A Real Fashion Designer: Vocabulary

Today I'd like to review a few fashion vocabulary terms with you. Some of these are things I learned in school, and some of them I had to sheepishly ask to have explained in a meeting. This list is by no means comprehensive, but I will give you ten of the words I think I use the most.

1. Tech Pack: This word means different things at different companies. Overall, though, it refers to the computer file with information about the specifications to which you'd like the factory to make your garment or item. This file usually contains several different vector-based drawings and diagrams of the item you're having made, displayed at different angles with callouts to different details.

2. Callouts: This refers to the textual information added to the sketches in the tech (or TP, as it's often called). Sometimes this is a measurement, and sometimes it's instructions on how to attach a trim or construct a seam. 

3. Bill of Materials: Most commonly referred to as the "B.O.M.," filling out this form is, by no means, the bomb. The bill of materials is basically a data entry form a designer has to complete with information regarding the fabric, trims, thread, tags, labels, and packaging for each garment. For each item you have to enter a reference code, a color, and in the case of buttons, the number of items to be included. The B.O.M. can be incredibly frustrating as every time a change is made to a garment, the designer has to go back into the data entry system, update the information, note that a change has been made, save the file, and send an email to their production partner to notify them that the change has, in fact, been made.

4. PLM or PDM: This stands for Product Lifecycle management or Product Data Management. These are essentially data entry systems that connect all segments of the design process via online files. The designer has to create the original files and enter all the information such as fabric, trims, construction, sketches, other images, and sometimes specs. If Design does not enter specs, the next step in the process is to "hand off" the file to the tech designer via an email saying the file is available.

5. Tech Designer: These people are experts in fit, measurements, and construction. Every time a designer receives a sample, they have a fit meeting with their tech design partner in which they either fit the garment on a dress form or a fit model to evaluate whether the garment fits properly or is correct to spec.

6. Fit Model: A person who is considered a "perfect" example of whatever the standard fit size is for a fashion company. This means their key points of measurement (or POMs) are the same as a dress form of their same size. Fit models are also often asked how garments feel and whether or not they are comfortble.

7. Sample: When a designer designs a garment, creates a BOM, and all other information is entered by the tech designer and production partner, the BOM is then released to a vendor. The vendor, who may be in India or China or Taiwan or California or anywhere else, then receives and interprets the information. They will ask any questions they need to ask, and then they will make an send a sample of the actual garment the designer has requested. The factory's first try is always called the "proto sample." Each additional sample is labelled according to what the factory would like to be approved for that particular item. For example, the next sample will be a "fit sample," to try on the model, and then there may be a "Pre Production" sample once the fit is aproved. The last sample is called a TOP, or "top of production," and it indicates what has actually been manufactured and is being shipped.

8. Production: There is a production department in the New York office, and then there is the actual process of producing bulk garments for shipment. The production department in the New York Office (most often referred to as the "NYO) acts as a liaison between design, tech, and the vendors who are making the garments. Production is responsible for knowing whether or not something is affordable at the price point at which it will be sold. If it is not affordable, then design and production meet to work out what can be changed or removed from the garment in order to make it more affordable for the customer while still maintaining the overall aesthetic everyone is trying to achieve.

9. Bulk: This refers to the final mass-produced item and all its "units," or the number of items produced.

10. Lab Dips and Strikeoffs: Lab dips refer to sample yarns or fabrics a factory sends to the NYO for color approval. Strikeoffs refers to the a sample execution of a print or graphic for NYO approval.

Well, that's ten! I hope you have learned something about fashion today! 

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