I have a prototype but I don’t have a pattern

By definition (see the preceding entry), you cannot have a prototype if you don’t have a pattern. It is impossible. I do not doubt you have a nicely constructed sample of what you envision your product to look like and perhaps even rough figures on fabric needs and maybe even an idea of what it will cost to sew it up -although I strongly doubt the latter. This is why:

If you do not have a pattern, you cannot know the amount of fabric needed nor the costs of production with any degree of certainty. The reason I say this is because although you may have hired a skilled operator to wing a sample for you but this person could not come up with a pattern for you, it is likewise probable that any figures or calculations of allocation or cost estimates are not verifiable either. If they could have verified all that, they would or could have provided a pattern as the first step.

This does not mean you shouldn’t hire someone to mock up a version of what you have in mind -but it’s not a prototype. A prototype is a benchmark of reproducibility. If you don’t have a pattern, by definition it can’t be reproduced.

This is no different than hiring a whiz kid to do some experiments for you in a lab and even if the whiz ends up with promising results, it’s a waste because nobody else can reproduce the results because the whiz kid isn’t so hot on documentation. That’s what a pattern is -reproducibility. The prototype itself is a proof of the pattern’s reproducibility. If the pattern doesn’t produce the intended results, you don’t have a prototype. The prototype is the first product to roll off the line as it were but under more controlled circumstances than later units will be.

All of the above inspired by one person who wrote me saying:

I am not yet at the stage where I would have a pattern made. What I really need is someone to help me create a prototype design that I can use for marketing purposes.

As you may imagine, it terrified me. Okay, not terrified but you know what I mean. As it happens, I suspect this person thought I was trying to get more money out of him which was a complete miscommunication because I was trying to help him even though I didn’t want the job. Just another example of no good deed going unpunished. And you all wonder why people never write you back.

This person -no person- can use a mock up (it’s a mock up, not a prototype) of their idea for marketing purposes. If you only have a mock up with no firm idea of costing, just how can you market it? Let’s say you have a magic wand and end up with a sewn sample that is exactly what you had intended without a pattern. Without firm costing figures, how are you going to market it?? Wag the item in people’s faces, play coy when it comes to pricing because you think they’re going to snatch it out of your hands, salivate over it and beg to buy it at any price? Seriously?

For what it’s worth in the case of this man’s product idea, it has been done before. Repeatedly. It’s available for sale from various manufacturers. Does this mean his idea isn’t viable? Hardly. However, because it’s been done before, it is incumbent upon a newcomer to buy the range of existing products in the marketplace to survey the competition. The first step in this case is not to re-invent the wheel; it is to take competing product ideas to someone like -dare I say- a pattern maker for an assessment of whether their idea is worth pursuing based on the limitations they may have. For example, they don’t have the means to take a lot of orders so they can’t get a lower quote on production, or they plan to do it domestically or whatever.

You know what the biggest problem is with people? Not that they are too stupid but that they are too smart. As I’ve said before:

Being smarter means they’re more skilled at defending their opinions, if only to themselves… Now they may be right and I may be wrong but like I always say, it’s more typical to go broke slowly in this business than quickly. It used to upset me greatly to watch people do this to themselves but I can’t save everyone. Someone who is drowning will want a larger flotation device when I think they should first cut off the anvil tied to their legs…

In conclusion: there is nothing wrong with hiring somebody (say a skilled home sewer) to help you mock up a concept even if they can’t make a pattern but that is a far cry from having a prototype you can use to market with. If the cost of services are low, you can save money over having hired a pro. However, it can be dicey. Some people who sew from home are really expensive. I know one lady who charges $85 an hour while most professional services cannot justify charging more than $25-$35 an hour. Anyway, if you find someone who sews from home with reasonable rates and has time to help you develop it, be mindful that you will need to take those mock ups to someone else to have a pattern and a prototype made. Again, keep in mind that the first sample a pro makes is not a prototype. It is only a prototype if it meets all the proofs of benchmarking. Once you have a prototype, then you can market it but not until then.

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