From product development to pre-production approval

Garments begin with a mythical “inspiration,” usually image-driven. Here at the garment manufacturer, designers most often acknowledge the big 4 runway presentations (Paris, New York, Milan, and London) as the height of inspiration and the beginning of their own parts in the production of fashion. American and European designers look to the same shows and translate them into mood boards. Mood boards are compilations of other design-centric images pulled from sites like Pinterest. They also feature a sample line which has been purchased from retail shops and collected from around the internet. Color palettes usually contain about 10 colors and sometimes include an extended palette as well. All of these are organized by themes, such as “Desert Bloom”: oranges, yellows, and the spare cactus green. Words like “adventure” and “Santa Fe” help to conjure up images in the final collection as well. Suppliers use these mood boards to develop their own samples. Out of 300, about 40 are usually selected by international designers and buyers who come to India for this purpose. Perhaps half of them will go forward “as is,” while designers ask for fabric, color, and construction changes in the other half. About 10 of these may get to the final stage and put into production once the purchase order has been signed.

At this point the order gets transferred to the merchandising department, where I have spent the last week and half and will continue for another week. Merchandising is probably the most hidden part of the manufacturing process. They are chiefly responsible for arranging all supplies and taking the product development sample into pre-production phase. All supplies must be ordered, lines planned, and approval given from a master tailor before the garment can proceed to production. I have spent the last few days with a master tailor, who is guaranteed to make many changes before he is willing to approve a garment. In collaboration with the pattern maker, he must make sure that the garment will actually fit a mannequin rather than just look good on a hanger. This often includes adding darts, adjusting length, and fixing any issues like puckering, weak seams, or asymmetry. It is a relief when the white pencil finally writes and underlines “Approved for production” on the garment.

The process of approvals will continue for at least another 45 days while the garment is in production. Local buying agents which represent international customers will give at least 4 approvals of their own in addition to international approvals. It almost always takes at least two tries to get it right: the first comes back with comments which may include color, seam, or construction issues. Defects are marked with red arrow stickers (see image, where lace trim is not laying flat). These are addressed internally before pre-production samples are sent back out for approval.

painted version 2015-07-08 11.19.07 painted

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About Alex

I am a PhD student in sociology doing research on negotiations at garment factories in in India. My work is supported by a summer travel research grant from CASI, for which I am grateful.