What to write in a tech pack

So the past couple of blogs have been about keeping track of fabrics and trims and costing a bra. This piece covers what to write in a tech pack, it’s one of the most common questions I receive.

Going from a design in your head, to an actual sample  to getting lingerie manufactured is where most people come to a dead end.  Most factories, can’t or won’t give you a price unless they receive a tech pack or at least a construction page, how they they cost a bra you’ve designed unless they know the exact sewing procedures you are wanting. How complicated your design, or fabrics you are using will determine how long it takes to go through production.

By presenting a tech pack or page, you look like you understand how everything works, you look professional and it saves the factory time and you’re more likely to get an answer as factories deal with many requests from designers approaching them to get their lingerie made up.

So what to write in at tech pack?

A lingerie tech pack is similar to a fashion design tech pack, apart from you would have more on your trim page, elastics underwires etc.

Through out my years designing I have presented my tech pack the same, the only difference being is if I’ve worked for a company that manufactures in China, and they are printing and designing their labels and garment labels, then I would have an extra page for that, including artwork that they need. But usually I would start off with a summary page  which includes an overview  of the garment, the size range and a check list of everything you are sending to the factory with a comment box (for you or them to write in) so you may be sending patterns, a spec sheet, a check box for when they send you Pre-production samples etc.

A construction page is the most important, the more detailed this is, then mistakes are less likely to made. Every sewing procedure will be added, so every seam, where the label goes, and how it is sewn, a running stitch? A zig -zag stitch? Twin needle?

sewing terms lingerie

*This is an extract of “How to write a tech pack for a bra and brief”

After the construction page, you will usually have a trims/fabric page, depending on the amount of detail of the construction page, this can go on the same page as the construction page, but usually with lingerie you can have over nine components not including fabrics so it’s sometimes easier to put it on a separate page for space.

*Extract from “How to write a Tech pack for a bra and brief

*Extract from “How to write a Tech pack for a bra and brief

Either the trims I note down everything so when I look back I know everything about that design of lingerie. For example I would note down the article/reference number (so I can order it again) composition (what it’s made from) and placement (where’s it is on the garment). And with the fabric I note down the fibre content (what it’s made from). 

This may be enough in your tech pack, other pages to add would be about the labels, the sew in labels and the swing labels, this is important to add if you’re getting your factory to source and produce your labels, you would need to send the artwork to them and the details such as the washing instructions on them.

Also if you’re getting your lingerie shipped from far away you need to think how it will be packed, if you’re an eco-friendly brand you may not want it shipped in plastic etc.  

if you have no preferences of how it is packed then don’t worry, your chosen factory will have experience of shipping lingerie so will pack it safely. 

When I first got a factory to make Vanjo it was the factory in Wales (AJM) , I visited the factory first and took my sample then sat with the sample machinist and talked her through how I wanted the sample to be, from this she took her own notes with what machine she used and what tension and size the stitch should be so it could go through the factory the same. 

If you’re at a complete stand still on how your garment should be made I recommend starting to look at the inside of lingerie and see what stitches they have used, and if you want more understanding check out this book.  

How to cost a bra and brief

When I first started out Vanjo I was a little bit bewildered about the costing side. I only had costed for big companies, where I either knew what each operation of sewing costed therefore could reduce costs with buyers if needs be or companies had their own formula whereby you would enter what the bra and brief cost and the calculations would happen then you could adjust accordingly and get them signed off.

But there I was about to launch my own label and I didn’t know where to pitch my prices, it all seemed different for your own brand, of course there was the actual costs to add in, but what about everything else. I contacted my friend who at the time had her lingerie label stocked in Liberty and she told me that not only are you proving lingerie but you’re providing a fit, and to pitch yourself at your customer, again we go back to your customer base.

If you’re designing a high end lingerie label, your fabrics are going to reflect that and your prices, don’t just pitch high in hope that you are that high end brand, you have to execute it all.

I wasn’t aiming for the high end lingerie brands, my label was to help women find a good fitting bra with small backs and big brands. I didn’t use the most expensive lace, but I used french lace, so not the cheapest either.

I wanted my brand to be able to expand, so from the start I added in manufacturing prices, I know that going wholesale I would wouldn’t make much profit, but by going wholesale I could then meet minimums on my lingerie, and be able to offer my lingerie to stores and not worry about making them. Although truth be told, I only did one factory run and the rest I handmade, but my having the manufacturing price already in meant that I didn’t have to raise prices for the lingerie at a later date.

Below is an example of a basic costing sheet with the direct costs (not the indirect costs), and example of the bra costing sheet, and blank costing sheets and instructions how to work it all out can be found on the designs sheets in the shop section.

So we all know that without profit and cashflow you have no business.

A basic cost would be : Costs of fabrics + trims + labour + business overheads + profit = Garment costs

After deducting all of your direct and indirect costs (such as rent in your studio) you are left with your profit.

Things to take into consideration when costing are direct costs and indirect costs (your overheads), your hurdle rate (how much profit you need to make ) what your competitors are charging ie where do you want to position yourself in the market and what the customer is willing to pay (what benefit are they paying for when they buy from you.

Before you begin costing you will need to know how much fabric and trims does one garment make then you can work out the percentage of the cost. Just be aware of unseen costs like post costs.

If for example a bra costs (with the pattern and graded) £120 and you’re only selling one then you will have to factor in the full £120 but if you’re planning to sell six then 120/6 = 20 then you factor in this price, and if you’re planning on using this pattern again and again then the price shall be even lower.

You can also work backwards, if you know your market your aiming for sells say bras at £125 and you;re marking up at 2.5 then you can work out the whole sale price (£50) then if you’re wanting to make 2.5 you then know that the bra needs to be made at £20 to get the figures correct.

Remember mark-ups and margin are two very different things. Also another to know is Gross profit is Selling price - Direct costs.

And Net profit is gross profit - Indirect costs

Net profit is usually the money you pump back into the business to get it going.

And I’ll say it again, if you have no cash flow or profit you don’t have a business.




How to keep track of fabrics and trims

Do you order a load of fabric and trims at the same time?  Stash them away to sew up at a later date, then by the time you get to use them, you either forget where you’ve got them from, the code they came under or the price they were?

It’s time consuming to scroll back through receipts or your emails, to check; then email the supplier to check if they have anymore.

There are simple ways to keep track, either in a note book or separate sheets of paper, or on the computer. I’m a fan of printing out forms and fling them in, mainly because fabrics and trims can go quickly so you;re always crossing out what has gone, and I usually order many fabrics at once, so put it all on the same sheet from the same supplier and can add to it, which can be quite hard if you have a paged book.

FullSizeRender.jpg

I also prefer to have a paper copy in case I need to put a fabric or trim cutting on as a reference and it’s easier to reach for my folder with it all in, rather than start up the computer.

What is on my ‘keep track’ list?

I have the date, the supplier, code, my description and the price. So at a glance I can check with the company if they have anymore or if i’ve bought a lot of that said item, I can check and work out costings without having to spend time trawling back through past paperwork. I also then highlight which item I am using for the collection.

Also I can check at a glance when I bought it. Get into a system that works for you. By doing so you’ll save time and feel a bit more organised even if you’re drowning in trims and fabrics - which in my opinion is not a bad thing!

If you need help with getting a system into place then these design sheets may help you. In them is a style sheet to keep progress of your designs, a fabric/trim tracker (as stated above) a cost sheet to work out your costs, a tech pack template and a spec sheet template.  

How to sew the Betsy brief

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to make your own lingerie but don’t know where to start? The Betsy brief pattern was the first one to be released as this was  my starting point on many patterns. Simple in make-up but can be used with lots of different fabrics to look totally different. A high leg pattern with narrow side seams.

betsy brief pattern
Pattern_betsy brief

First start with sewing the hidden gusset piece, following the steps below. I have also done a detailed post here, if you need more diagrams.

SEWING THE GUSSET

Laying together the right sides of the outer gusset and front panel together with the inner gusset wrong side facing up. Sew together. Finish the edges by sewing close to the straight stitch with a zig-zag stitch if you do not have an overlocker available. Trim excess fabric.
With outer gusset right side up, roll up front piece, then roll up back piece and with wrong side up place on top of outer gusset and then bring inner gusset over both pieces sandwiching them. Then sew back piece and inner and outer gusset together. Pull out front piece and back piece, and with the gusset seams on the inside, sew down the edge of the two gussets together, then trim any threads and fabrics that are sticking out.

SEWING THE SIDE SEAMS

You now have two choices, you can attach the elastic to the legs then sew up one side seam, attach the elastic to the waist then sew up the final side seam, or you can sew the side seams together then attach the elastic in a loop. I usually sew the side seams up first, by laying the right sides of the fabrics together and overlocking, if you have no overlocker then zig zag the seams together. Then trim excess.

ATTACHING THE ELASTIC

You have two choices when attaching the elastic, you can sew the elastic one the legs and waist and overlap at the end, ensuring you keep an even tension the whole way around. Or you can sew your elastic in one loop, then pin at the half, and quarter to ensure an even tension. The elastic will be zig zagged on, there is a tutorial here if you need more information or pictures. Lay the elastic at the leg opening with the decorative edge facing in, pull the elastic evenly and attach using a zig-zag stitch. Then turn the attached leg elastic, back on itself underneath, so that on the right side you only see the decorative edge of the elastic. Secure with zig-zag stitch.

The lovely thing is that you can create a number of designs with just one pattern.

betsybrief lingerie pattern
betsy lingerie pattern


For those wishing to buy the Betsy pattern, please tag me on Instagram when sewn #vjdpatterns




Is a 34D really the same as a 32DD?

You’ve probably heard of sister sizing in the lingerie, for many women they wear a bra band that is too big and cup too small. Many think that a DD cup is bigger than a C cup and in some cases that’s correct but unless you know the back size as well , a bra measuring a C cup can be bigger than a DD cup.

This is where sister sizing comes into play. Before we get into that, let’s talk about what the numbers and letters represent. The numbers (from the UK measurements) represent the measurement taken from under the bust. And the letters represent the difference between your back and bust measurement. Each inch you breasts project from your ribcage is a cup size. For example a 36C, 34D and 32DD are all the same cup size, but a 34D breasts project out 1 inch less than a 32DD but because the different from the band to the cup has increased they are both the same cup size.

So a woman wearing a 36C can wear a 34D , and how it would fit, it would be tighter around the ribcage but the cup would be the same. So technically a 38C cup wearer has smaller breasts than a 30DD cup wearer.

is 32DD the same as a 34D

SO is a 34D really the same as a 32DD?

Fundamentally yes. The same wire is used (and for a 38B, 36C & 30E, and if you were using a moulded cup then that would be the same size. The wings on the 32DD would be shorter than a 34D, hence why if your under-band of your bra is too big when wearing a 34D, you can wear a 32DD for a better fit.

Now this sister sizing doesn’t work on all sizes, when you reach above a E cup, tweaks have to be made for example a 34F and 32FF may have a slightly different neckline measurement, as with a 32FF there is usually more boob than back, and to keep them projecting forward and not under the arm pits, the apex on each cup may be closer together than a 34F. Although the wire might be the same so the manufacturer doesn’t have to produce a wire for every size bra.

If you are designing a collection, it may be worth taking sister sizing into account when deciding on your range, as the bra wire minimums are going to be the same whether you’re producing for a 32DD so using them for a 34D makes sense to have that in the range as well.

If you are grading your lingerie, I always start with the cups, because they are the main importance and when you grade a 32DD, you’ve graded the 34D, 36C etc as well, therefore it’s then easier to work out which wings need to be graded as well. I have always worked for companies that have used the sister sizing, so it’s a useful bit of knowledge to know which cups correspond with another, for both fit and ordering components and wires.

When ordering components even though the 34C is technically the same cup size as the 30DD, different elastic may be used. A 30DD wearer may need wider elastic for the bra to hug and support the weight of the breast, whereas the 34C has a wider distribution for the weight of the breasts along the under-band so a thinner elastic may be used.


Practising lingerie sketches

I haven’t had much time to sketch these past two weeks, but the other day I sat down and wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit, so instead of my black and white pen drawings I decided to add colour. With all things new when you start my hands didn’t always correspond to what I wanted in my head. But I was quite pleased with the first attempts. I will have to invest in more colours and not just design from my head but with intended fabrics, but I’m hoping I get more time to perfect my style using pens.

lingerie sketches
close up of lingerie sketch

The pens i’ve used for this drawing are: Staedtler pigment fineliner usually using the 0.3mm and Winsor & Newton Promarker.

If you are wanting to practise or start lingerie sketches, an e-book is available “How to sketch a bra and brief” which contains 12 shapes and examples of sketching.

Key points to put on a Spec sheet

If you’re new to this blog, or lingerie design itself, you may wonder what a specification sheet is or if you need one for your lingerie designs. And whilst I have written about “how to spec a bra and brief” and drafted out templates so you can draft your own ones out, if you haven’t seen these , or want to know how important a spec sheet is then you need to know the following.

A specification sheet is a detailed sheet, with all the important measurements of your garment with it’s base size and all the other sizes you wish to produce. As well as standard information like your company name and style number/name of your garment, it will have a technical drawing with reference points to garment.

For example if you were to spec up a brief, you would have the measurement of the medium waist say for example 30cm then you would list the waist measurement of all the other sizes. So small would be 27.5cm and large would be 32.5cm (going on the grade of 2.5cm on the half).

If you need your lingerie graded, some graders won’t need a a spec sheet to work from and will just apply standard grades, and can produce the spec sheet for you .

It’s a bit like the chicken and egg, in which comes first, the grade or the spec. To write a spec sheet, you need to know how much everything grades by, but to get your lingerie graded you need to take the information off the spec sheet.

Some graders will be able to do your spec sheet for you, but some will want to work off your spec sheet. So it’s a balance of finding what works well for you.

When it comes to briefs I usually start with approximately eleven measurements :

And after that it would be extra measurements if you have more detail or seams on the brief, for example if you’ve a brief with a top part of fabric and a lower part then you would need both these measurements.

On a bra I usually have the minimum of twenty measurements, but depending on the bra style only 15+ may get used, These include, top of cup, through the cup - going through the fullest part of the bust, the length of the wing - relaxed and stretched. For a more detailed list of all the measurements, they are listed in the book “How to spec a bra and brief”

spec sheet for a bra

Not only do pattern makers and graders follow your spec, so do quality controllers, when you receive your sample or your range back from the lingerie manufacturers, the lingerie spec will be what you measure your lingerie by, ensuring all the lingerie manufactured are within tolerance (a measuring discrepancy given to all make-up of garments) before they can be sold.

WHAT TO PUT ON THE SPEC SHEET

So the key points to put on your lingerie spec sheet, are the following:

  1. Company name

  2. Style number or name

  3. Garment description

  4. Date

  5. Technical drawing of your lingerie including references and arrows)

  6. POM (Point Of Measurement correlating to your reference points)

  7. Sizes

  8. Tolerance each POM has

There are many different layouts of spec sheets, I tend to stick with my tried and tested spec sheet, which lay out has been used by factories. If you are wanting just a layout of a spec sheet to use, then your get the design sheet of the spec sheet here.

Questions to ask a lingerie manufacturer

You have your lingerie sample ready, or your design complete, the most common problem for new designers is getting their lingerie sewn up and sourcing a lingerie manufacturer. An underwear manufacturer is not the same as a clothing manufacturer, it is more specialised. Although if you are just doing a run with soft separates, some clothing manufacturers will take on your lingerie to sew, it all depends on the factory.

There are quite a few things to consider when sourcing a factory, and a few questions to ask before you make your decision.

LEAD TIMES 

Important question to ask a underwear manufacturer when sourcing one, is how long are their lead times. This is how long the factory will take to produce your lingerie. Different factories will have different times, some might be booked up a year in advance. Also sometimes issues in production aren’t found until the last minute which means your lead time has increased and your lingerie production delayed, although most if not all problems should be sorted out before the final run of production. Also if you are going with a factory based in China, remember they shut down for Chinese new year,

WHAT ARE THEIR MINIMUMS

This is the amount of lingerie that you will need to place in one order for one style for the factory to take it on and make it up. Overseas factories tend to have a higher minimum (some as high as 2000 pieces) but a lower cost, whereas your factory nearer home, with have lower minimums but a higher price. You need to work out which one will be more cost effective to you. Remember with higher minimums you will need more fabric, more quality control and higher shipping costs for the space it takes to ship.

french lace lingerie

LOCATION OF LINGERIE MANUFACTURER

Think where your manufacturer is. The closer the factory is the more control you have to have control, and visit the factory to see workmanship, working conditions and the quality of the garments going through production. That said you can build up a relationship with an overseas lingerie factory and support how they work. The key is to know about the factory that you are going with.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Also before you place an order with a lingerie manufacturer I would be asking or making sure that I understood the following :

  • Minimums (as discussed previously).

  • Sampling - who pays for this, is it included in the price, what if you need another sample made - who pays for this? Also if you decided to not go ahead with production who owns the rights to your sampling?

  • Prices - so important, what do you prices include?? Tech packs? grading? Just manufacturing? Also what are their payment terms? Do they provide credit or will they provide on your second order?

  • Shipping - What are their terms? Do they pay for shipping? Most lingerie manufacturers will be expecting you to look after shipping of the garments, especially if this involves Tax or import duties.

ABOVE ALL KEEP COMMUNICATING

Be clear on everything before you place an order, you wouldn’t employ someone without talking to them first and the same should be with business, don’t worry if you’re opting for a foreign manufacturer, in my experience when dealing with suppliers or manufacturers they have all spoken fluent English. Forge a relationship with them, and remember each country has it’s own business culture so you may need to adjust your outlook.

Attending trade shows is a good idea as you may get to speak to people directly or start a relationship with a lingerie manufacturer that you may not have if you would have say just emailed them.


 


Thirteen steps to planning out your lingerie range

Where to start? You have an idea or design in your head, or mapped out and a sample staring you in the face, but where to go from here? And what about next season’s range?

Should you start that as well or be thinking about your first range?

So many questions it can be confusing and time stressful to fit everything in. So I’m going to go through each stage of what it takes to get from idea to manufacturing, feel free to dip in at any point that you are along the time line.

I will do an example if you were making it all yourself, obviously this would be different if you were getting the samples and production outsourced by a lingerie manufacturer.

This  time line  with further examples and blank sheets is available to buy in the design sheets

This time line with further examples and blank sheets is available to buy in the design sheets

Let’s begin..

  1. The design - have you finalised your design? Including fabrics and the sizes you are going to be covered.

  2. When do you plan to launch? This is important to know - it may get put back, as things often take longer than you would like, especially in the start, but if you can begin to work towards a date, it’ll be easier for your next collection and you can then work backwards, deciding when you need to get things done by.

  3. Sample sheet/style progress sheet: I think this is great place to get everything down in one place. How often are you flipping through a notebook looking for information on your designs, by separating each design onto it’s own page, you begin to jot down notes, on fabrics, trims, styles, and what you else you need. I would then duplicate this when you have all the correct information.

This  progress style sheet  is available to buy in the same pack as the time line

This progress style sheet is available to buy in the same pack as the time line



4. If you’re doing the sewing yourself then you don’t need to get a technical drawing done as it’s only you that needs to understand how you’re sewing it up. So next you need to think about Patterns, are you going to outsource these or are you going to do them yourself.

5. Fabrics: Have you ordered any for sampling? If you are ordering online have you asked about how much they have? I’ve have fallen victim before to ordering 1 meter of fabric loving it , getting all my samples signed off, only then to discover that the fabric isn’t available anymore. You can either buy more than your sampling if you know that, that’s definitely the fabric you want. If you’re dealing with fabric manufacturers then they should be able to knit you more but there will be a minimum, if you’re buying online then check the quantity. This is where knowing your launch date is important because you know exactly when you need to have the fabrics by.

6. Trims: Basically the same as fabrics, though harder in some aspects as you need to make sure you have everything: elastics, (maybe more than one style), rings and slides, hook and eyes, and strapping.

7. Are you planning on dying everything, or buying black, white or notions already dyed?

8. Right sample time: if you’re making it then you should have your fabric sampling, you don’t need to make your sample in the correct fabric to start with if you want to see if you’re pattern works. However I recommend making it in the correct fabric and trims for your fit first, as you get more efficient with this, by all means pick similar stretch fabrics. This is the joy of designing lingerie rather than outer wear, you’re not having to outlay loads of money for meters of fabrics.

9. Fitting: Time to fit the lingerie - don’t be dismayed if it doesn’t fit at this stage the way you want . Expect one-to-two fitting sessions at least, but if you’re getting to your fourth fit and don’t seem any more forward, start to question your design or fabric choice. Unless it’s a tricky design fitting for the larger cup market or something you have your heart set on, it may kill your soul with the constant fits.

Example of a spec sheet , a blank version and tips to fill one out can be found under the design sheets

Example of a spec sheet, a blank version and tips to fill one out can be found under the design sheets

A book for those who wish to learn about  writing their own specification sheet  for their lingerie

A book for those who wish to learn about writing their own specification sheet for their lingerie

10. Seal: This is your final garment with everything correct, how it will fit, the correct fabrics and trims, this will be the sample you refer to when you need to know what is stitched where and how. (any extra fits are put after this as you may not need this column.

11. Specification sheet : This is the sheet with all the measurements you need to make your lingerie in different sizes, it’s also so when you make your lingerie you can check against it to make sure it all measures correctly. Decide whether you’re going to do this yourself outsource it.

12. Grade your pattern: If you’ve got your designed all signed off, then it’s time to grade the pattern to all your sizes. Having the spec sheet done, you will be able to see how much each part of the pattern needs grading by. Again you need to make the choice whether you are going to outsource this or do it yourself.


For those wanting to grade their own  lingerie a book  is available.

For those wanting to grade their own lingerie a book is available.

13. All done !! Now it’s time to cut your production and start to get it made.