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How A Sustainable Fashion Brand Gets From Idea To Product!

from idea to product sustainably

If you’ve ever wondered how to go from an idea to a prototype, this is the perfect read for you! Here’s a little behind-the-scenes look at how a sustainable fashion brand can bring an idea to life.

There is significant work done behind the scenes before a product reaches production. The process can take nearly a year, involves the efforts of over ten people, and costs between $3,000 and $5,000 per sample. Even after thorough development and testing, your feedback may still result in the product not moving forward into production.

How Good Ideas Become Sustainable Products?

So…how does this work?

From the initial idea and design of a product to when it starts production is known as the ‘product development’ stage. For sustainable fashion brands, sustainable design is key and is addressed at every step, from taking care of the planet to ensuring the well-being of the people who make our clothes.

Garmanet cycle

The product development process can be broken down into these four general stages:

  1. Generating a good idea

  2. Designing

  3. Making samples

  4. Approving/testing samples

This process can take anywhere from two months to a year. While this may seem lengthy, the pre-production process helps ensure that the brand and the factory are on the same page before production starts. This means fewer issues during manufacturing and ultimately better-quality products.

Generating A Good Idea Starts With You

idea generation

The first step of product development is deciding what to create. You might not realize it, but you play a crucial role in this phase! When considering making a new product, sustainable brands turn to their customers for inspiration.

Customer feedback, whether through a website or social media, is invaluable. It helps understand what products work and what new items are desired. Even critical reviews provide opportunities for growth and improvement. So, don't hold back—your input is essential to the development process!

From Idea to Design

  • Getting Ideas on Paper

Ideas on paper or tech pack

There’s a lot to consider during the design stage, from incorporating feedback and shopping the market to pattern design and the creation of care labels and tags. A close-knit team of skilled professionals helps streamline this process.

garment sketch

Designers often lose count of how many designs and revisions they go through, but finding the perfect design makes it all worthwhile. The result of this collaborative effort is a "tech pack," essentially the product's blueprint, containing all the specifications and technical details required for production. This includes sewing instructions, indicating where stitches and seams should go.

Cad sketch

Pattern makers use Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software to create digital patterns, which can be easily emailed to the factory. If any fit adjustments are needed, they assist with that. They then create a prototype locally and send it to the factory to meet production standards.

  • Make It Sew!

Sewing garment
Processing garment details
Data collection

The sample package is shipped to the production facility, where the sample maker starts by creating a counter sample based on the prototype and tech pack provided. This prepares the styles for bulk production and also provides a cost estimate.

Once the counter samples are complete, the merchandiser notifies the team that they are on their way for checking.

  • Approving Samples

Measuring sample

Imagine ordering a shirt, and then one with three sleeves shows up…definitely not what you thought you were getting! That’s why it's essential to look at the samples and check that they are what was expected and if any changes need to be made.

Fit approvals may be needed for one size, with adjustments until the perfect fit is achieved. This can sometimes take 2 or 3 iterations, each of it taking about 3 weeks to get the sample back for approval.

The product is also tested for durability and quality, often with a simple run through the wash to check before and after conditions. This can only be done once the production fabric arrives. Although this can be time-consuming, ensuring that products meet quality standards is crucial.

  • Selecting Colors

Color sample swatch sheet

With the perfect fit, the next step is to work out the perfect color for the fabric. But, you can’t just dive right in and dye the fabric.

Dye lab

Lab dips are done first to see how the color will come out. The slightest shade difference makes a huge difference in production. Each lab dip takes the dyers up to 9 hours to process.

  • Size Sets

T-shirt sizes

The final part of this step is getting a sample of each size in the size run. This lets the designer confirm that the sizes are correct and meet the measurements in the tech pack.

Good Things Take Time

Once samples are approved, the product moves to production, a process takes about 3-4 months, and it can take even longer due to the Climate changes, natural disasters, and unpredictable situations such as the pandemic. Shipping adds another 35 days, but remember, good things come to those who wait.

The extended timeline is partly because they start from scratch, purchasing yarn and then knitting, dyeing, and stitching the product. This approach allows for greater quality control and a more ethical manufacturing process. Additionally, collaborating with skilled professionals both offshore and locally ensures the high quality of their products and that everything is done right.

The product development process involves thoughtful and strategic planning to meet goals. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes work that contributes to the company's success.

Share in the comments below if there was anything that surprised you about this process!

Looking for learning sustainable product development but has no past experience? Worry not!!

Discover your perfect pal for sustainable garment manufacturing! 

Source My Garment Book an ultimate guide for reference and detailed learning of every stage from idea generation to final product.

Adila cokar

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