marked up with comments to communicate changes or construction issues. Be sure to also highlight any measurements that are out of tolerance so the factory can easily see corrections that need to be made.
You can duplicate this page as many times as you need for however many samples you get.
Don’t trick yourself into thinking that tiny comments can “just be made in email” because it’s quicker!
No matter how small, any feedback to the factory about samples should be made right in the tech pack. Trust me – two months or two years down the road, you won’t remember the comment and probably won’t be able to find the email. It’s just too easy for things to get lost this way!
Here’s an example of a tech pack proto comments page:
So there you have it. All the various pieces and parts of a tech pack plus step by step videos of how to put them together.
I know it feels like a lot of moving pieces and parts + industry terminology to wrap your head around. Instead of getting overwhelmed and worrying how everyone else does their tech packs or what the best way is, start by understanding the components and pieces of a tech pack that I outlined above. How you assemble them is ultimately up to you – and once you’ve created a few, you’ll figure out a system that works best.
You’ll probably even start having dreams about them. Guarantee it 😉
You got this – and I’m here to help make sure you succeed.