Garment Manufacturing Process

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Garment Manufacturing Process
Garment Manufacturing Process (Image: 2006 anne.oeldorfhirsch / Creative Commons. American Apparel shirts.)

Garment Design Phase

Clothing design inspiration may come from anywhere---a television show, flowers at the park , or a bygone fashion icon. From this inspiration, a designer can create an entire range of clothing pieces that form a collection, which is a range of apparel items that follow a particular theme.

The garment manufacturing phase comes into play when an established designer is crafting a line to sell to consumers. During the creative stage, the designer draws sketches and creates a "storyboard" of designs to illustrate the flow of the collection. Rough garments are produced from low-grade fabrics like cotton muslin to give a preliminary picture of the garment. The designer shows these designs to buyers and managers, who decide the commercial viability of her creations. The pieces that survive this stage will appeal to a large segment of the buying demographic, as well as drawing critical acclaim. After all, a collection must be buzz-worthy, or no one will be interested in purchasing it. New collections premiere in September and February in the United States, with international shows following.

The Production Stage

Production is a labor-intensive process that can make or break a design house. If a designer cannot produce enough garments to meet demand, or the slopers (scaled patterns for production) are wrong, then the line may fail or lose valuable capital.

To begin this phase, the sample maker creates sample garments from the new patterns. The designer and team tweak the garment's fit and composition to make it work perfectly. The sample garment is put to work on runways, in shoots and in catalogs. Buyers from outside stores visit the showroom to see the collection. If they like it, the designer will begin collecting orders for units.

After the designer has collected the shop orders, he places business-to-business orders with suppliers for fabric, notions and other supplies that will be sent to the manufacturer. He buys enough to make his orders, plus a little extra for last-minute sales and promotional use. The designer now waits for the manufacturer to complete the production run.

The production stage may be different for producers such as the Gap or Banana Republic. Instead of shooting and showing with samples that haven't been produced in volume, the larger stores consult with their chain locations for orders, produce the line, then shoot their catalogs and hold presentations. Often, these promotions happen when the product is already in the stores, since they're selling in-house.

Fulfillment

The manufacturer produces the clothing and ships the pieces to the stores. Designers may also get a small quantity for private distribution as gifts or promotional items. Depending on the manufacturer's location, the clothing may have to be completed by a particular date. European looms and producers, for example, often shut down for a month's vacation during the summer; therefore, designers must have their orders in the manufacturer's hands by this break time.

After the orders arrive in the store, it's time for the designer to start work on the next collection of clothing for the next season. Extras left over from the manufacturing process may be sold to a jobber, who will then broker the overstock to vendors for a few cents on the dollar. Alternatively, the designer may hold a sample sale to get rid of surplus apparel.

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