Download the PDF of the Sew Valley process.
Sketches + Design Concepts
Get the idea down on paper and create a sketch sheet*. Gather inspirational and aspirational images from books and the internet to help communicate your ideas.
Sourcing + Costing
Sometimes a D/E (designer/entrepreneur)* knows what the material it is they want to use, others start with a concept but need consultation on what kind of material is appropriate. Either way is fine! If you don't know where to get your fabric or trims, just ask! We'll help you determine what and from where you should buy based on your target demographic and at what price makes sense for your product.
It is the D/E's responsibility to know what their target retail or wholesale price point is so we can guide you through the costing process with reasonable expectations.
Sample Development includes assessing the sketch and making a pattern block* that will be used for the first prototype. This usually made of a cheaper material that acts like the real thing. The prototype is then reviewed and changes are made to the pattern based on desired outcome, fit, and fabric assessment. Our pattern makers and sample makers work together with you to save time and money!
After a prototype is approved, we need actual sample fabric and trims to begin making a more refined sample that could have many iterations until we reach a 'cost sample'. A cost sample is the final approved sample that we time assembly to give you a true cost to produce quantities.
Fittings + Revisions
Fittings are considered billable hours and are conducted with the sample maker and the D/E to determine what revisions need to happen. We also provide guidance and insight during these sessions to help you make the best decisions for production.
Flat paper patterns are done by hand in our sample room by a professional pattern maker. Sometimes it takes two or three revisions to get to a final pattern at which point they are digitized and ready to be graded* for a full size run (accessories do not typically need this step).
Grading is the highly technical process of growing a pattern or shrinking a pattern to form a size run (XS–XL). This is done in specialized computer software for accuracy. The cost is based on how many unique pieces your pattern consists of.
Tech Pack Development
If a D/E plans to sell a high quantity of units and need to connect with a high volume factory, a tech pack is a universal tool (usually a detailed multi page spreadsheet) that will explain exactly what your product is and what your expectations for the piece is. It usually has a technical sketch that calls out details and even photos of samples on a body. It explains types of stitches, the size run, and critical measurements for quality control and consistency.
If the production quantity is over 100 per style, you will need to find a higher volume factory to produce your pieces. Ask the factory if they require a tech pack. We can help you through this process!
Small Batch Production [More than 10 and under 100 units per style]
Our facility is set up to aid a D/E* looking for small batch production. We do not make one-off custom pieces for personal use. However, we can connect you with a contract sewer who may be able to.
Price Breaks at 50 units
After a cost sample* is made, we are able to determine a price break for units between 50-100 per style.
Our current lead time is approximately two weeks per step in the design process. This is contingent on our production schedule at Sew Valley and suppliers lead times.
Materials and Supplies
We do not provide materials for production. We can assist you in finding suppliers, but it will be your responsibility to purchase and ship all items necessary (except for thread and some prototyping supplies).
In this design and production process your title is the D/E. Designer/Entrepreneur and is equivalent to the term manufacturer. You are the manufacturer of your line.
Any sketch is a good sketch. How does it look from the front, side, back, top, open, closed, etc? Sketch close up details as well as the whole garment.
This is a Sew Valley term to describe the sample needed to determine how much a price per unit will cost a D/E. No matter how far along in the process you are, you should expect to have a cost sample made.
Style Reference Number
Give the product a style number. This is mostly beneficial for the contractors, buyers, reps, and other people you might be working with. A style number is a number used to describe and keep track of a design. Naming a style is for marketing purposes only.
Block or Sloper or Basic Style: A block is the middle size (usually medium) in the size scale chosen. This will become the standard pattern that reflects the sizing and styling of a manufacturer. It is the starting point for protos (prototypes) and samples.
A block then gets graded up or down. See graphic below.
Making the block smaller and larger to make all the sizes in the size scale.
(XS-XL) Know your target market to know your size scale.
What is the product? A basic description is needed to describe what the product is. Zipper hoodie? Wrap dress? Short sleeved jumpsuit?
What season is the product getting shown for the first time. Spring/Summer or Fall/Winter? This will determine timeline for the process.
Materials Per Style
Once the type of product and season is determined, fabrics need to be chosen. Terms to know when deciding the fabric:
Color: Name and lot # if possible
Shell: ('Self’ fabric) the main body
Contrast: Second most used fabric in the product
Closures: Buttons, snaps, zippers
Guts: Anything used inside the structure, like interfacing, canvas, or foam
Market + Timeline
Knowing where and when you are planning on selling your line will determine the delivery date in which production must be finished. Start there and work backwards to determine your schedule.
Many of the terms and definitions here are credited to Kathleen Fasnella at the Fashion Incubator as well as internal Sew Valley industry knowledge, experience and expertise. Fashion Incubator is a great resources and comes highly recommended as a primer to manufacturing sewn products.
Join us for our bi-monthly educational seminar: From Idea To Product.