Navigating the Development Process:

Magic Made Here

Published On: February 6, 2023

We know you’re reading this article with dreams of success in the fashion industry first and foremost in your mind. No, we are not mind readers. But for over 17 years we have had the privilege to work with over 2,000 designers and brands. Just like you, many were just starting out; armed with nothing more than a great idea, a dream, and more questions than answers.

The first two questions most emerging designers typically ask are, “How do I get my collection made? What happens in each step?” While it can seem like a mystery at the outset, it’s actually much less complicated than you might think.

The development process is where the magic is made. It takes some planning, decision-making, and navigation to ensure a successful outcome.

So without further ado, let’s jump right in.

The Goldilocks Conundrum: Deciding on the Size and Scope of the Collection

Are eight items too many? Are fifteen not enough? While you don’t need to know EXACTLY how many garments you plan to create at the start of the development process, this decision informs so many other elements of the development process: schedules and timing, budget, fabric and trim needs, the list goes on. So it helps to have a pretty good idea of the size of your project.

The two most important considerations in deciding the size of your collection:

  • Is your collection focused on one specific item or niche? For example, if you have an idea for a really innovative bike short, maybe your collection can be as small as three to five different garments? Or maybe even two, if you think that’s enough for your customer to “get” your idea?
  • Are you designing a “collection” in the traditional sense of the word? If so, you’ll probably need 15 to 20 garments (optimally) for you to merchandise a cohesive collection and help the customer understand your unique vision.

Let’s get those garments made!

You’re going to love this part, we promise.

Once you have chosen your all-important development partner for patterns and samples (whether it’s a full-service company like TEG, or an assemblage of freelancers), you’ll need to clearly share your vision for your brand with your development team. Everyone needs to be on the same page, and you, as designer and creative director, wrote the playbook! This is also the time to discuss budget and timing.

Part way through the pattern and sampling process, you’ll see your first samples and have your first fitting. These samples are a collaboration between you, the patternmaker and the sample sewer. Now is the time to make any changes or alterations to your garments. First samples are just that, first samples! Don’t expect them to be 100% perfect. Let your team know what you’d like to have changed, so they can confidently move forward with your final production-ready patterns and samples.

Speaking of fabrics and trims

To add to the list of items to consider during the start of the development process are the fabric and trim selections. While your garments are in the first sample stage, you can use what is called “substitute” fabric for the samples.

There are two reasons why designers may use substitute fabric in the fit sample phase. The first reason being that their ultimate final fabric choice might be running behind schedule, and they want to get a jump on samplemaking. Or, the final fabric might be quite expensive and they don’t want to waste money on the fabric for a first sample that ultimately may not be usable for sales or photography purposes

If you decide to use substitute fabric during this phase, a word of caution. Be sure that your substitute fabric acts and feels like your final fabric. Otherwise you could end up with unforeseen fit issues at the end of the process!

This is also the time to determine if the sampling fabric you purchased is working out in the way you intended. Do you need to re-think your fabrics and/or trim selections after seeing your first sample? If so, that’s okay and this is time to do it; your final samples have not yet been sewn, and you haven’t yet purchased your bulk production yardage. If you DO plan to change fabrics, let your development partners know right away!

Once you have the first fit samples in hand, you should use these samples to figure out how much final production fabric you’ll need to order from the fabric vendor for your bulk production (don’t forget the trims as well!).

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

As Tom Petty sang, “The waiting is the hardest part…” And he was absolutely right. The development process is not fast and can take up to three or four months.

Your particular development schedule will be dependent on many variables. How quickly can you make your creative decisions? Did you order sampling fabric in time, or is your fabric vendor having a production slow-down? Does your development team have their hands full with other projects?

Waiting is the hardest part of the development process. And at times it will test your patience. Rest assured there is a lot of work (pattern making, sewing, etc.) going on behind the scenes, as your final samples are being completed.

There are many ways for you to use this “down time”. Here are just a few:

  • Use this time to find and vet your bulk production partner
  • Use your first fit samples as an costing sample to get per-unit bulk production pricing
  • Get all your bulk fabric and trim purchasing ducks in a row
  • Plan and design your labels and hang tags
  • Be sure your website is properly designed and developed
  • Investigate appropriate sales channels for your brand

And for the Finale…

This is the part you’ve been waiting for! The last step in development is gathering up your final samples and production-ready patterns. Now (along with your production fabric and trims) you have everything you need to put your project into bulk production. Take a bow, you made it!

The development process consists of many moving parts happening simultaneously. For an emerging designer, it’s enough to make your head spin. As we’ve said many times before, find a development partner that you trust and ask their advice if you start to feel overwhelmed.

In fact, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have prior to the start of development. Feel free to reach out to us at or call us at 800-916-0910.

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