Why 5% shrinkage is fatal to a start up clothing line
The best laid plans of mice and men -are foiled by the cancellation of over 1,000 American Airlines flights. I will not be away after all. Drats. It’s not everyday that one is invited to speak at Yale. So you, my little dears, will have to put up with me this week after all. And I had nothing planned! What will I write about tomorrow? Oh I know. Something truly dreadful. It turns out that if you want to start a clothing line and you’re not doing business in the state of California but are using a California contractor, you still need a license from that state. As I said, dreadful. Till then, here’s something from my mail:
I am totally misunderstanding something about shrinkage, it seems. I have read your book and searched the forum, but my pattern maker says I should be concerned since my potential manufacturer doesn’t press the garments and I was going to do the shrink testing at home in my washer and dryer. She said, “You could wash and dry a sample (as the end customer would do) to evaluate how much a specific fabric shrinks…. but if it’s more than 3% I would strongly advise that you look for other options.”
I’m thinking of using a 90/10 cotton/lycra knit. What am I not understanding here that makes her so concerned? Is there a book, posting or something else you could point me to so I can figure out what to do here? I keep thinking is if I wash and dry it according to my content label instructions (wash cold/machine dry), I don’t see why that wouldn’t give me enough information to go on.
I think this is a miscommunication between the two of you because I know your pattern maker is highly competent. I couldn’t reach her on the phone to confer with her or get permission to link to her, so I called Patternworks because they deal with shrinkage more often than I do.
Humberto said it was good that she mentioned the 3%; there’s a specific reason for it. He said that stores known to have good standards (like Penney’s and Nordstrom’s) have rules on the amount of shrinkage that can be passed onto the customer. Specifically, the maximum is 3%.
Sure, you can test your fabric at home according to the content label instructions to get a baseline for your patterns to be cut for shrinkage but if your contractor won’t press them and you’re not garment washing before shipping, you need to have other options. Which is what your pattern maker said. Unfortunately, you’ll have to do one of three things:
- Get another contractor who will press or hire a separate contractor for the pressing
- Garment washing
- Purchasing another fabric with less shrinkage
Humberto says the customer is responsible for fabric testing (see how to measure shrinkage). In other words, so while you can test at home, if the goods shrink more than 3%, you need an alternative of pre-shrinking before you ship the finished products. Humberto says there’s a lot of difference between goods. He says they recently used a fabric from Italy and didn’t see any variation (he sounded amazed). He said that the fabric costs $15 a yard too. Lastly, maybe you have some wiggle-room depending on styling. If your items are loose and boxy like a muu muu, few consumers will notice. If the style is fitted, you’ll have to go the extra mile or else they’ll get returned.
I was thinking of doing this on all three colors (black, red, fuchsia) I’m intending to use – possibly removing or changing some colorways if they shrink very differently from the others. I’m hoping I can use one pattern for all my colorways.
I’m chuckling. Can you hear me? It is unlikely you’ll be able to use one pattern for all colorways. Maybe you can use the same pattern for the red and fuchsia but I’d bet money you need a separate pattern for the black. It won’t be that big a deal though. Your pattern maker has a CAD system. The shrinkage adjustment is very easy!
What am I not understanding here? I have a horrible feeling it is going to turn out to be something big and expensive.
Well, I don’t think it’ll be as dramatic as all that but one way or another, it’s going to cost you a little more. But it won’t bury you. Unless of course you take a chance and ship unshrunk. I suppose you could tell your customer on the hang tag that the garment will shrink x amount but they may not read it and buy the wrong size.
I finally got a hold of your pattern maker. Rocio says that if it shrinks too much, customers will get the impression that this is just another cheap product line. She says anything over 5% is going to ruin the reputation of your brand.