How To Know You Are Ready To Work With A Patternmaker

You might not be ready to work with a patternmaker. Your design idea might be too abstract still or not quite aligned with your business goals. For the investment in product development to be worth it, the design needs to be more than just a rough concept. It needs direction and you need clarity. Here’s how to know you’ve reached that point and are ready to work with a patternmaker. 

You are clear on who the design is for

It is really hard to get a garment to fit well if you don’t know who it is supposed to fit. You can have a design for a jacket, but a patternmaker can’t really help you make that jacket unless they know if the jacket will be for your grandma, your thirty-something professional colleagues, your baby nephew, or your pet golden retriever. These are all very different markets with very different needs and preferences for their clothing. 

The best thing you can do to prepare to work with a patternmaker is to be super specific on who this design is for. (Hint: women aged 20-45 who want to be stylish and confident is not specific enough.) The clearer you are about your target market for this design, the easier it will be for your patternmaker to execute your vision successfully.

You know what you want the design to look like

A patternmaker helps you figure out how to make your design. They don’t decide what design you should make. That is what you get to do as the designer! If you don’t know all the technical details like seams and stitching, that is okay, but you need to have the creative vision dialed in. What do you want the front and back to look like? Where are there style lines or details? What look and fit are you going for? 

Your patternmaker can advise on certain details like placement of closures or darts to best achieve your vision, but you need to know what you want and be ready to make decisions when presented with different options.

You know the type of fabric you want to use

Fabric is both a visual and technical part of any garment design. Often, the same design can work in multiple fabrics, but the fabric will greatly change how the end product looks, fits, and feels. The pattern is very dependent on the type of fabric as well. For example, a henley shirt could be made in a stretch jersey fabric or in a starchy woven shirting. Those two shirts will end up very different, though, and the patterns will need to be different as well.

Before you are ready to work with a patternmaker, you’ll want to have a type of fabric in mind. You don’t necessarily need to have the exact fabric picked out (your patternmaker can help you make the final selection that will work best for your design vision), but you do need to have a general idea of the fabric you want prior to working with a patternmaker. To prepare, you can gather example garments or fabric swatches to show the type of fabric you are thinking of using.

You have a realistic target retail price point

If you want to be able to make money with your brand, the numbers matter early. You don’t want to go through development of a style and then find out it is way too expensive for your target customers to purchase. That is why you work backwards from your target retail price point.

Knowing this price point, your patternmaker can recommend different construction or finishes that will align with that. Your patternmaker isn’t the only one in control of the product cost, but they have an impact early on in product development. If you start working with a patternmaker before identifying a target retail price point, you run the risk of wasting time, money, and samples by having to adjust the design or pattern to fit the numbers later. 

You have a plan to sell the product

As a patternmaker, I and other patternmakers I know want to see our clients’ brands succeed. We don’t want you to spend thousands of dollars on creating your design only to have it sit unsold in your garage. Before developing a product, we want you to have a plan for how to sell it. Whether that plan involves direct-to-consumer online retail, wholesale, in-person popups, or your own storefront, a patternmaker will look to your business plan as a sign of readiness. 

How you plan to sell the product also affects the development timeline, price point, fit and sizing, and many other factors that directly relate to patternmaking. Have a plan before you start working with a patternmaker.

You don’t have to have everything figured out to be ready to work with a patternmaker, but you do need to know what your goal is. The design needs to be more than a concept. It needs to be concrete enough that you can make decisions about the look, fit, purpose, and budget for the garment. Only then are you ready to work with a patternmaker to bring that design to life.

Leave a Reply