Fall is here and we are currently in production for the SS2016 season. People often ask what goes into production planning – the short answer is, a lot of time, effort and patience! It’s a long journey from the initial design concept to the finished product and I thought I’d share a bit about the process.
1) My design process: Inspiration can hit from any angle so my pencil and notebook never leave my side. It’s filled with design variations, color schemes, fabric and ideas. Since functional design is so important in endurance activewear, I’m always balancing how to be realistic and creative. I’m working with lycra/spandex after all! Once I’ve narrowed down new designs, I turn them into digital CAD illustrations. It’s much easier for me to make edits to the designs digitally.
2) Sourcing: I am constantly on the lookout for the latest fabrics, trims and materials. I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the best fabric suppliers. As a small business this can be a challenging area given I produce smaller quantities.
3) One of the primary reasons why I am in business is due to my talented production manager/pattern maker/sample maker/master-of-all- things-manufacturing, Sarah.
She’s tough, demanding and an unrelenting perfectionist with over 30 years in the garment district. I love her!
Sarah and I further narrow down my designs factoring in a number of elements – aesthetics, fit, cost to produce. She then cuts and sews samples. From here, we edit! We always go back to the drawing board multiple times, making numerous adjustments to the original designs. We see the samples on various body types and make further edits to maximize comfort, fit, and sometimes we discover unintentional “happy mistakes” that turn out to be better than the original design.
4) Once the samples are finalized we work on costing – for fabric, material, production costs and make further edits if we need to. Sometimes designs get dropped since the margins do not make sense and they are just to expensive to produce. Sarah then makes the final patterns.
5) Now begins the mad rush of ordering the final production supplies. It’s all about luck and timing since there are several different lead times to juggle. At the same time, Sarah marks and grades the patterns for sizing. This is a proprietary equation that we use for sizing based on our customers eg. determining the sizing increments between XS- S-M-L-XL etc. The toughest part about sizing activewear is that you can’t please everyone. You have to factor the combination of what works best for the overall customer demographic, their perceived sizing, and feedback from past seasons to make adjustments. It’s a work in progress!
6) Once all the supplies are delivered to the factory, Sarah takes it from here! I have no idea how she juggles all the moving pieces but she has a way of getting it done and making it look easy. Problems always arise in the production stage – need to order more supplies, sewing issues, quality control, but she handles it like a pro.
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes in to making our garments, but I am always proud of the results. It’s a learning experience every season but it’s rewarding to feel personally attached to every single piece of the finished product!