Even though I went to technical school first, I only learned about Tech Packs when I got my first job, as a Product Development Assistant.
This was back in São Paulo, Brazil, and all our manufacturers were local sewing workshops or independent seamstresses with a sewing machine in their backyard.
They'd come to us, we'd have a chat about the design we wanted to make; give them the fabric, buttons and labels; sometimes lend them one of our pieces to copy; and they'd return in 2-3 weeks with a prototype.
If it sounds too casual, well, it's because it was.
And chaotic as hell. Most Fashion brands are, so all my jobs were less about making Tech Packs, and more about organisation: tidying up the studio space, and creating some sort of way to document the history of new developments.The first time I realised Tech Packs were a big deal was when I started looking for gigs on freelancing websites: NOBODY needed a Fashion Designer graduated from 2 of the top Fashion schools in the world, with both creative and technical skills.
"Fashion startups" just needed someone to turn their half-baked ideas into something a Chinese factory would understand.
Because in their heads, Tech Packs are almost magic: you pay $50 to someone on the internet to make something on their computer; skip years of training in Design, Textile Technology, pattern cutting and sewing; send a PDF to China and BAM! Garment!
And how would they not think that? Most people are wilfully ignorant about the insane environmental impacts and disgusting working conditions of garment workers in the countries where big brands outsource production to keep costs as low as possible.
But if you got to my blog, I know you've already been confused and overwhelmed by what you found on the first page of your Google search, or even taken for a ride by a cheeky apparel manufacturer, so it's time to grow up and stop believing in cheap magic tricks.
The closest thing to a Tech Pack I've got
Here it is, the very first tech pack I did for my label:
I've adapted it a couple of times to make new samples, but the important things don't change:
- the correct fabric information is always there: the fabric name, weight, composition ("cotton" is NOT a fabric!);
- an accurate flat sketch of how the t-shirt should look like when finished, with the right proportions and notes next to relevant design details, such as the slits and the wider hem on the sleeves;
- an indication of the print I want to make + my note saying the artwork has been changed;
- my logo, name and contact details
Now these super specific measurement guidelines were meant for the cheeky manufacturer that took me for a ride.
After he ghosted me, I developed this design the same way as my other pieces:
- I created the pattern = the black outlines for front, back, sleeves and neckline;
- I placed the artwork;
- the factory sourced the fabric, sent for my approval, then bought 50m of it = a whole roll = minimum orders for Prepared To Print fabric in most mills in Portugal (stock fabric could be less, but custom colours usually start at 300m minimum order);
- The roll was digitally printed according to this file, then cut following the black outlines + another file created specifically for the cutting machine;
- the tech pack was used by the seamstress to sew it together, but the markings indicating where to stop sewing the sides to create the slits, where fold the hem on the dress and on the sleeves, where to sew the sleeve caps etc were also on the patterns.
Adobe Illustrator screen above, full story on the video below - with cool pictures of the giant printers at the factory:
Bottomline is: there was a whole Research and Development PROCESS going on.
Even if I did everything from my laptop;
Even if I'm not a specialist in Print or Textile Design;
Even if I got exactly what I wanted without cutting, or sewing or printing anything...
I still needed to have an understanding of the whole process and the communication skills to work effectively with the manufacturer.
Now you: do you still believe in apparel manufacturing magic?
Did my article become super confusing after the intro?
Did you see the technical stuff and felt the anxiety creeping up on you?
Do you desperately wanna go back to Pinterest to find solace in some no strings attached "Fashion research"?
I bet you don't.
I know you'd rather see your ideas come to life, and I'm here to encourage you to take sustainable baby steps that'll make a huge difference - even in the short term (as in, like, 20 minutes... everyday for a month, c'mon).