After my phone call with an excited fashion hopeful, I decided to write this article so she can review, and for anyone else who's in the same boat:
If you don't have a tech pack, do not expect things to move as smoothly. You are also opening yourself up to a significant amount of risk. Without prior experience and specifications (down to the type of button), it's difficult to communicate the changes you want. This will often lead to "sampling by trial and error." This is more expensive, time consuming, and can become frustrating for everyone involved.
There are 4 basic components in a tech pack: 1. Vector Design Sketch 2. Points of Measurement / Specification Sheet 3. Grading Scale 4. Bill of Materials If you can communicate each of these things clearly through physical products, that would be the next best thing. What we'll be looking for in physical examples will be the same as those 4 listed.
Buy products as similar to your product vision as possible. Although you may not have a vector sketch for us, we can create one if you have something physical. You'll also need a product with the sizing you like so we can create the specification sheet. The grading scale is not necessary for the construction sample, but when we move forward with sizing, it will be very important for us to have all the sizes. Lastly, a fabric reference sample as close to the one you want to use as possible.
Use directions and exact numbers, not a relative phrase. One example is in sourcing fabric. Instead of saying, "I want Dri-Fit," have the reference sample, or read from the tag. Because the fabric is often branded for marketing, any cooling technology usually includes polyester, but how much?. Another example - instead of saying, "the sleeve is too short, can you make it bigger?", replace that phrase with "The sleeves need to be longer, let's try to reduce an extra 1/2 inch all the way around." The numbers become extremely important because they are detailed in each iteration so we can improve upon them.
The industry trend, and the largest brands we work with, are on 1 year production cycles. One year before the day the products ship to warehouses, they have been designing and sourcing fabric. About 8 months prior, they will finalize the design, fabric choices, and finish the sampling process. By 6 months, they have taken orders on their designs and have begun production. These experts with decades of experience are giving themselves that much time to account for anything that may come up. For a newcomer in the industry, patience will help the learning process.