Morning bike rides and Niche markets

I have just come back from a morning bike ride. I have just started up with a group of wonderful girls with Breeze on the Boulie. A new years resolution to move a bit more.

There are a number of girls in our group that wear a kit designed by the Women’s Design Project ( This range was designed and made to clothe the growing number of women who love to ride but don’t like the way mens clothes fit, we are a bit different in shape. We have also worked with a couple of girls on the Dames cycling range to fill this same niche. I guess it helps I know what a bike looks like.

So I thought it was time that we spoke about niche products and how your decision to target a niche (which I highly recommend) requires a bit more thought before, during and after the development process. I am sure we have all experinced the range of clothes they are not clear themselves who they are targetting, Is it for your dad or your nephew. Likewise you will have appreciated a brand that is clear and concise what they stand for (even if it is not for you). Think Hipsters, Rockabilly, Sufbrands.

Firstly you need to clearly define your customer. Dive deep into the details. Cycling is an easy example to use.

Are you designing a fit for Shapley women or athletic women?

Are they an every day commuter or a TT track cyclist?

Is it a loose fit for women that don’t aspire to reveal every curve or is it a traditional Tour de France pro cut?

Will you concentrate on the colours and design or will it be a plain colour with designs lines that are the feature?

Will it be made in lycra or some other fabric such as merino jersey?

There are so many decisions to make and each of the questions above effect that way a pattern maker makes the pattern.

To get the best result out of your designs you will need a detailed brief and a passionate pattern maker to help you see your vision.

Image thanks to

Have I just blown you mind? Do you think you need to talk to an experienced expert to get a clearer picture about the details. You might like to book in for a business consultation. We often conduct these meetings on Skype so please do not feel that because you are not in Melbourne, Australia you can not have a chat.

And please don’t think that this is just about niche markets. We also assist people in finding more efficient ways to develop and manufacture their range. Sometimes you just need another professional set of eyes to see the black holes and issues.

Feel free to send us an email to or call us on 03 9041 3488


Off-Shore Manufacturing – Will I save money?


We have met a number of new designers the last season who have fallen into this trap. It is so sad to hear the stories of someone who has put $10,000 of their heart, soul and cold hard cash into their passion only to receive a shipment of disaster.

KC Garment District Museum...By 1949, 86 factories manufactured garments in KC...1 in 7 American women wore clothing made here...

Garment manufacturing in 1949

This blog is for those starting out. I want to say, you can’t send a picture and a couple of garments overseas and expect to get a shipment back of 1000 amazing, top quality, well-made garments back for a fraction of the price of local manufacturing without any effort on your part, but I can’t really say that I can.

What I can probably say is the process of manufacturing overseas takes a lot of detailed information, a lot of checking and rechecking and a lot of fingers crossed.

Firstly, you need an amazing spec sheet.

Secondly, you need to know how to choose a manufacturer a how to create a contract that sticks (even I don’t know how to do this one).

Thirdly, you need to know what to ask and when you need to be signing off on it.

Fourthly, you need to be in a position of bargaining so that you have the upper hand.

Fifthly, you need to go over there and check up on production and you need to know what you are looking for and how to fix it.

Sounds easy right! Wrong – This is why overseas manufacturing is for the big boys. People who have had long standing relationships with manufacturers (and even then, as one customer this season attests, does not mean they will do what you said when you said).

In my opinion, you are better to make a small run locally so you can learn all there is to learn while you have little money. You might not make as much money but you won’t lose it all either. Even when our clients have managed to get their money back they still have lost a whole season.

Alternatively, you could work with someone who has an office in Australia so at least you are dealing with someone whose door you can knock on. Then all you need to worry about is the minimums they require for the time they need to put in.

Believe me, there is a way you can work locally, as long as you are not trying to compete on price.

Call us to discuss the best solution for your business (03)9940 1510.


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Fast Fashion or Great Fit – Which will triumph?

There is a lot of press at the moment about the big International retailers coming to town to take everyone’s retail dollar and shut down every local small label that ever dared to think yeah I could survive in our market. Well, I’ve had enough of this… There are a few points of view I think need to be told.

Shopping for Clothes

Last Friday night, I went clothes shopping. This does not happen a lot, mainly because as every long-term fashion industry employee would understand, that after a week of working, sweating and stressing over patterns and samples, the last thing you want to do in your spare time is shop. The result of this is that I don’t have a lot of clothes in my wardrobe and what I do have has to be pretty special, either in design or fit.
Before you say why don’t you make your clothes? I always do a quick comparison between the cost to make one sample and the cost to buy off the rack. Off the rack nearly always wins.

So, I head to the city on Friday night and start with the regulars: Zara, MNG, Myer, etc. The selection is okay, lots of clothes for a university student who looks good in nearly anything, but also a huge line up to try clothes on. I grab a couple of tops and make an educated guess of the size I need, based on what I make everyday and what I have known for 20 years.  I grab a medium, as I would call myself an 11 at the moment, head to the checkout and pay for the tops, taking note that in the off chance that the tops don’t fit; I can exchange them for the next size up.

As soon as I get home, I tried them on (I was keen to wear them as soon as I could). I found that they are too small, I’m not talking half a size; I’m talking 2-3 sizes. A small button also comes off one of the tops during the process.

On Saturday afternoon, I head back into said store to exchange the tops for a larger size. Instead of going one size up, I grab an XL and head to the long line for the changeroom.

Whilst standing there, I notice a couple of things:
1 – There doesn’t seem to be anyone with hips, boobs or a bum in the store.
2 – Almost every lady walking out of the change room hands back nearly every garment and says – no thanks.

Finally, it’s my turn. I try my tops on and find that, at two sizes up, the XL tops are too loose in the bust and hip (as I think the styling intended), but the sleeves are still very tight. There is also a sleeve tab, intended to fold the sleeve up to 3/4 length, however the cuff was not wide enough to sit that far up.

On the flip side, I recently set off the buy a dress for a wedding. It was racing season, so there was plenty of choice all over town. I found an absolute winner with Cue. There are not a client of ours, but I would love to work with them. Cue have nailed the typical Australian figure and understand that when you move up from a size 10 to a size 12, it doesn’t mean you get bigger everywhere. The result, a dress that fits so well, strangers outside the fitting room were telling me I HAVE to buy it.

This is not the first time this has happened to me and I can only come to one conclusion. To produce fast fashion at this low price point, something has to give. How much time, effort and money is put into the development and fitting process to ensure these garments fit correctly?

I hear so often about the one week turn around from International catwalk to dispatch from factory. Well, I say that the thing that is ignored is fit. You can have the design and colour down pat, but if it doesn’t feel right when you are in the fitting room, then you can say good-bye to the sale, no matter how much customers love it on the rack.

There are some local labels that understand fit is an essential part of their future survival. In the last nine months, we have noticed a huge influx of designers who complete their development here and take their manufacturing off-shore. This is done to ensure they have the understanding of fit to the local market.

It might appear to cost you more, but I think it has to come back in bucketloads on the shop floor. Not to mention the time you save in development. We can develop a pattern and sample in 2-3 weeks. Only you can tell me how many samples you have developed for a style and how long that has taken until you are at the point where you just give in and settle for what you have.

There are quite a few little projects we have been working on to help get to the correct fit and look of your garment more quickly. We would love to talk about this with you more. Click here to visit out website.

What are your thoughts about the establishment of International fast fashion brands in Australia?

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Finding a Good Patternmaker

Firstly, I would like to say that I am sorry for the long spaces of time between blogs lately. We have been very busy at Sample Room. We have also been caught up in the employment process, looking for a new pattern maker for our team. It has been long and drawn out process, with a false start. In reflection, it has made me realize how hard it must be for you, the designer, to find a pattern maker that’s right for you. I thought it might be helpful for you to know how we select a pattern maker. This might also help you decide who you want to work with.

1. Understanding of the brief.

When a customer comes to Sample Room they are not just presenting a drawn garment. They are telling us who their target market is, the purpose for the style and who will wear it. It is then our job to create a pattern and garment to suit that customer. How low the neckline sits, how short the skirt is and how tight the garment fits are just some of the things we think about when designing a pattern

2. Are they a visual pattern maker or a spec pattern maker?

Some pattern makers need specs to make a pattern. This is the only way they can understand what the customer needs. We prefer pattern makers who understand both the customer and the look, and how to create a pattern for this look. It is important to have some measurements from the customer, such as length and circumference measurements. There is no benefit in being told by the customer after then garment is finished that the under bust should have been 75cm. That information is much more helpful before the pattern is made. Length measurements are also important. If a garment is drawn on a croque, it provides a better representation of the proportions. The bottom line is: if the measurement is important to you, it is important to us.

3. Style.

An in-depth knowledge of what is in fashion is important, so we are on the same page as our customers. An understanding of how a young girl is wearing a dress length or how a boyfriend jean should look is important. This allows us to use the same language as you, the customer, when we discuss your designs.  

4. Speed and accuracy.

Personally, I would love to spend all day on one pattern but something tells me that you, the customer, would not like to receive this invoice. Accuracy is also a very important factor. By computer pattern making, we are able to tick both of these boxes. A pattern maker who would like to drape every pattern to a stand before a pattern is made, will probably have a hard time coming to terms understanding what it takes to create a pattern as a contract pattern maker.  

5. Connection with the end customer.

Understanding what our customer needs is not only important at the initial design stage, but also at the fittings. Understanding the time constraints of a designer, the level of knowledge they have and the stresses involved in each person’s label is important to even start to offer the service we provide.

6. Respect.

Respect within our team and for our customer. We all work together as a team from the time you walk in the door, so there is no such thing as a silly question.

7. Personality.

This one is important to our workroom. We will be working next to them every day, so they need to fit in with our team.

8. The ability to follow Sample Room systems.

We work with a number of customers simultaneously and on over 100 garments at once. In order to make sure we cross all out T’s and dot all our I’s, we have many systems we need to follow. We double check designs and patterns back and forth between the team to make sure the information first spoken about is followed through. This is also the reason why, when you (the customer) comes in, there is a certain way we need the information presented before we can start the design process. Receiving all the information in one package is important so nothing is missed or mistaken.

Communication and Collaboration are key in our workroom

Communication and Collaboration are key in our workroom

Things I have learnt in finding a pattern maker .

The age or time someone has been a pattern maker is not a reflection of the quality of their pattern making – we actually prefer a younger pattern maker as they understand technology, are not set in their ways and are willing to work hard. They are quick and eager to learn.

If you don’t think someone is listening to you, they’re probably not.

The quality of the end product is directly related to the quality of the information given.

So there you have it: A crash course on how to employ a pattern maker, as a contractor or staff member.

We now have a fantastic second pattern maker. Welcome Ali to our team!

Welcome Ali!

Welcome Ali!

I am interested, what do you look for in a pattern maker?

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Pre-Production Sample Follow Up

A few months ago you may have received a post from me about Pre-production samples. In the past few weeks it has come to light that this subject may need to be expanded upon.

A Pre-production sample is the last check before you commit to thousands of dollars’ worth of fabric and manufacturing.

This process is even more important if you are using external contractors for your development process.

Why? Well when you have a team working in house with you, a lot of possible mistakes are caught; not whilst in a formal meeting but while you are walking past someone’s desk, while you are talking in the lunch room, when someone sees the fabric arrive in the loading bay. By removing this close contact, your contractors are left to make decisions based on the information they have been given, which might not be the whole picture.

It is important to note that the fit of a garment is not always the same as the measurements of a pattern, especially where knit and woven fabrics are concerned. The process of development, of creating a mock up or sample from a pattern, is to see how that particular pattern works with that particular fabric. The pattern is then changed as a reflection of the sample made in that said fabric.

If the fabric has stretched and has resulted in a looser fitting style based on the pattern and you like it then we do not change the pattern. It might even be that you make the pattern smaller to compensate for the stretch of the fabric.

If the fabric used in production is different from the fabric used in sampling, ask your patternmaker to measure and compare the sample to the pattern measurements. Having this completed will show you how the pattern differs to the sample. This extra, but vital information might be something you wish to spend time and money on.

It is also important to remember that if you change the fabric in any way, then you need to trial the pattern again.

Take, for example, a recent situation where the fabric used for sampling was a loose knit with very little Lycra. During the sampling process, the fabric stretched. The customer then approved the sample. The pattern was graded, a marker made and was sent off to the manufacturer for production.

We later found out via an upset customer that the garments had not been made in the same fabric as the samples.

On further investigation, we discovered the first sample was bigger than the pattern and the production garments was smaller than the pattern. This resulted from the designer using a fabric with a lighter weight and a high Lycra content, causing the fabric to bounce back and shrink (as confirmed in pressing tests). The result was a two size difference from sample to production.

As we did not see the fabric used for production, we had no idea this was going to happen. It was only when we received the sample in the post to check what had happened we discovered this disaster.

The second disaster that was able to be rescued was a client who had originally come to us with a design that had a contrast panel. The pattern was made with these instructions.

The designer had then instructed their manufacturer to make in one Colour with no contrast. Without a preproduction sample signed off and the original instructions on the patterns, this information may not have been passed down the line; someone might be away the day the production was made or the production might be cut in house and made out of house.

As everyone else had seen that these particular panels were to be contrast, it came back to them with a contrast panel. The manufacturer has been able to change this but you could argue that they were following pattern instructions.

In this situation it does not hurt to colour in a picture and stick it onto the pattern or put a label over the top of the CONTRAST and write MAIN.

Never assume that your words are going to follow through the manufacturing process. Write as much information as you can to make sure you receive the production you want first off and keep everyone happy.

And ALWAYS make a pre-production sample in PRODUCTION FABRIC!

End of rant!


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Unusual Designs: RnD

I’m not sure if you guys know this but I am a very keen snowboarder. For anyone who knows anything about the snow we get here in Australia compared to the overseas snowfields, we don’t get a very good deal.

So what’s a girl to do? In winter, to get a bit of a snow fix, I volunteer for an organisation called DWA – Disabled Winter Sports – and we go up to the mountain to assist people with disabilities to ski and snowboard.

Why am I telling you this? Well, partly so you understand why I can’t meet on Saturdays during winter and also because I want to tell you a quick story about developing an unusual product.

One of the pieces of equipment we use is a sit ski; this is for people with spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy or extreme physical and mental disability. It allows someone with limited to no control of their body to enjoy the incredible rush of skiing down a mountain.

When I fist started at DWA we used to bundle the students up in clothes, put their feet in boot bags, gaffer tape them in and take three changes of clothes along to keep them warm.

There are two issues to think about with this set up: You get cold sitting so close to the snow, especially when not using your body to ski and; snow in Australia is usually wet and slushy, not the nice dry powder like overseas.

I didn’t think this was good enough so I decided to use my talents for good instead of evil and developed what’s now called the ‘Snow Worm’.

Snow Worm RnD

The snow worm is a waterproof, wind proof zip up sleeping bag that allows the wearer to sit without folds of fabric around their hips that may cause pressure sores.

They can sit in the sit ski, zip the snow worm up, Velcro it around their wast, pull their jacket down, poke their shoes out if they can wear them or wrap it around a pair of ugg boots and be warm, comfortable and dry.

The snow worm is also quite good for some lunchtime play when you can be dragged around the snow!

Why have I told you this story? We love using our pattern making brains to develop an idea into a product made of fabric.

So how do you put together your ideas if it is something that has never been developed before?

-If you have seen a similar item that you think you can improve on, then bring this along.

-Or a collection of items that you would like to use different elements of, this will help us see where you are coming from.

-Some fabric and a stapler or pins can help to get your idea across.

-Cut out some shapes and put them together as best you can. It will give us a starting point to work from.

-If you are good at drawing then a 3D sketches work well

-For some people a combination of all of the above is needed to communicate your unique idea.

In the initial meeting we will talk through your ideas and look at if from a design and manufacturing perspective so we are sure it can be made. Sometimes the reason it has not been done before is because it isn’t possible. We can work through this with you.

Something to keep in mind, it can take 2-3 samples (sometimes more) to develop a sample from an idea that has not been made before (keep this in mind in financially)

We love a challenge that uses our engineering 3D/2D way of thinking to develop unique solutions for a need in the market.

If you have an idea, give Sample Room a call on (03) 9940 1510 l to chat about it. An initial consultation might be all you need to bring your idea to reality.

But please don’t call on a Saturday in winter, I’ll be snowboarding!

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What I Learnt From an Armani Jacket

I am not sure if many of you know but I am a Saturday 7am Lycra clad, Beach Rd cyclist. I love it because it de-stresses me and I also get the chance to ride down the Paris end of Collins St while everyone sleeps.

Armani window

It almost feels like I am playing Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (although slightly healthier and at a much faster pace). Every time I ride past Armani I am reminded at of the day my passion for pattern making was ignited. Many years ago when I was fresh out of fashion school, I attended an industry event. I can’t remember what it was about but my guess it was about quality and fit of fashion. One of the attendants brought along an Armani jacket and I was privileged to try it on. I am not sure how many of you have had such an experience but to me it was truly life changing. 18yrs after this event I can still remember the feeling of the neckline hugging my neck, the balance of the jacket which gave me the confidence I would never have to readjust it whilst wearing. The natural swing of the slim sleeve which still allowed for movement and the fit of the body which hugged in the right places and skimmed over the flaws. I have to say that this was the pivotal moment that set about a chain of events, long hours in the workroom, hundreds of hours observing the human figure and the way clothes fit on people and what pattern solution could flatter the body in order to aim for near perfection in pattern making. The skill and knowledge of the pattern maker as much as the designer were evident in this Armani jacket.

armani window Sample Room

Someone asked me the other day ‘what is this ‘fit’ thing you always talk about’. To answer this question I must know about the quality of clothes you wear. The art of fitting has been lost on some labels and the customer does nto know the difference…until the day they try on a label that does care, then the customer will never turn back and will be a loyal customer forever. I am often asked for a set of blocks for a company to use as ‘the block seems to be having an effect on the end pattern’. Or they ask for hints on the top 10 fit issues of a shirt pattern so they can communicate these to their factory. I am sorry to tell you, in pattern making there is no magic formula. 1 + 1 does not always = 2. A block does not make a garment any more than a pattern makers skills are improved with a good block. If someone cannot see how to fit a block then I am sorry to say there is not much hope in fitting a garment.

When a pattern is fitted it is important to understand your perfect client. Incorporate this with a house model to suit that fit and your pattern maker should be able to assist you with the fitting. As a pattern maker, garment fitted externally then bought in to us with pins makes me feel very uneasy. Often the most obvious fitting solution is not the solution at all. It may even cause more fitting issues. Equally it is important to give your pattern maker the time to trouble shoot the issue. They are often creating the solution to the pattern visually in their mind so they know exactly how to solve it when back at their computer.

Many fit issues are not a matter of cutting off the side seam where the excess is. They are internal and require rotation, splicing, pivoting and moving sections in a way that cutting off the side seam could never fix.

So you can probably see, we are a little proud and a little obsessed about fitting at Sample Room. Needless to say we were in pattern making heaven whilst developing the patterns for the Pattern Room website ( All the patterns on the website have undergone an extensive development process. The pattern and toile are fitted on our stand then a professional house model before alterations are made to the pattern. The 1st sample is then fitted again to the stand and a house model and then repeated again in a 2nd sample. We have had time to discuss and tweak and re-tweak to create a near perfect pattern available for immediate download to you. In the background of each pattern is approx $900 of work in fitting and resampling. This makes these patterns a bargain! These patterns can be used as basic shapes to style up to your individual look or use them as is.
You might like to start with a Basic Pant, Sleeveless Dress or Fitted Shirt to see if the fit is right for your customer. Have a look and let us know what you think.

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You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear


This week we met with a lovely lady, Jessica who is a fabric agent for a range or amazing men’s suiting fabrics. These fabrics are some of the finest in the world famed for dressing the likes of Prince Charles. As a long time fabric collector just touching these supper fine wool and silk/linen fabrics made my go all gooey inside. At $300 a meter it is not something I am likely to work with on a regular basis.

Jessica had contacted Sample Room ( to have some items made for her to wear to show customers how these fabrics can not only be used in $4000 suits, but also in women’s wear. We are using patterns from the Pattern Room ( These patterns have been perfected over a number of fitting session with professional house models and re-sampled till they are perfect, so they are ready for immediate use. Perfect for the styles Jessica needs.

Jessica is new to the rag trade and whilst she can obviously see the quality and value in such fabrics and is passionate about selling them, choosing styles to create for herself was a little harder than she originally thought. We had discussed the style she was looking for and the conversation quickly turned to what fabrics were appropriate for what styles.

I have been sewing since I was 10yrs old and have been pattern making for 20yrs so I often forget the knowledge built up of many years of experimenting with fabrics as well as fit. Many mistakes have been made in the pursuit to understand what I now know.

We have been working in the background on a range of men’s patterns for Pattern Room. It has become very obvious (and we have a little sarcastic chuckle at times) that men’s wear is designed for comfort and women’s wear is designed for looks. When we fit a women’s pattern we require a smooth fabric surface everywhere (armholes, crotch, back) when they are standing straight with their arms relaxed at their side. For men it is the opposite. Men’s pattern making and fitting requires that they can sit with their legs spread and their arms out at an almost 90 angle and there is no restriction in movement. To fit a men’s garment like a women’s garment will result in a very feminine look.

The fabrics that Jessica had bought to us whilst beautiful are designed for this relaxed styling. She had garments made previously where this had not been taken into consideration so inner leg seams had split as well as upper arms. The styling of the garments was quite fitted, as women’s wear often is, which did not suit the fabric. Women’s wear has benefitted greatly from the introduction of Lycra so we are able to slim down sleeves and created fitted pants whilst not compromising the look and durability of the garment. Looser styling must be considered to use these fine wools so that the garments utilise the drape and fabric weight. A little bit hard to comprehend if you are used to a youthful fitted pant and slim fitted jacket.

Which leads me the subject of this blog- not all fabrics can be used for all garments. This might be a fairly obvious comment but I am amazed how many people come to see us with a drawing on slip of paper without any idea what fabric will be used. Apart from the fact that fabrics are not easy to find, the fabric choice is integral to the styling of the pattern and the finish of the garment. I tell everyone, we can pattern make whatever you have designed but fabric is a limited commodity. Let the fabric you have found inspire your range and it won’t hold up the development process. Equally it is impossible for any maker, no matter how experienced they are, to make cheap fabric look like a quality finished product. We understand if you are a designer that does not have this knowledge, the smartest thing you can do for you and your range is to choose your fabrics first, show them to your pattern maker and ask for their advice, will this give you the look/finish you are looking for, will there be any make/finishing issue if you use this fabric, will different fabrics I you have chosen work together? A good patternmaker that also sews is a fantastic resource to benefit from. The knowledge they have built up is part of the cost you are paying for (using student pattern makers to save costs is another blog altogether). Seek this skill in your pattern maker and your range will benefit greatly for it. Come along and pick our brains any time. We would love to help you out.


Offshore V’s Onshore Production- The Pros and Cons

Of all the enquiries we receive at Sample Room the most heartbreaking involve offshore production. Whether it is the money lost, the time lost or the frustration. On the flip side we love creating a smoother development process that involves offshore production BUT with pattern and sample development locally so you can ensure the right product is made the first time, saving time, money and frustration.



The choice between offshore and onshore manufacturing is not a clear one to make when you are starting your label. You may have heard of cheap prices etc. To make a clear decision it is important to know the pros and cons for both. A bit of background information including a few examples of how other people work as well as some examples of where it can go wrong and you can make a more informed choice.

I have worked with both, local manufacturing and offshore in China, Fiji and India.

The first thing you need to be clear about is quantity.

Offshore manufacturing is generally about large qty production. This is one way they are able to offer lower prices (we will talk about this further later)

I have heard of manufacturers who are happy to make small qty but their prices are high and normally somewhere along the production schedule you become less of a priority when someone come in with a larger order.

Local manufacturing is more accommodating to smaller qty. You can find manufactures who are happy to make qty of 100 per style, 50 per style, even 20 per style. This can be over a few colours.

Overseas if you are looking to these small qty they will be made in a sampling room where you are competing with space from large qty production who are using the sampling room for samples. They will take priority. Generally overseas manufacturers would like 1000 per style (can be approx. 3-4 colours)


Yes is seems the price from an offshore factory is lower than local manufacturing. It is important to factor in a number of extra costs. Freight, import duty, Hiring a QC person to check the quality, you also really need to make a visit to the factory to check your production to make sure it is what you want. Even the price of couriers between overseas factories for samples, and trims for approval can add up (this can be $100 each way). Not to mention if you need to airfreight to reach a tight delivery which can add $7 to the price of a garment. I think offshore manufacturing works is you are making 20 different styles and 1000 pcs and you are traveling back from an overseas buying trip via your overseas manufacturer. On top of these hidden costs there is also an issue with faulty goods. You will normally have to pay for the full production run before it is shipped and if you find when you receive the goods to your office that there are problems that will need to be fixed at your cost. It is rare that you will receive a refund for these faulty goods. (This one is from experience). I have visited a few clients who have rooms full of clothes that are incorrect and they cannot sell them. They still had to pay for them but they just take up space now.

Delivery and lead time- the general rule with offshore lead time is a month for fabric development, a month for making and a month for shipping. BUT you would have to have a very good relationship with your manufacturer to guarantee this delivery. I have been in the situation where 3 months after I have placed a large order I have found out they have not even started fabric. (This order was pulled out and send to Fiji)

Locally you can have your stock made in 1 month. This is with supplying patterns, fabrics and trims to the manufacturer.

Offshore delivery can be held up for months with approvals shipped back and forth, busy production times or just that you are pushed back in the production schedule.


Well I always say it is easier to go to Sunshine (local to Melbourne with a few manufacturers) then it is to China to sort out an issue. If you are working with a local manufacturer then it is much easier to go across town and sort out any issue then communicate over computer and try to work out what the issue is. If you are looking to local manufacturing you can also be there to ensure nothing is held up and your delivery times are met. I have heard on more than one occasion of designers collecting their order and delivering to a major department store in order to reach a delivery just in time.


This is a personal favourite of mine- People say that the factory overseas will make a pattern for me. It is important to understand that if you don’t pay for it then you don’t own it. A large proportion of my job is tracing off garments that were made by an overseas manufacturer who NEVER sends the pattern. We also do a lot of work with poorly fitting patterns. It depends on what you goal is. If you are looking for good quality well-fitting patterns that are made especially to a fit that you know then I would probably not suggest offshore pattern makers. If you are designing for America use an American pattern maker. If you are designing for Asia use an Asian patter maker. If you are designing for Australia then use an Australian pattern maker. Each pattern maker knows their own demographic the best and what the works to the body shape. Years ago I was a wetsuit pattern maker and we were trying to move into the Asian market. I did a lot of research on the Asian body. It is not only different in sizing but bone structure. This was quite a change from the blocks I used and the way I thought about a pattern.

If you are copying garments direct then it won’t matter. Except you need to be happy with the fit before it starts. Fit issues often come from the core block and pinning out a side seam will not always be enough. Going back to the base block is often the only solution. But anyway, this one is up to you. Just keep in mind you get what you pay for.


Apart from these being shipping terms (another area you will need to know if you are working overseas) this will also determine how you work with a manufacture.

FOB manufacturing means they find everything- fabrics, buttons, elastic, and fusing

CMT manufacturing means you send everything to them and they make the garment.

My Top Tips-

Start local for the first 2 seasons at least- it is easier to explain and understand what is needed by working with a local supplier then to work with someone who is thousands of miles away. In the beginning you will not even know what to expect with the questions that will be asked.

You can produce smaller number, delivery on time, get paid then make more if the style is working. You are better off selling 100 pcs then make 1000 and only selling 100.

Once your label is tracking along nicely then you can look to expand out. I personally like Fiji for a first step. They are close to Australia, it is nice to visit, it does not take to long for your goods to travel there and back and if there is a problem it does not cost as much to travel over there.

Once you are well established, know the ins and outs etc you can look further afield.

Whether you are working locally or offshore, working with a local pattern maker and sample maker on your first samples will definitly result in a smooter process and a happier path to your end production.

If you would like to find out the most cost effective way to work for your label, feel free to give us a call to arrange a meeting on 03 9940 1510


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Pre-production samples- your last line of defence!


It is important to check measurements and quality of the pre production sample

Why sample?
Hi all! We thought we’d make the subject of today’s post, the pre-production sample. That’s a sample made after you’ve got your fabrics and trims, just before you go to production. We work together with you and your choice of manufacturer to get a garment that will work perfectly on the production line.
Some designers think that making a pre-production sample is a waste of time, and a spec sheet should be enough. But to us this sample is the key to a great result – and a safeguard against disaster. Here’s why.
Fabrics change.
When you order sampling lengths of fabric from your fabric supplier, they come off a small run of development fabrics. Once bulk is ordered it is added to a large quantity of other orders and then thousands of meters are produced.
There is no guarantee that the bulk fabric is produced in the same way as the sampling. It could be wound tighter, which would result in more shrinkage than the sampling fabric. Or it may stretch more. Colours may be different, as dye lots are notoriously difficult to match exactly.
More than one designer has been horrified to find that the fabric they’ve bought looks or reacts so differently that the garment no longer works. Sample again, be sure, make changes, and you won’t be lumped with a full run of unsellable garments.

Trims change
The trims used on your first sample will almost definitely be different to the trims used in production. The elastic may have been bought locally, whereas you production elastic was bought bulk. The stretch and return of this elastic may be different. You will need to see if they react and give you the same result at the end.

All machinists sew in a different way
We have seen as many versions of a welt pocket as we have known machinists. All achieve the same result, but it depends on the method they learnt at the factory they worked at. Some like welt pockets sewn as one piece for 2 welts, some like 2 x 7cm pieces, some like 2x narrow pieces to fit exactly. No one is incorrect.

Machinists require different indications
Some machinists like .5 clearance from the end of the drill hole, some like .7cm. It is at the pre-production stage that the factory sample machinist is able to work this out and change the pattern accordingly. Sure, you could tell them to just suck it up and do it your way – but wouldn’t you be happier knowing that the machinist was doing her best work?
Making a pre-production sample makes sense – it’s your final bit of insurance. Make one every time you order fabric for a new run.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about the process from design to production, please let us know in the comments area or email us at

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