Some Real Talk on NDA’s…Prepare Yourself!

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Your idea is a precious commodity to you. You must protect it with an NDA (non disclosure agreement) or copyright and secure your corner of the market. It’s your idea, so no one else should be making it.

 


I’m going to interrupt this bit of paranoia with a large dose of reality- your idea has been done before. Trying to copyright any type of shape or technique in fashion is futile. Honestly it’s not about who’s the most original, but more like who can do it better.

But what about pattern makers and factories? I know they want to steal my ideas!


Umm, no.

We are in the business of making stuff and built our success on helping designers succeed. We are engineers and service providers not fly by night con artists. Let’s say we ripped off one of your ideas. Do you think anyone would work with us anymore? This is our business model, not common thievery.

If I’m handed an NDA from someone who hasn’t even had a production run, I’m kinda like this :

 If you have no brand yet, then you have nothing to protect. Your idea is not worth millions until it is proven and quite frankly I’m not invested enough to steal someone’s idea and bring it to market even if I think its good. I have a lot on my own plate.  


You are setting a trap for us to be sued
Like I said, everything has been done before. For the sake of argument let’s just say that I sign your NDA to protect your size small scoop neck tank top that I am making for you. You show up to my workspace and spy a sample of another scoop neck tank top.

Gasp! “She’s sold the idea to another client!”

Nope. It just so happens that you are not the only one who wants to do a scoop neck tank top. But you are fuming and ready to sue me. I assure you that I did not disclose your idea, but after discussion with your lawyer, you must take action (remember, it’s in their interest to take action). That means I have to get my lawyer involved and I’m pissed because that’s more money I have to spend. Now you don’t have anyone to make your patterns and are embroiled in a legal battle instead. It’s a no win situation for everybody and really, do you want to be spending your time this way?


An NDA is a passive aggressive insult

When I am sent a NDA from a new client I have to take a very deep breath. You have no idea how insulting this is. You are saying you don’t trust me, but still want to work with me and I’m supposed to be excited to work on your stuff and do my best work?

Yeah.

I have my own disclosure statement. I know what’s in my disclosure it and it’s fair for all parties. I try not to go this route though. I build relationships with my clients that I hope will last. I may even introduce the idea of a client agreement contract once they reach a certain stage where they are growing and both of us need the protection for “just in case” scenarios because we are dealing with volume ($$$). But when you are starting out with 3 styles, let’s be realistic.


Your 10 page NDA is a financial liability.
I’m not going to sign anything that I’m not 200% sure is not going to put me in a bad spot. I will have to pass your NDA to a lawyer to look it over and that’s going to be cost me more than I would probably earn making your patterns. Basically, I have to spend money to even work with you.


I will only sign NDA’s for large companies

Large corporations may have something legitimate to protect or the NDA is part of corporate protocol that is bigger than all the parties involved. The protection is not aimed at a specific project but rather the brand reputation and trade secrets that they have invested millions in establishing. Additionally, if I snag a big retail client I know they will more than likely keep giving me continuous work and payments are regular.

New designers and startups are especially volatile during the first few years. Even if they can pay the bills it doesn’t mean it will last forever.

Your lawyer will tell you this is a must
Of course they will! They get paid by the hour to draft up these types of contracts. Enough said.


Not everyone is honest, but I am

I don’t discuss my clientele with each other and I keep it pretty well under wraps. No one sees what I am working on. I leave it up to them to disclose me as a resource. However, if I feel there is a major conflict of interest then I will bring it up or refuse a job. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do!

Who your really need to worry about
Your competition. They are watching you and seeing what is selling and perhaps blatantly knocking you off. If it worked for you then it’s gotta work for them.

Your customers
If you sell to a big enough retailer you can bet they have their eyes on you. If you are doing well, they may try to find a way to duplicate the product by cutting you out of the picture. I’ve seen this too often to count. Retail is brutal y’all!
Sidenote: I’ve heard more stories than I like of people hoping to hit the jackpot selling on everyone’s fave online retailer (you know who I’m talking about). Yeah, they did well with a product and this site took note. They took the same product and had it knocked off and for sale under their own brand umbrella quicker than you can say “add to cart”. They will crush you and you won’t be able to do anything about it.

What You Should be Investing your Energy into
Listen, I’m not a legal expert but I think it’s far better to invest in your brand development first instead of feeding the paranoia beast.  Your first move as a designer should not be to “lawyer up”. Only go that route to form your LLC.

The cold hard truth is that copies do happen but more than likely it will not be because your factory or patternmaker sold the idea. We need you to be successful so you can keep giving us work.

Yes, if you are copied it’s infuriating and feels like an invasion. But if your idea is good it will get copied by someone. Your next move is to keep doing what you do and do it even better. The copiers don’t know your next move. They don’t think like that because it’s all about instant gratification. It is your creative vision, your ideas, and your energy- keep it flowing and moving forward.

What is a Grade Rule?

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Maybe I already lost you with the mention of grade rules. It’s one of those fun technical terms. If you have a sizing chart then you have a grade rule of sorts.
In a tangible sense, a grade rule is basically spreadsheet that lists out the incremental jumps between sizes for specific points of measure. This predetermined formula is then applied to corresponding points of measure for all sizes.
For example, here is your sizing chart that lists the chest circumference.

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The grade rule will list out how much the chest will increase or decrease in size. This is key for a grader as we study the differences or jumps between sizes. This is how it would look expressed as a grade rule:

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But if you are just starting out, do you need this?

Some people will say, absolutely that the designer needs to provide this. However, I find that most start ups have no idea how to set it up beyond knowing they need “X” amount of sizes. Chances are if I ask them to provide the end result is going to be a bit of a mess and not as functional as it should be. It’s not their fault, they need some advice and experience in finding the right sizes for their customers. I have a lot of clients that leave the grade rules up to me. They give me their sizing chart that encompasses only chest, waist and hips and we are good to go. They trust me with consistency. Quite frankly, I like this the best, it gives me freedom and flexibility to do what I think is best for the style and their target customer.


However, once I have graded quite a few patterns for my clients that’s when I get to the point where it’s time to set up a grade rule.


Let me give you a recent situation:
A client that I have been working with since forever passed me a style similar to something that she had done many years back. I referenced the old file for what I did for a long sleeve opening grade. Hmm, it looked like I should have done it slightly different, now in hindsight. I checked another recent file for a long sleeve grade and I graded this one even a bit more different (so much for consistency, right!) . Honestly neither was a wrong approach and would not affect the overall fit. I’m probably the only weirdo that would be able to tell. But now I’m at a crossroads of what to follow. Too many options and or grey areas lead to inconsistency and it only takes one customer with too much time on their hands to point out the mistake. It was time to set up a grade rule that would create a definitive answer.

For instance, here’s how the sleeve opening grading varied and this is what I decided on as per blouse 3:

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The Importance of Standards
The bigger you grow the more important it is to create these standards. You don’t want to have one style grading lengthwise more than another similar style. The biggest and smallest customers will be confused about the proportions.

As a grader, I work with many clients, each with their own unique sizing. Remembering everyone’s grade rules in my head is asking for a lot. My brain gets awfully tired. In a case like above I needed a grade rule chart to refer to so all sleeve opening grading for her brand will be the same. A grade rule leaves no question as to what the standards are.

How to set up a grade rule

First, let’s start off with the major measurements points. These are the ones listed on the sizing chart that you provide your customers- generally the chest, waist and hips, as I had initially mentioned. This is how it looks as a grade rule:

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The points of measure that the customer does not see leaves the interpretation more open to what you want your standards to be and are subject to design preferences.

Here is a list of the basic points of measure that should be standardized:
-Body length
-Chest
-Waist
-Hip
-Sleeve length
-Neck width
-Front neck drop
-Across shoulder
-Front rise/ back rise
-Leg opening
-Skirt length

Optional measurements
Technically you could jam your grade rule with so many point of measure that it could almost go on forever. But please don’t do this. Your grader will hate you.
Yes, if you want to maintain a pocket position a certain way, I get it. No problem. The problem arises when I get a graded spec passed that has too many points of measure (POM’s), but the grading does not make sense.

For example, the following combination is too much:

-Front body length

-Center front length from neck

Oftentimes when I see this they contradict each other when the actual grading starts. Keep it simple.

 

How to Prepare for Grade Rule Development

A grade rule can be a great tool for consistency, but it I feel that it is something that grows with your company. When you are starting out, make it easy for people to work with you. As you get more comfortable with who your customer is and you have a good relationship with your grader, start to standardize more points. There is no point in creating a grade rule if you have no clue as to how it functions and are using it as a point of control. Yes, it should be contolled but no grader or factory wants a new designer that is only cutting 20 pieces coming at them with 50 POM’s that need to be check and cross checked. We probably won’t like you very much. Keep in mind the product and the crucial points of measure that you would like to maintain. Start off simple and add as you grow to tighten up the standards.

 

What Are Markers?

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When I say “markers” hopefully your mind doesn’t go straight for the colorful kind. Well, ok, maybe at first but then it’s time to get back to business and stop daydreaming about coloring.

You are wrapping up your fit approvals, finalizing the details and ready to hand off your pattern to the grader. Maybe you have opted for separate sizes and will cut one by one. However, if you have a bunch of garments that you need to cut then you will need a marker. In short, A marker allows the factory to cut multiple garments at once and it optimizes the fabric consumption to reduce waste.

Here’s a video example of a factory utilizing a marker to cut a production run. The paper on top of the stack is the marker:


What is a marker and what does a marker do?

A marker is a layout of all the pieces of every size of the same fabric that needs to be cut. All the pieces are arranged in an optimal way so there is very little fabric waste.

Here’s what a very basic T-shirt marker looks like:

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You are all probably familiar with arranging pattern pieces on fabric for sampling where you can leave a couple of inches worth of gaps between pieces. This is no big deal. However, when you are cutting many garments you have to try to save as much fabric as possible because the more that is used, the more fabric you have to buy and the more it’s going to cost you.

 

Types of markers

Often a factory will do a pre-production size set (or at least they should). For this process they will ask for a marker. I have found that manufacturers use the term marker to cover both pre-production and production. For them it’s just a quick and easy cutting guide, but it’s important to tell your marker maker what’s going on. Here’s why: a marker is engineered based on the number of garments and the size breakdown. If you are only cutting 3 garments of each size for pre-production then this marker (same as marker picture above) is going to look entirely different than your production marker for the actual number of pieces needed.

Production Marker: This is intended to be cut on multiple plys of fabric, as shown in the video

Production Marker: This is intended to be cut on multiple plys of fabric, as shown in the video

  • You will not be able to use the same marker for pre-production as production. Also be aware that each time a new marker is made, there is a fee involved because a new layout must be engineered.

    What information do you need to give?

  • Cuttable width. This is not the same as the fabric width because the fabric width contains a selvedge that is discarded. Cuttable width omits the unusable edges.

  • How many pieces of each size do you need?

  • How many colors? Each color way requires it’s own marker. If you have 3 colors you will need at least 3 markers.

  • Special considerations: is this a placement print or stripes that need to be matched? You will need to provide guidelines and fabric repeat information.

    To cover all of the above, it’s best to set up a basic cutting ticket that you can give to both the factory and the marker maker.

Here’s what a very basic cutting ticket should look like (numbers are random and are intended to indicate how many garments are needed):

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Can you reuse markers?
If you only have one copy the easy answer is no. It’s going to get cut up along with the yardage.
Can you just have a new set printed? Yes, but it has to be the same size and color breakdowns as per the original cutting ticket otherwise you will need new markers.

What is the process of requesting a marker?

First off, check with your factory. Do they want you to provide a marker, or will they make their own?  Most places know what they are doing, but if they are laying the pieces by hand then we can’t be certain they are squeezing out every possible inch and not wasting fabric. If a client is paying for a marker I am going to work to make sure they are getting the most use out of their fabric.

You set up a cutting ticket and pass to your marker maker.

The way I work when I get a marker order, is that I’ll lay out a marker proposal and put it together as a screenshots and let you know how much fabric is required based on my proposal. You show the factory/cutting room proposed layout and have them confirm this is workable for them or they can revert with their comments and I’ll arrange to their preference.

Why do I go through these extra steps? Because not everyone has the same setup. Cutting tables are a big deal. Some cutters have super long tables that run the length of a whole city block. Others will have one just long enough to fit their space. Based on their limitations they know what kind of length they can accommodate.

Once everyone is in agreement markers are printed and shipped out.

Be flexible
Sometimes it’s better to cut a few extra pieces to not waste a ton of fabric, especially if you are doing placement prints. I try not to add too many pieces, but leave it as an option so you are not sitting on 2 yard increments here and there.

 

Markers are not just for large production runs

If you are cutting even 3 pieces all the same size of 2 styles that share the same fabric, it can be in your interest to create a marker. This will speed up the cutting time and save on fabric. This is the best way to get pre-production samples made. It may not always be cost effective, but it creates a convenience for a sampleroom to help them expedite for you.

 




Scraps, Swatches and Stories 01

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Y’all ready for the holiday season? Getting prepped for holiday sales and parties, along with recovering from Black Friday perhaps?

This is always a busy time of year at Garmenta Apparel as well since designers are trying to get their styles prepped for next years releases or those who do import production are gearing up for the front-load of work that is Chinese New Year.

The blog will be quiet until the new year so I can focus on my workload. I am also hard at work on new posts that I know you’ll want to check out:

  • All about markers

  • How manufacturers/service providers feel about NDA’s

  • Getting ready to work with a manufacturer

  • The real reason you need a tech pack

….and many more.

In the meantime I’d like to introduce you to a new series that will pop up now and again, called Scraps, Swatches, and Stories where I share some of the articles that I have been reading that I think will be right up your alley!

The Amazon Warehouse Comes to SoHo

Let this be a lesson to those pursuing brick and mortar sales opportunities that it’s no longer about having what the consumer needs, but creating and experience and discovery. I checked out this store recently and it fell flat. Don’t follow in Amazon’s mistakes.

A STAIN ON AN ALL-AMERICAN BRAND How Brooks Brothers Once Clothed Slaves

I find myself torn over this. Do we punish modern brands for past sins? Do they owe an apology? BB is no longer the company it was a hundred years ago and obviously not run by the same people. It’s a new generation with new ideals. Fascinating history though!

Amazon won a patent for an on-demand clothing manufacturing warehouse

To continue the Amazon theme: This is both thrilling and scary at the same time. Amazon is taking over the overseas factories and maxing out the labor. A new system is definitely needed for their volume. But as an engineer behind the scenes in apparel production, I feel that part of the garments soul is lost. They are counting on not needing artisans and craftspeople. An algorithm will automate.

The Economist explains The environmental costs of creating clothes

Yes, we all know the garment industry is wasteful. But what should we do with unwanted clothes. It’s up to consumers to be informed about their buying options and understand the consequences of getting rid of the unfashionable or worn down.

Corporate Fashion Versus Fashion Startup

I’ve never really run across an article like this before and I think it’s great that I’m not the only one willing to talk about the minutiae that is not so glamourous, but still good to know and understand. I’ve also worked for small and large companies and it’s really night and day. If you are looking to pursue a career in fashion it’s important to understand that fashion jobs differ dramatically based on the company size.

What about you? What are you reading? Would love to include more links so we can keep the discussions rolling!

What to Do if Your Sizing Needs to Change

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When you first start out you have one size chart in mind, but over time you realize that it doesn’t align with your customer. Maybe the small sizes are not happy or the larger sizes are not fitting very well because they are too small. Don’t worry, this is actually pretty common so I wouldn’t press the panic button just yet. 

 -or-

Sometimes I will get a new grading client who is ready to pass on the task. I take a look at what they have done previously for grading and my eyes pretty much pop out of my head. No words. Ok deep breath. The grading doesn’t relate to the sizing chart at all, but they have been selling products this way all along! This is problematic. Either the sizing chart needs to change or the grading needs to change. Some clients are receptive to a grading change others just won’t because they believe that if it it was done once it should be maintained forever. Let’s put it this way, if it merits me opening my trap then it’s probably a major concern. 

 I get it, a sizing change is a major pivot but every brand will hit this wall at some point. I’ve worked with large retailers that have been using the same sizing for decades. After analyzing returns they realize that their sizing needs an update and they invest millions in a new sizing study to fine tune the fit to their customer. The changes are usually subtle but significant. Sizing changes are just a growing pain and it’s all about how you roll it out. 

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 How do you transition to a new sizing standard without losing customers?

Know your inventory

Let’s say that you have a pant that has been part of your line up and you have inventory. How significant are the sizing changes? Are you able to selvage a couple of sizes that fall within tolerance of new standards? Maybe the larger sizes are the only issue and you just have to get rid of them. Be strategic. Don’t just fulfill your inventory, replacing with the new fit. Your customer will be confused. 

If it were a bestselling item I would keep it in the line up as is with its own separate sizing chart in the product description. 

Personally, if I have to do an extreme sizing change on a standard product, it will get a new style number and I treat it as a brand new product. 

It’s Important to disclose that your sizing is new

Use this as a marketing moment on how the product is new or improved. Plaster that sizing chart on each product page. Trust me, there will be customers who will notice if you do not disclose this. 

Heck, we all need content to talk about so why not an item that has gotten a facelift or a new look. You could convert those that were on the fence before to purchase now. 

Reach out to your customers

We all know the importance of customer engagement, right? So use your sizing stressors as this moment of interaction. 

If you are hearing across the board that a size range is not working and customers are returning the product, try to collect as much data as possible. 

-Does it feel too tight, or too loose? 

-What did they feel was off about the product?

-What are their measurements?  

This information will be so helpful in determining how to pivot. 

Reward your customers that have helped you out with the improved item when it rolls out, on the house. Even if they initially felt they were done wrong, this will help to reestablish their trust.

Get your grader involved

If you have customer data then it will be much easier to see where you need to go. Organize the data to discuss with your grader. It should be a collaborative process to make a smooth transition as grade rules are tweaked for the new standards. Trust me, as graders, we have seen a lot of different scenarios and we could help out with different points of view. 

It’s a delicate move to make and it should not be changed too often and/or in large increments. If you find yourself in this position contact me. I’ve been there and done this and understand what it takes. Let’s make sure it’s a solid move in the right direction.

 

How Do you Get Your Patterns Graded?

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If you are reading this you probably are currently performing all the tasks: Designer, pattern maker, and pattern grader. This is the typical life of the startup designers. But eventually things change and you get busy and can’t do everything anymore. Or maybe you are at the point where you want to pass off the tasks that are just not your thing. For most designers this is generally grading. It can be really tedious and hard physical labor if you are doing it manually. I hear a lot of this because pattern grading is the number one service request that I get.

I advertise my skill as a pattern maker, but if we are being technical, my main job title is pattern grader. I enjoy it, but totally understand that it’s not for everyone. It boggles my mind that there are designers still grading patterns manually because that’s the stuff that kinda slowly disintegrates your sanity and gives your body physical pain because it’s an intense, laborious process. Even if someone is using illustrator to do their grading, it is super tedious and the accuracy is lacking. I grade patterns in a completely digital environment and the painstaking precision is done with a few clicks of the mouse and can be accurate within 1/64”. So let’s talk about how you can pass your pattern grading over to a professional and get your sanity back.

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What is the cost of pattern grading?

Yeah, I’m just going to cut right to it because this is the main concern, right? Will it be affordable? I can only speak to my own services, but I would say it averages from around $90-150 per style. I charge per size so that means the final bill is determined by how many sizes you are doing and the type of garment. Typically, items with lots of pieces cost a little more per size since this requires more work than just your average t-shirt.

 

How do I send over my patterns to be graded?

-Digital copy- This is how most patterns are passed to me. Either the pattern was developed in a drafting program or adobe illustrator. As long as it’s digital, it keeps the cost down. The preferred file formats are usually .ai or .dxf.

-Scanned copy- Fedex Kinkos offers large format scanning. I have quite a few clients that do this method and it works pretty well. Just make sure your lines are dark enough to show up on the scan and you include a box for scale reference. From this you can create a digital pattern in Adobe Illustrator and send the file as .ai. I sometimes even do this part for clients who don’t have Adobe Illustrator capabilities for an additional fee.

-Hard copy- The important thing to remember about hard copies is they are sent in the mail. Do you trust the postal service? My suggestion is to always make a copy of your original pattern before sending it off. Once I receive a hard copy pattern, it needs to be digitized, which is it’s own separate fee because clean up and checking all the seams needs to be done to ensure the digital version looks the same as the hard copy.

What other information do you need from me to grade patterns?

Must:

-Your sizing chart
-Flat sketch or photo in case it’s not clear where a piece goes or how it sews together.


Optional:

-Length grades - How much length do you want each size to grow/reduce? Does your sleeve length grade? These are specific to each brand. However, I don’t get this info too frequently so it’s no big deal if you are unsure. Happy to make suggestions.


-Any specific considerations for the style. Maybe you are thinking you need to keep all zipper lengths the same or only want the pockets to become larger/smaller for every other size. Let your grader know this in advance.

-Grade rules- most small brands are not quite to this point yet. So just let your grader know if they need to follow a specific rule or go based on their judgment using their sizing chart as reference. (more on grade rules is coming in a later post!)

How long does pattern grading take?

It depends on the complexity of the style. I would say an average numerically sized blouse takes me about 3 hours because once I get the pattern, I check all the seams and make tiny adjustments. Then the pattern is graded and I go back and check all the seams and notches for every size to ensure they sew together. For complex styles it could take much longer. Don’t forget that a pattern grader has other projects lined up as well, so it’s also going to depend on the work that is in line before yours.

What does the final graded pattern product look like?

The graded can be a digital file, markers, or printouts of a nest or separated sizes. Just make sure to share your expectations for the output.

What should I do after getting the grading back?

Take a look at the final, making sure this meets your expectations. I always like to tell my clients that it’s easy for me to tweak something if they would like it graded differently, so be sure to speak up.

How to make your pattern grading work for your small lot or on–demand production

Flexibility with production runs is so critical for start-ups or small brands.

I work with a lot of designers that are working on an on demand basis or only producing a limited amount of pieces at a time so they need the grading output in a way that can go straight into production, but without markers. To do this I arrange the pieces in groups of same size and create a printout, which gets sent in the mail as a roll of all the sizes for an additional fee. Let your grader know in advance that this is your plan so arrangements can be made.

Pattern grading for home sewing businesses
I also do a lot of pattern grading for home sewing patterns. Doing the grading digitally for the home sewing market is the only logical way to go because all of the patterns must be optimized for digital prints for home printers, copy shop, and/or mass printing process. Now, I don’t do the part of applying all the labels and visual prettiness, but I am able to export the files to adobe illustrator, where the magic happens. Find out more about this process clicking here.


All of us are control freaks to a certain level. You want everything to be a certain way. But there comes a point where certain tasks need to get off your to-do list. Technically, pattern grading is an easy project to pass off as there’s not a ton of individualism and it can be pretty standard. It also does not require a lot of handholding. However, everyone has their methods and it’s important to pass the right information to the grader to maintain your standards. Once you get a good rhythm going with your grader it will be one of the best things you can do to free up your time.

How to Work With a Fit Model

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The last post was all about finding the right model, now it’s time to discuss what happens at a fitting and the proper etiquette. Let’s get one thing straight off the bat, fit models are not oracles of style. They don’t put on the garment and fit it for you, and tell you what changes you should make. You have to discern the proper route. Just because you hire a model does not she’s going to tell you what needs to be done. This is your design and your fit intent.

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What Fit Models are responsible for:
Fit models are responsible for commenting on how they physically feel in the garment:
Example:
-“the bicep is snug”
-“the sides pull up when I raise my arms”
-“the skirt opening isn’t quite big enough to allow for a long stride”

You are in charge of the fitting and the direction you are going. Sometimes a new model will try to talk too much and impress you with what she knows and thinks. I get it, but don’t get wrapped up in too much discussion. You know what it should be.


It’s not to say that fit models don’t have a good sense of styling. Quite the contrary. If I work with a model for a long time we both know what to expect. I know how something should hang on her properly and she knows the styling I’m going for. If I’m on the fence, I’ll ask her what she thinks because I’m looking for an opinion. A good fit model will ask you about the styling so she understands your intention, she won’t tell you what it should be.

Respect her space
Please don’t manhandle the model. I shouldn’t have to say this but I’ve worked with too many people who thought the model was not a person and tugged at her arms, poked her with scissors and probably would have been considered a sexual predator outside the fit room. Please be kind and courteous!


-Don’t use permanent markers that can bleed through the fabric to her skin.
-For the love of everything holy do not use straight pins. Safety pins only!
-If you need her to move a certain way ask her. Don’t position her as you imagine.
-Don’t touch her unless you have to. Yes, you will be fussing with a garment, but I’ve seen too many designers fawn over their creation, making the final grand gesture a caress of the fit models arms or working close and touching a cheek (yes these all are weird and they do happen).
-Warn her when you are going to cut the fabric.
-Sensitive areas: anything around the crotch area or nipple area is off limits. Ask her to mark or cut in these areas if necessary. Also use good manners. Warn her if you need to work close to these areas. I usually say it in a apologizing way and she will say it is ok then so she knows I’m not a creeper.

Be Prepared
-Have lots of safety pins
-Wax chalk in light and dark colors
-Tape measure
-Camera
-Proper space and light
-Set up a time block. Personally, I think 15 min per garment is sufficient in average.

Coordinate what the model is bringing
Let the model know what you are fitting and discuss what she should bring. She should supply her own of the following:
-pants or jeans if she’s fitting tops. Let her know the preference and color.
-camis for fitting jackets. Coats would require sweaters, which you should probably provide
-Shoes
-nude underwear. Most models know this but occasionally you get the crazy panties or red bra. Kinda distracting especially if you are fitting anything semi transparent and you will need to review pics later.

Take photos
you will need to take front, side, and back photos. Assure her you will crop her head out (because you will! it is up to you to protect her privacy). Make sure to photograph any problem areas so the patternmaker can get a better sense of what is occurring.

Have fun!
Keep it light and friendly. Don’t bring your drama and hang ups. She is not your therapist. This is an important relationship so make sure you keep it professional.

 

How To Hire a Fit Model

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The samples are ready! Now it’s time to see how they look. But who do you put them on and how do you hire the right model?

Hiring a Professional Fit Model

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Professional Fit Models are the best bet. But don’t think for a minute that hiring anyone with the title of “model” will get you what you need. Generally, the word model is associated with publicity purposes. Model gals have the pretty faces and everything looks amazing on them and they lead fabulous jet setting lives (or at least that’s what I picture). But Fit Models are a different type and are what you need to ensure fit consistency. Some may have done publicity but they are not selected because of their beauty, but rather their body (don’t get me wrong, there are many beautiful Fit Models, but this is just a bonus). Fit Models make a living maintaining body measurements and proportions. It’s serious business for them because they make around $250 per hour (in the NYC area at least) and have multiple clients that depend on their fixed measurement figure. The most glamorous work trips these models take are to overseas factories for major fittings.

What makes their bodies different from the average Jane is they are well proportioned: shoulders are straight and not too wide, front to back balance measurements good (aka: evenly distributed in girth- chest is not too big in the front and hips are not too big in the back), posture is straight without  distortions, etc. it’s hard to tell these points by just looking at first glance. An understanding of a Fit Models body comes through working with her and trying on garments that you already know fit well.
Each model has her own body quirks so it’s always a trade off as to your needs.

How to Interview a Fit Model:

You will always need to perform what is called a go-see. This is where the model comes in and you measure her and try garments on that have been previous successes for you to see how she relates to your core standard. (This is usually free, but it’s a safer bet to ask the agency what the go-see rate is). It’s only a meet and greet with a try on so keep it professional and don’t ask for any “favors”. It’s a good idea to bring garments that are fit specific- fitted to the body, waist seams to see where they fall into relation, pants are always a good go-to. I always like to ask what other clients she works with to get a sense of her target customer base and how it compares to the brand.


Do not take a models word on her measurements. These change and sometimes they can be rounded up or down to make her more appealing to a potential client. Yes, it is an extra step to do a go see, but a Fit Model is an investment and should be interviewed with the intention of working with her for many years to keep your fit consistent. Don’t randomly switch models each season because of scheduling conflicts. Try to make it work.


TIP: Take full body photos of the model in the garments. Print out to review afterwards. Sometimes it’s hard to judge on the spot so I like to take this time to analyze and think over, weighing the pros and cons of her shape.

Using Your Friends or Private Individuals for Fit Models

Hiring a Fit Model can be expensive, so that route is not always an option due to finances or location. In this case you will have to start the search for an individual. The # 1 thing to keep in mind: Just because her measurements fit the parameters does not mean she’s a good fit. For instance, maybe her butt is flat or she has a hunch at her back shoulders. There are different postural distortions that average people have and tend not to try and correct.


Using Yourself as a Fit model

I know a lot of people like to use themselves. I totally get it. I’m not going to lecture you why you shouldn’t do this, because, heck, I do this myself. But the thing is, I take my measurements regularly and I am aware of how I deviate from a sizing standard and factor that into my revisions. I know my waist is 1” over so I should fit it tighter in that area. My shoulders are broad and straight so I’m not doing to make the shoulders fit me perfectly because there are plenty of customers with narrow and sloped shoulders. They key is to go in between.

Just because it’s your design does not mean it should fit you like a glove. Yes, that’s the ideal, but you have to factor in a lot of body types until you can narrow down who your target customer is. The goal is not to fit a singular person, but a whole range.

What I love about using yourself as a model: You can only learn so much from a quick try on. Sometimes a style needs to be lived in. I always encourage my clients to wear their samples and live in them for a bit to see how the garment functions. What bothers you? What looks odd?  Sometimes you need a bit of time for this.

What to do if you don’t have garments to fit yet

Don’t wait until you have samples ready. A good model can be hard to find so start thinking about this early to make sure she is ready when you are.

If you are making your own patterns and are just starting out then maybe you don’t have much to try on for a go-see. Samples could still be in process or maybe you are not so confident in your drafting. If you put an ill-fitting garment on her then it’s going to be hard to judge her body.

My recommendation is… brace yourself for this…go to your local Walmart and pick up a few pieces. Make sure these sizes align with your range and are perhaps similar shape/fit that you are going for to get a sense of body widths. Try these on her and see how they hang. Yes, it’s about your clothes. However, if your fit has not been standardized yet, the bigger the label the more diligence is done to achieve what I like to call an everybody fit. I suggest Walmart because their standards are one of the toughest in the industry. They bet on big quantities ($$$) selling. A poor fit is going to be bad news for them so they will make sure it’s a good everyone fit. When looking at these garments on the model, take note of seeing the same fit issue or weirdness that happens in the clothes. You will start to get a sense of her body and can make the determination if this is acceptable or your will have to interview another model.


If you are just starting out or taking the big step of hiring a model, you need to be flexible and open minded. No one is ever going to be perfect, but eventually you will find the Fit Model that’s “just right”.