How to Fill in a Basic Tech Pack to Start Sampling
This is an excerpt from my free ebook. If you like this preview, you can download the full version (with all the explanation and even more pictures) plus templates from my Ebooks & Templates section!
Look up 'tech pack' on Google, and you'll find countless examples of templates, all of them somewhat different from each other. Some will look quite plain; others will have a lot of arrows and explanations; some will have tons of visuals, with reference pictures for every part of the garment; and others will make you feel like designing is all about making Excel spreadsheets.
When faced with all of this, something that initially might have felt very exciting and fun to you—launching your own clothing line—might now just seem overwhelming or even boring, which could easily kill the motivation of an aspiring designer.
While there are indeed many different ways to make a tech pack and there is always a lot to learn on the technical side, for a new designer or startup, it is okay not to have everything figured out in the beginning. This is something I can say from my own experience working in product development:
There has never been a single instance where I could make a tech pack off the top of my head, without stopping to do some research, compare measurements, and ask for feedback...because in my line of work, I'm always doing something new!
I wrote this as a quick tech pack walkthrough to help anyone whose fashion dreams have hit a snag because they don’t know how or where to start.
The templates and techniques shown here are the ones that I use myself. Instead of focusing on getting all the technical information up to "industry standards" (Remember all those examples on Google? Those so-called standards can vary wildly!), you can focus on doing your own research to find the references for materials, finishings, details, and so on that will apply to your designs. That way, you can have at least a draft to kickstart your manufacturing process.
Even if you're not cutting and sewing everything yourself, it is still going to be a long process, so you might as well have fun with it!
1. Cover Page or Overview
This is the page that will tell your manufacturer what you want to make. It sounds obvious, and it should be. In fact, everything in a tech pack should be painfully straightforward, so as to avoid any misunderstandings and delays.
It should have obvious information such as style name or description, sample size, and flat sketches / specs, and less obvious details such as deadlines and the contact information of the technical designer or product developer who made the tech pack.
Including your logo and the collection name or season is a nice way to make your tech pack look more professional and is very helpful for keeping track of your orders; also, do include at least an estimated order quantity.
Technical sidebar on fabric:
Rather than being too specific about things such as fabric composition (because you saw it on another brand or at a fabric store), adding reference pictures and a broader description is a good idea. Making a note for the factory to send similar fabric swatches for selection can also serve as both an excellent research tool for your design process and as a tool to negotiate prices. Even if you don't use them right away, you can put them into a folder and start a fabric catalogue.
In most cases, there isn't one, single fabric that can do the whole job, especially when a manufacturer has access to a virtually infinite number of options from a number of suppliers.
If you're too fixated on something that you saw at a luxury brand's runway show or from a famous high street brand, be ready to make an extra effort to either find a manufacturer that can deliver the same quality at a cost and order quantity that can fit your budget, or source the materials yourself (and ship them to a CMT: Cut, Make, and Trim factory).
A quick way to estimate the cost of a garment based on its retail price is to consider a 2.5x markup, so:
production cost x markup = full retail price
production cost x 2.5 = $100 - - -> production cost = $40
So don't expect to sell your design for $45 and have the same quality as something that costs $40 to produce.
CMT Manufacturer: A factory that will cut, make, and trim your garment. You are the one supplying materials and patterns. Most of the local sewing factories I worked with in Brazil fit in this category, and they were usually more flexible concerning order quantities, so you can try finding them in your area's Garment District.
Garment District: A neighborhood / zone / area that concentrates sewing factories, fabric mills, or importers / suppliers, fashion design schools, studios, etc. A big city might have more than one, and you may find out that your region specializes in a certain kind of product (knitwear, swimwear, denim, etc). Try to call a few places and start asking around. Even if they can't help you, they'll probably know another business that can.
2. Construction Details
This is where I include important details on how to make the actual garment.
Depending on the design, it won't have a lot of information besides the flat sketches, but since your sample is going to be cut and made from scratch, any details that you think will make it stand out can be explained here.
It's not even necessary to know all the technical names (forgetfulness happens!). In many cases, the factory will request additional pictures or even an actual sample of what you're trying to produce. (More on that in the next section.)
Note that I've included two options for the reflective patches. You don't always need to do that, and sometimes it will be the manufacturer suggesting different options that they may have access to. This is just one example of how a tech pack doesn't need to be a 100% finalized document, since designs are always subject to change during the sampling stage.
3. Measurement Guidelines
Size requirements for your sample go on this page, as indicated by the arrows and descriptions on the specs (a.k.a. Point of Measurements or POM).
Your size will depend on your target customer and on your fitting model, i.e. the person trying on the first sample. If that's you or a friend, the best practice is to base these measurements on your own garments (measured flat on a table, no warping or stretching!), then customize them to suit your own design.
Since I mainly work remotely and with startups, I try to draw these POM arrows over the flat sketches in a way that makes it easy to visualize how the measurements should be taken; I also call them guidelines, as I consider that the factory will make the patterns based on their own pattern blocks, so some adjustments might happen.
For complex designs that are not readily available as blocks or not easy to understand with flat sketches alone, this page will most likely be attached to an actual sample provided by you. The factory will then use them to trace your patterns with the adjustments noted on the tech pack.
4. Customization Info
This page can look a lot like 2. Construction Details.
Ideally, I leave all the specifications on printing and embroidery techniques, sizes, placement, and so on for this page. Instructions on how to cut, sew, and finish the garment go on page 2. Sometimes I'll even spread the information out on other pages, if I think there's too much going on.
A sensible dose of OCD is the best practice here. If it looks confusing to you, the mastermind behind the design, then it probably will be confusing for the development team on the manufacturer's side.
5. Materials Map by Colorway
Again, as I work with startups, I always advise my clients not to break down their order in too many color variations, since each colorway will count as an entirely different design, and thus an entirely different order. This means that if the manufacturer's MOQ is 70 pieces per design, for 3 different colorways, that will be a bulk order of 210 pieces.
Also, many times I can do with just specifying the fabric on the header, and the colors on the Cover Page or Overview.
You might still find it better to include this page if you want to be specific about what kind of trimmings (buttons, fasteners, drawstrings, etc) will be used on your garment, or if you are using a different thread quality or color.
This is also where many technical designers will include information on special fabric treatments, such as antibacterial finish or moisture wicking (“Dri Fit”).
Once the final sample is approved and everything is ready for production, it is common to use an Excel chart to keep records of who is supplying the materials and what they are—from fabric and trimmings, to thread type, labels, and packages—or to use supply chain management software developed specifically for this task.
6. Labeling Info
Have you ever been to a small local brand and found out that the labels are hand-stitched on some pieces and machine stitched on others? Have you found that some have the size tag attached to the brand label, and yet some have the size tag attached somewhere else, and still others have no size tag at all?
This is, in most cases, not on purpose.
This is one of those times when you might feel that tech packs are a neverending job of minutiae, and maybe you're going to develop your labels with another supplier, but by all means do find a way to include your branding on your final product!
I mean, maybe. It depends on your design and the manufacturer you're working with (I wonder how many times I've repeated or will repeat this...).
There are a few more sections that you may need to add, but at this point you’d better stop reading and start doing: make some sketches, look up fabric and trimmings, contact a manufacturer. Only then will you know what your next step is.
Stick around for more Product Development 101 posts if you liked learning about the technical stuff.
If you find that this is all going to take too much of your time, by all means hire a designer! You're an entrepreneur now; you get to decide how to use your time to be more productive.