As I’ve mentioned earlier, product development has been taking considerably longer time than I’d thought it would. I chat with our pattern maker almost daily and we’ve been going back and forth. We worked through multiple rounds of pattern revisions for the styles (especially the bell sleeve and wrap dress) to get the perfect fit for us petite ladies. I’ve also sewn many samples myself to go through the construction details of all of the LOVANIE pieces and to make faster sample revisions. And at this point, I’m happy to say that our patterns are finally ready to be made into photoshoot samples. YAY!
Given that it’s been such a long process to get here, I wanted to write a blog post to share a little bit about the prototype development steps and the behind-the-scenes of what happened after you voted on the launch collection styles. How are LOVANIE samples actually created?
When a lot of people think about “patterns” - they might think this has to do with colorful prints and patterns on the fabric. But in fashion product development, patterns refer to the “blueprint” of what you will be using to cut the fabric to be sewn. Pattern makers are extremely skilled and the right patterns can make or break the design and the fit of the garment. Patterns can be drafted on paper or in a drawing tool software. My pattern maker shared the patterns with me and then I print them out and cut them into pattern pieces before I cut the fabric. More complicated designs like the wrap dress have 13 pattern pieces! This also explains why it takes longer to develop these styles than, let’s say, a crop top, which has 4 pattern pieces.
The process for sample making and pattern making can go back and forth multiple times. The final pattern for the bell sleeve top is on its 7th revision! For sample making, the main two tasks are cut & sew.
Cut: Before I started sewing my own clothes, I didn’t realize how much time cutting takes in a production process. Cutting is also where mass production fast fashion companies can reduce a lot of costs as you can cut multiple of the same sizes at once. Whereas in a small batch or made-to-order model, you would have to cut each style and each size one at a time and there’s not much efficiency. However, the benefit is that you are not cutting unnecessary fabric and making styles that may not be sold.
Sew: There’s no “magic machine” that just churns out clothes. All of your clothes are made and sewn by real people. The seamstress needs to maneuver the cut fabric through the sewing machines and stitch all the pieces together to make a garment. At my home studio, I use two machines: a sewing machine and a serger. The sample prototype that we make acts as a guide in terms of how the style should be duplicated in production by the factory or seamstress. The garment construction affects the quality of the end results and whether it’d stand wear & tear. This depends on things like how the seams are sewn together, folding and pressing. These are little details that I look for in a production facility or skilled seamstresses that I work with for the first collection.
Grading & Tech Packs
Once the sample is finalized in a base size, then the patterns are graded in other sizes. At launch, we will be offering size XS petite to XL petite. And all of the details about the styles are documented in what we call a “tech pack”. This includes important information that a factory or production partner can use to understand what we are trying to create and is basically a manual on how to produce the garment. There are details such as the list of all the materials (fabric, thread, elastics, etc.), colorways, pattern card, construction details and guides, and the spec chart. The spec chart can be used after the samples are created or in a production quality control to check that the measurements on each part of the garments fit the specs according to their sizes.
So at this stage, I’m working with a local sewing facility in Seattle to make our photoshoot samples. We are going through the details of the garments and making sure that the tech packs make sense. I’m also sewing a few different styles myself as well.
What do you think of the development process? Do you have any questions or found anything surprising? Let me know in the comments below!