From Designers must know

7 tips to better photos for fittings

1 nice_but_useless_ftting_photoWhen communicating desired fitting or design changes to a pattern maker -or even to use as a record of your progress- it is critical to take useful photographs. Taking the time to take good photographs can reduce your costs and your provider's frustration. If a fitting problem cannot be analyzed from a photo, it is not likely to be corrected quickly and will end up costing you more money and time. Toward that end, here are guidelines to taking photos for fitting that are sure to please everyone.

Setting up the fitting photo shoot doesn't require professional photographers and you don't need an expensive camera -as long as you have a steady hand and a cell phone that takes pictures. You will also need lighting that is bright enough to eliminate shadows. The photos I'm using as examples were taken with an older iPhone and the less than optimal shop lighting here, but even so, these photos are (tragically) 99% better than many of the photos I get from customers. Two other things to keep in mind are your model and to minimize distracting backgrounds. You wouldn't realize it but I've had backgrounds that were so noisy that I couldn't see clear outlines of the garment.

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Bewildered by sewing factory services?

In Bewildered by pattern services?, I explained how the industry has traditionally used pattern services, and how technology and trends have created sourcing difficulties for new entrants today. Much of the same applies to sewing contract services too and I'll explain that now. As an aside: a re-read of this topic before publishing dictates you must understand what "manufacturer" means or none of this is going to make sense. For the record, the party (usually you, AKA the DE or designer entrepreneur) who is responsible for creation of the product, is the manufacturer. Manufacturer and contractor are not interchangeable terms anymore than cyst and tumor are mix and match (more). Moving on...

In the olden days, most manufacturers did all of their own sewing under their own roofs. We did have sewing contractors too but their role was nothing like what it is today. The function of a sewing contractor was to handle the overflow from established manufacturers during peak times of production. Using contractors was the only way that manufacturers could avoid hiring people for the busy season, only to lay them off once production leveled off.

During the post war boom of 1950's, land values increased and since cutting takes up so much square footage (100 foot long tables were and are, not unheard of), cutting services were the first spin off. This was most common in New York City; manufacturers there, moved cutting operations into New Jersey. Later on, these facilities became stand alone operations that did cutting for a variety of producers. The fabric was sent to NJ and then the cut pieces were trucked back to the city for sewing.

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Bewildered by pattern services?

confused_fi_jpgAre you bewildered by pattern services? Have you been frustrated and wondered:

  • Why can you only find pattern makers who make patterns or grade patterns, but not both?
  • Why won't my pattern maker make markers?
  • Why won't pattern makers illustrate my designs?
  • Why won't pattern makers write sewing instructions?
  • Why won't pattern makers make samples?
  • Why don't pattern makers just know how my patterns should be graded?
  • Why can't pattern makers tell me where to buy fabric?
  • Why wouldn't a pattern maker have pattern making software?

You're suffering and it's not your imagination; the market for pattern services is [seemingly] schizophrenic. Understanding why can reduce your frustration and enable you to ask better questions to find the best provider for your needs. But first, a short history lesson which explains the legacy of what ails us -which is the only clue to a cure.

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8 reasons you can’t use retail fabric for production

Please note that this applies to fabric for production. I realize that not everyone has the option to buy full bolts wholesale when they're first starting out or even know how to buy wholesale fabric . This post is intended to help you understand that the fabric store is not a long term strategy. For many, it's not even a short term option. Read on to see where you fit in.

1. Continuity
You have no guarantee that fabric you buy at the store (or from a jobber) will be available if you need to reorder. If you want to guarantee supply, you'll be forced to tie up money to buy fabric for a product that may not sell through. Experienced practitioners design based on sample fabrics and then order for production if sales interest is sufficient (the process is explained in my book). It's hard enough to make a go of this without tying up your capital in aging fabric inventory. Seen eBay lately? That's where everyone who went broke are offloading their inventory.

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How much thread does the factory need for samples?

thread_spools_lets_beadI'll bet you all thought I'd run away and joined the circus... it's been crazy busy, same as every December. That reminds me; if you're looking for services, responses will be slow or maybe even non-existent until the end of January or midway into February. Timing is everything. Be persistent.
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Some errors that DEs make are so cute that they make me giggle. Not sending enough thread is one of them. Context is that we're discussing thread for samples or prototypes, not production (by production, you won't be making this error). Typically, the designer has taken great pains to put their package together—to include what they would consider "extra" thread—because the designer figures the garment couldn't possibly use more than the total linear feet of one spool. The number of sewn inches is immaterial which is why I think the thread oversight in sampling is cute.

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Where and how do you start a design business?

The cut to the chase answer to the question of where and how do you start a design business depends on your goals.

But first, this needs to be tied into last week's entry What kind of designer are you? because the intention of this series is to make suggestions for self learning to help you get to wherever it is you want to be. To do that, you need to articulate where you want to be because as the old proverb says, if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.

About goals -this being an entrepreneurship blog- let's assume you intend to generate a profit. Within that spectrum, there is a wide range of possibilities. Obviously there is overlap but I break this down into four main categories:

  1. The dilettante: one who aspires to a bit of pin money,
  2. the income replacer: one who needs income equivalent to a job -or maybe even a bit extra,
  3. the merchant: those who need to support their family and their employees families with the business,
  4. corporate: one who aspires to scale; growing their business to whatever limits there are.

There are more traditional size classifications such as local, regional, national and international but those largely don't apply in this business anymore. For example, I'm a 2 (income replacer) aspiring to be a 3 (merchant) but my reach is international and has been since I was a 1 (the latter due more to circumstances than intent).

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Why it takes so long for people to get back to you

This is a very frequent complaint so I thought I'd explain a few things -this of course precludes situations in which someone (heaven forbid) is ignoring you. [As an aside, if you are trying to start a relationship and are having difficulty getting someone's attention, see 5 questions every designer must answer (revisited), and why people don't return your calls.]

If the schedule is moving too slowly for you, it could indicate miscommunication. It is possible the ball is in your court and the other party is waiting on you but you don't realize it. Or, your partner didn't hear back from you within an optimal (for them) time frame so your job was culled but I'll get more into that further down. For now, here is a list of action items requiring your attention before work on your project will be resumed (or started). If the service provider has asked for any of the following items:

  • Money
  • Fabric
  • Patterns
  • Samples
  • More (key) information (size specs, sketches etc)
  • Work Order or work modification instructions
  • Approvals of any kind

your job is likely not being processed. It's being warehoused. So, don't assume your job is underway, it may have been shelved waiting on one or more of the above. Your job may also be stalled and pending your action if the service provider has done any of these things:

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Sample cutting and sewing costs pt.3

Following up from part one and then part two,

Switching gears, I intended to explain two other reasons why sample cutting can cost more than one would hope.

  1. We cut more pieces than one would in many sample or design rooms, and
  2. it depends on the provider's infrastructure.

A. RTW products have more guts. One easy example is fusibles and or sew in canvas. In the average design studio (or even home sewing), these aren't used to the same extent. For example, it is rare for one to cut fusibles for a zipper inset area but this is done routinely in better RTW. We also fuse hems, fold lines and make chest pads, stays and what have you. To give you a better example of what I mean, I created what I'm calling a Fuse Map for a sportcoat which should be self explanatory.

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