Trust no Tech Pack template
Back when I decided to be a full-time freelancer, my most reliable source of income was making tech packs for the new clients of an apparel manufacturer.
Once in a while I'd receive challenging requests that would require more research and imagination on my part to figure out how to explain things to our sampling room, but mostly people would come asking for the same stuff, inspired by the same brands. I already knew it'd be Gymshark for joggers and hoodies, Lululemon for leggings, something from HBX or John Elliott for more upscale Streetwear, so I had the most brilliant idea that would get me out of a dead-end job doing repetitive work and into the fabulous world of Passive Income:
I'm going to sell Tech Pack templates!!!
It was a no-brainer, and with a little discipline I'd be done with the templates before I could even say “I'm a successful self-made internet entrepreneur!”.
I just needed to do them Hoodies, Joggers & Co. one more time, neatly edited as an easy to use template that'd be:
easy and intuitive for any newbie to use;
thorough enough so that no serious manufacturer would dismiss;
clear enough so the sample would come out right every time, or at least needing a reasonable amount of adjustments.
Ok, so with all these requirements in mind it doesn't sound that easy-peasy, but it was still feasible had I stuck to a plan and had that minimal self-discipline to finish the project…right?
So why did I end up procrastinating so much?
Product development > Tech pack
There are far too many steps to develop a sample and then mass produce a garment, so let me be brutally honest with you: a Tech Pack is the least of your problems.
A great deal of manufacturers out there are making very nice websites, with user-friendly web design, pretty Shutterstock pictures and strategic wording to attract Fashion newcomers, but in reality apparel manufacturing is a messy business with a lot of moving parts, technical know-how and specialised skills, software and machinery.
Even the most standard printed hoodie, if made from scratch, will require:
a pattern cutter to develop the patterns with the measurements you've provided: she may start from a similar pattern that has been done previously (a.k.a. block pattern), and the factory will simply replicate this pattern if you don't give any specifications, but any custom design will go through the pattern cutter;
fabric sourcing: most factories will have some standard fabrics in stock, such as t-shirt jersey and sweatshirt fabric in 100% cotton or cotton-polyester blend. Anything else will have to be sourced either by the client or the manufacturer;
cutting: fabric is cut in bulk by machines for mass production, but samples are cut by hand with good old scissors;
printing: silk screen is not the only technique out there, and it's not the best for every case;
sewing: two or more types of sewing machines are needed to make t-shirts and jumpers;
washing: have you ever noticed how many fabrics feel stiff when they're still in rolls at a fabric store? Like denim, sweatshirt fabric can benefit from a special washing so they feel softer to the touch.
finishing: dying, labels, ironing…
Add to the equation differences in design, quality, target market, order quantity etc, and it's clear: I could never make a good enough template to satisfy ALL the possible requirements and variations.
I care so fiercely about taking care of all the details I can, and prevent my client's from wasting time or spend money unnecessarily, that overthinking would kick in every time I tried to do those damn templates. What if I wrote down a fabric weight but it wasn't the right one for costumer X? What if I filled in some measurements from a size Small jumper I bought in Europe, but costumer Z is in the US and for him my Small would be his Extra Small-Petite-Teen? What if I use my dad's polo shirt from Nike and then they find out and then I get accused of copying and then I get sued and then and then and then…
Think of a What if - and then scenario, that's probably something that went through my head.
And with overthinking, of course, came procrastinating. Which is only natural considering I imposed on myself the impossible task of creating the most perfect and comprehensive material. Shame on me for thinking I could take people's money for a simple tech pack template! Except that meant condensing years of Fashion school and work experience into an e-book that was supposed to offer just a simple tutorial to get people to the real action. So long for no-nonsense and straightforwardness.
Oh! One more detail: most Fashion newbies can't use Adobe Illustrator. Meanwhile, Excel charts are not my forte…
It's not about the tech pack, it's about the process
I'd be doing you a disservice by offering a product that doesn't meet your needs, but I was also being my own bitch boss by putting all the responsibility of your Product Development on my templates.
There are many informed decisions involved in a seemingly obvious design, and some factories will ask right after you send the tech pack: Do you have a sample?
Wasn't the whole point of making a tech pack to make sure they would understand your design?
When you reach this point, it will feel it's impossible to get your label off the ground and you'll also get angry at the freelancer you hired to make your tech packs. Shake off those feelings and have a closer look at the website of established freelance technical designers: yep, they're also asking for your sample first in order to make your tech pack.
Between your brilliant idea and mass production, there is an important process called Development. In some industries, it goes as R&D (Research and Development), in top Fashion schools, it's all about Design Development, and in the Fashion & Apparel business it's a department called Product Development, that acts between creative direction and the production department.
I'm not saying that technical designers can't help you at this stage, or that no manufacturer will develop your sample.
My main point is: it's all about the Process.
A Tech Pack is not like an order that you place at McDonald's, but as ridiculous as this analogy may sound, a lot of aspiring designers and entrepreneurs are acting like it is.
Don't assume it's place an order with the designer - receive tech pack, then order production - receive clothes - the end.
Go back to the steps involved in making a hoodie from scratch and hopefully you will realise you need to create a more lasting relationship with the people you're going to work with than you'd do with the cashier at a fast-food joint.
It is also not a matter of filling in the gaps correctly. A designer will definitely have a template to start from, but most of the work is enquiring about your design, making suggestions, asking for feedback… and still we may not foresee every single issue that arises during sampling or production.
There's no other way than taking full responsibility for your vision and being willing to follow a long process, so appreciate how much you are going to learn and how special your final product will be.
You will eventually develop your own way of working and your own templates, but with Fashion's ever-changing nature and collections being launched more and more often, you shouldn't be too rigid or too comfortable about how you do things.
Ask for help
It's common for insiders to make their job look complex to outsiders and newcomers, and as someone who's had her fair share of being snubbed by…well, pretty much all the ranks in the business, I hope I didn't just do that.
Don't be discouraged by my post. My distaste for sugar coating does not mean I don't approve of you coming into my turf (spoiler alert: I'm no gatekeeper you should be concerned with).
Fashion is an incredibly diverse industry, and you can absolutely carve out a niche for yourself - so surround yourself with people that can help you.
Doesn't have to be me, but if you do want to chat, will be happy to help :)