Sampling: Expectation vs. Reality

The sampling stage is one of the most exciting parts of building out your line. It’s when you’re finally able to see, touch, feel (and maybe even wear if it’s in your size!) a real garment that you’ve poured months of work and $$$ in to create.

And then you get your first round of samples and you’re totally underwhelmed and unimpressed.

Good Morning/Evening/Whenever and welcome to a class on what to expect when receiving your first samples.

There’s a pretty decent chance that your first samples may look like they came from Frankenstein’s wardrobe.

And that is totally normal.

Your pattern-maker wasn’t on drugs (we hope).

Your sample-maker isn’t blind (we assume).

Let’s break down the process so you can understand why you received a dumpster-dive-worthy garment when you were expecting a piece you could strut down a runway (or at least brag about to your friends).

There is a reason we sample before we order 20,000 yards of one fabric and 50,000 buttons and jump right into production. It takes time to tweak and mould your garment into it’s best self. Let’s look at why.

  • This is the first time the pattern-maker and sample-maker are working with your garments. Even something like a basic shirt can be tedious if the fabric you’ve chosen to use is reacting completely different to the sewer’s needle – it’s slipping all over the place in some areas and catching in others. It takes the team time to adjust and learn about how best to handle your garments.
  • Some of the design details/crazy seaming you HAD to have (even after we suggested they might not be the best choice, functionally) are funkin’ things up. There may be times we need to go back to the design board and tweak the design/tech pack. There’s a reason you can’t re-create the wheel. It’s already perfect, and trying to be artsy about it won’t result in anything other than….a terrible first sample and then going back to the original design of the wheel.
  • Fabric choice plays a key role in your designs and the look you are trying to achieve. For example, you can’t have a structured, tailored garment and use a slinky knit fabric. It’s just not going to work. But you don’t listen to us and we try it anyway. And then get mad when your samples aren’t cute.
  • If you receive a sample that is totally off and doesn’t even resemble the design you had in mind, it’s time to take things up with your tech packer (because we assume, in this scenario, we didn’t make your tech pack). After a designer has completed your tech pack, it’s a good idea to have them walk you through the design and construction details to ensure it is what you had in mind for your garment.

The sampling phase is one of trial and error.

You’re in it for the long game. Rome wasn’t built in a day, yadda yadda. Don’t expect perfection right out of the gate – it’s not fair to the team helping build your line, nor is it fair to you. Understand that it takes time to tweak and perfect.

I always let my clients know that they can expect about 2-3 rounds of sampling, even for things like a basic tee.

And guess what? Sometimes something may not work at all and need to be totally scrapped. It’s just part of the business. If you can’t stomach that possibility, you’re in the wrong business, baby.