Fashion Tech Packs: The Complete Guide + Expert Advice

Picture this: your sketches are now complete and your brand is ready to produce. You’ve got your website set up and you’re excited to take the next step in your journey. Maybe you’ve found the manufacturer you want to work with and now they’re asking for a tech pack.

Fashion tech packs are what make or break the next step in realizing your products. If done incorrectly, designers can lose a lot of money and time, very quickly.

At Sqetch, we can get you in close touch with manufacturers for your product. This article is set up to assist with one of those key steps in manufacturing and producing profitable pieces of clothing. We recommend that all designers know exactly what they need to do, in order to make this transition from designing to manufacturing even more simple.

By the end of this post, you’ll know how to deal with tech packs and how they can assist you in production. 

Let’s get started!

What is a tech pack?

A tech pack is one of the most important documents, if not the most important one, needed to produce your product and bring it to market. After sample sketches and designs are complete, designers need to translate that idea into something manufacturers can easily understand.

Tech packs tell the manufacturer everything they need to know in order to produce pieces of your work. This document doesn’t only tell them how to size and stitch your design size-wise, but it can set out the nitty-gritty such as the material you want to use, where a pocket should be placed, and where and how deep and crisp a fold is needed on a skirt.

By the end of this article, you should have everything you need to take this leap with confidence!

We’ve asked the Design Team at OffBeat Vision to help explain the importance of tech packs:

“Tech packs are an indispensable tool for the apparel industry in the manufacturing process because this document summarizes all the information that is needed to carry out the production. A good and accurate tech pack is essential in order to complete the whole process and to avoid as many mistakes as possible. The more detailed your tech packs are, the fewer problems will occur during production.”

Even though all professional fashion brands use tech packs for the manufacturing process, mistakes are often made. So, before we jump into it, here are six pieces of advice to follow when creating your tech pack. 

  1. Avoid mistakes and typos.

It is important to triple check your tech pack before sending it out to manufacturers. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but it is important to reiterate this to your team, your technical designer, and in your own mind.

Indeed, errors in tech packs can lead to major mistakes in the long run. 

On a larger scale, if a measurement is incorrect, your customers will get a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit correctly or doesn’t match your size chart. On a smaller scale, but still rather important, a fold could be too small on one order of clothing, while perfect on another colour. 

 It is essential to make sure everything that is supposed to be there is there. Written mistakes lead to production mistakes, which may lead to less profit or a dip in sales.

2. Provide technical sketches and/or images.

Providing photos and technical sketches increase your chances of the product coming out just as you pictured it. Also, make sure to include close-ups of details that are unusual.

 This avoids frustrating the manufacturer and yourself from having to contact you multiple times in order to get the product right. Ultimately this will save you time and most importantly, money.

 If you do not have an initial sample garment, you should speak to your manufacturer and get a perfect sample done first.

 This way, they have a reference product.

If the final pieces do not come out like the approved initial product, both parties know for sure that there is a mistake that needs to be fixed.

3. Send your final documents in the right format: Adobe PDF and a detailed spreadsheet.

Along the lines of reducing errors and mistakes, sending your final document in an appropriate fashion is key to helping the manufacturer understand what you want in the final garment.

The technical sketch or visuals of your piece are usually a vector image made in Adobe Illustrator by your technical designer, while the specifications of your garment are created in a spreadsheet.

Nevertheless, in many cases, sending your tech pack as a PDF not only saves space, time and the planet, it will ensure that what you wrote, is exactly what you wrote: PDFs in most cases, cannot be edited. As they are more permanent, it gives a sense of what your product has to be. And there will be no misunderstandings between you and your manufacturer.  

4. Choose a good technical designer.

Visual, technical, and graphic designers come in all shapes, sizes, and expertise. If you have a fashion brand who needs a technical designer on your team it is important to interview them and communicate with them on every level of your brand.

Some technical designers may be able to sew by hand or on a sewing machine at home, but they have never been to a factory. Your technical designer must be knowledgeable about the differences between hand or home sewing and factory production. This will allow them to provide details that are achievable with industrial equipment. As with any piece of work, research is the first initial step to doing an outstanding job. When making tech packs, it is no different.

 

5. Provide a readable and professional tech pack

Tech packs should be able to be read by anyone, even those who have never seen one before. They use images and numbers in order to convey what you want in the final piece. Therefore, they need to be perfectly legible and easy to understand. This ties in with providing images and erasing mistakes in your document. 

But there’s more:

It’s better to use multiple pages with spacing and clear information than putting everything on one page.

Make sure that your technical designer is proficient in all things fashion from printmaking, patternmaking, and garment construction. Some designers are good illustrators but without knowledge on pattern making, there can be mistakes where they would ask for a design or pattern that cannot be portrayed on a garment.

Soames Rudowski, fashion developer expert at Fashion Team, notes that “simple is good – do not complicate. Just make it understandable, precise, concise and never otherwise. Very generally, think about the fabric composition, weight, colors, and measurements; picture the details you want to add and make it user-friendly.”

This also comes back to recognizing what you are designing for. Things that can be mimicked and created on advanced technology such as a computer, may not be able to be transferred to a fabric or look the same when printed onto a garment.

So what’s the bottom line?

Do a bit of research and make sure you are aware of where your talents and team can take you. Be detailed and create a document that is easy to understand.

 

6. Choose the right manufacturer

All manufacturers and factories are not made alike. Each factory can offer something another doesn’t, including service, lead time or equipment and that’s quite okay!

With a lot of research and plenty of help from Sqetch, you can find the perfect match for your brand. Communicate with the factories and manufacturers you are interested in. Make sure they can do and produce the garment you have in mind before it’s too late or before you invest time and money into their services.

Indeed, delays are inevitable if the factory doesn’t have a piece of equipment needed for your design. Make sure your technical designer receives the list and types of equipment your chosen factory is using. If a technical designer has this information beforehand, they can work on alternatives and different ways to achieve the design with your chosen manufacturer.

 Basically, your manufacturer is a part of your team now. They are the yin to your yang and the gin to your tonic.

 They should know your brand and you should know what they can offer to your brand. If you want to use a certain type of material, make sure your factory knows how to handle the material. With that, make sure they can produce everything you have listed and requested in your tech pack. That means making sure your technical designer completed the pack correctly, and the manufacturer is efficient, competent and devoted to you as a client.

But that’s not everything:

Be open to technical comments from your factory. Often manufacturers are better in translating tech packs into a good they can produce and suggest alterations or improvements that contribute to a better product. Be receptive to those suggestions as those may prove very helpful.

 

What Else Should You Know? 

It is important to create a tech pack for each piece of clothing in an apparel line. Doing a thorough and extensive tech pack may seem time-consuming. However, it limits the number of errors in production and allows for producing high-quality sample pieces of work.

 Remember: Without a tech pack, manufacturers have a hard time translating your design and sketch into an actual tangible piece of work. It also allows the manufacturer to produce the product without having to contact you every minute about certain details; they will have the tech pack for reference! 

With the manufacturer’s busy on your samples, this leaves room for you to create your next amazing line.

 

What must be included?

Each product is different and so is each tech pack. A t-shirt is different from a pair of jeans and a sweater is different from your shoes. There is no one size fits all. However, there are a few sections that must be in every tech pack.

Specifications and Technical sheets: These are as important as visuals when creating your tech packs. Because specification sheets can be a bit difficult to dissect, we have consulted with the team at Bridge and Stitch to explain why these pieces are essential: 

“A design specification sheet is made up of a technical drawing of your garment, showing front and back views, along with any other details necessary, for example inside construction, side views, close-ups of stitching or complex detailing. It is important to then outline all aspects of the product, including an in-depth description of the construction, fabrics, trims & embellishments, colorways, size range, and quantities. All of this information means that you can send to a factory or supplier and everything is illustrated and clear.” Jenny Diederich, Project Manager, Bridge and Stitch.

Grading Rules and Charts: Jenny Diederich explains why this element is important: “Manufacturing and grading sheets are essential guides for the factory and pattern cutter, outlining all measurements they will need to know and reference throughout the process. Pattern cutters will use manufacturing sheets to produce master patterns, and grading spec sheets form the basis for graded patterns”

Bill of Materials: The list of materials or Bill of Materials is used to communicate all necessary materials to the supplier. Make sure to put every material on the list and don’t leave anything out. Information such as the placement, the exact composition of the materials, the color numbers, and any important details regarding the materials should appear in your BOM.

 

How to actually produce the tech pack?

You’ve just seen tips and tricks to create and improve your fashion tech pack. Now it’s time to put these techniques into practice. 

Many apparel designers can create their tech pack using Adobe Illustrator, a tool that many designers may use already to sketch or translate their hand-drawn sketches into digital versions. Adobe Illustrator also allows fashion designers to export in PDF format, which means being able to send tech packs digitally!

But if you are a newbie to tech packs, there is an alternative: Many fashion designers involve a technical designer, who can sit with them and create a detailed tech pack for manufacturers with no error.

Here is a list of manufacturers that can help you with technical design and pattern making:

  1. The Pattern Room (UK)
  2. London Pattern Bureau (UK)
  3. Suuchi Inc (USA)
  4. Hyak Design Group (USA)

No matter which route you choose, a tech pack will offer a rewarding outcome and result. 

You already have your tech packs ready and are now looking for the perfect manufacturer? Check on Sqetch.co and find your perfect match.

 

And the team at Sqetch has gone a bit further for you as well…

 

We are experts in our field but we wanted to consult an array of experts on tech packs! Tech packs can be so tricky, so it’s always great to consult those who know and know well!

The Experts:

  • Renata Rakossy & Constantin Babeanu, Technical and fashion designers from OffBeat Vision
  • Jennny Diederich, Project Manager at Bridge and Stitch
  • Soames Rudowski, Fashion Developer Expert at Fashion Team
  • Maddie Flanigan, Blogger at Madalynne, Designer at Madalynne Intimates, and Freelance photographer.
  • Supriya Ghurye, Fashion Designer & Manufacturing Consultant at Fuel4Fashion
  • Anneloes Brunt, Fashion Designer, Illustrator and Artist at Anneloesbrunt.com

Here are their answers. 

Offbeat Vision Team

Renata Rakossy, Fashion Designer, and Technical Designer

Constantin Babeanu, Fashion Designer

Why are tech packs so important?
Tech packs are important, no matter on what scale you plan the manufacturing and are used by everyone in the industry: start-ups, designers who collaborate factories to carry out production, medium or big manufacturing companies/brands.

Some might argue that if you have workers with high technical skills, they are able to “read” the designer sketches or initial ideas, and easily create the first sample. The truth is that artistic sketches, as brilliant and innovative as they may be, can be interpreted in many ways, especially if the designer doesn’t illustrate the finishing details. These finishing details can make a very big difference in the quality of your product.

Can you give two pieces of advice for starting fashion brands creating their first tech pack?
The best way to start your tech pack is to try to look at your design from a different perspective and image what a “technical” person would see and what additional specifications they might need. Even if you are a starting brand and you assist at your sample making, and easily can communicate with the technical department, it is important for you to provide a tech pack, which leaves no room for discussions and errors.

Avoid too many artistic touches to their technical sketch. A technical sketch has to be accurate, consisting mainly of outlines and simulation of the stitches. You can include a non-exaggerated shading but in a manner that illustrating the drapes is not brought in the forefront

What tools do you use when creating a tech pack? 
The technical illustration can be a scanned version of a hand drawing, or it can be created in any software for graphic illustration. Working with advanced CAD technology makes the drawing process easier, faster and more accurate but doesn’t substitute the designer’s technical knowledge.

Once the technical drawing is created the tech pack has to be completed with several technical data, texts, and measurements, charts that can be added using any graphics software.

In order to have a complete tech pack, besides using any graphic tool to create it, information can be added from the pattern making software: images of the pieces and number of components of a pattern, measurements from the graded size set, specifications for the seam allowance, finishing details, hardware and accessories, color codes for threads, even information about the nesting marker such as marker length, quantity of fabric needed for the production, cost calculations, nesting efficiency. 

Bridge and Stitch

Jenny DiederichProject Manager

Why are tech packs so important? 
Tech packs are one of the most crucial but often overlooked stages in the manufacturing process. They are used to communicate with all parties involved in the creation of your product, from printers and fabric suppliers to pattern cutters and factories. By producing specification sheets, you are ensuring that all communication regarding your garment is efficient and clear.

Ultimately, with a tech pack, suppliers and factories will be provided with a compact and concise garment manual, which should enable them to clearly understand your product without having to refer back to the designer, and without any aspects of your design being overlooked. Tech packs ensure that the factory has all the information they need to make an accurate sample, minimizing errors, increasing their efficiency and essentially saving you time and money.

Can you give two pieces of advice for starting fashion brands creating their first tech pack?
One issue that is common in clothing manufacture is communicating your exact design to factories and suppliers. I find the best way to ensure that the factory takes into account all the details of your product is to highlight all complicated or important features with a zoomed-in view. If I am working on a particularly complicated design, sometimes I find I need a whole other page just for ‘detail views’. Remember that you are not limited to one page per style.

Overly crowded tech packs tend to confuse and put off factories and suppliers. We like to separate the written sections and the technical drawings so that tech packs are a little more spaced out and easier on the eye. I would generally say that you should avoid too many arrows or writing over the garment visual, as it can distract from the basic design.

What tools do you use when creating a tech pack? 
All our specification sheets are produced on industry-standard programs, Adobe Illustrator primarily. All tech packs are exported as a PDF, ensuring that these can be received and viewed by all computers.

Fashion Team

Soames Rudowski, Fashion developer expert

Why are tech packs so important? 
The most important notion one has to have, when talking about developments, is that other people will use the information in order to create. Under this principle, the tech pack is one of the tools that allow others to elaborate on what the designer/brand has on their mind. The more precise the tech pack is, the better the information will be processed.

What should you avoid when creating a tech pack?
A designer must avoid the principle that things are obvious. If there’s something that isn’t obvious, it’s the textile world. So, if there’s something you want, state it on the tech pack. No matter how stupid it might be.

What tools do you use when creating a tech pack? 
The tool of “making the person who will analyze the tech pack, understand it”. No matter if it’s done in [Adobe] Illustrator or handmade.

Madalynne

Maddie Flanigan, Blogger of Madalynne, Designer for Madalynne Intimates, and Freelance photographer.

Why are tech packs so important? 
Tech packs are important because they are the contract between you/your business and the manufacturer. All information, including fabric, trimming, costing, specs and more, should be included. This will ensure an easy and smooth production cycle.

Can you give two pieces of advice for starting fashion brands creating their first tech pack?

Include as much information as you can, but at the same time, don’t be wordy. Remember, tech packs are your contract, so if any questions come up during the production cycle, you should go back to the tech pack for reference.

Avoid trying to “design” a tech pack. As a designer, I fall into the habit of trying to make my tech packs look pretty. This is unnecessary. A good tech pack is thorough, straightforward and clear so that many different people (i.e. sewers, pattern makers, marker makers, cutters, etc.) can understand.

What tools do you use when creating a tech pack?

I use Microsoft Excel and Adobe Illustrator.

Anneloesbrunt.com

Anneloes Brunt, Fashion Designer and Illustrator of Anneloesbrunt.com

Why are tech packs so important? 
If you want to take your collection into production, especially when you choose to produce it far from home, it is essential that you create a clear description of the product that you want to develop. When your tech packs are unclear it will slow down the developing process a lot.

Can you give two pieces of advice for starting fashion brands creating their first tech pack?
Be as accurate as you can be, make sure there can be no misunderstandings regarding the details of the style. Include photos of details if you can, or zoom in on details in your sketch. Avoid cramped looking pages and clutter, and use a clear font to accompany your sketches.

A tech pack needs to be clear, so keep the workspace clean, use clear lines or arrows to point out the info of the sketch. Use a base figurine with realistic proportions to draw your sketches on. It’s a lot of fun to draw figurines with elongated legs, but you want your samples to fit on an actual human being!

What tools do you use when creating a tech pack? 
I work in Illustrator and include sometimes pictures from details that are just easier to understand when you see an actual photo. I make sure the photos or patterns are not too heavy for the document, a file should be easy to send by mail. It is also very handy to create a file where you keep all your brushes and your haberdashery so you don’t need to draw every single item all over again every time you design something new.

Fuel4Fashion

Supriya Ghurye, Fashion Designer & Manufacturing Consultant

Why are tech packs so important? 
A tech pack is a technical tool that is used for communication in detail with strict guidelines, between a fashion designer and a garment factory. A tech pack is a compact document that provides information to a garment manufacturer about the exact styling of the garment with stitching specifications, fabric quality needed, trims required, fit of the garment with measurements, embellishments like print or embroidery with their detailed artwork, label placements, and packaging details. Garments cannot move from the concept to the production stage without a tech pack.

Can you give two pieces of advice for starting fashion brands creating their first tech pack?
1. Include as much relevant information as possible that can help the factory estimate the exact resources required for producing each style. This allows the factory to provide an accurate cost for the development of proto samples (salesman samples) as well as for the final production.

2. Avoid cluttering the tech pack with too much descriptive information, as it might confuse the factory. Instead, always select a suitable tech pack layout where you can plug in information in the respective row/columns depending on the complexity of the style. Avoid sending incomplete tech packs. Where information is missing, the factory might make a few assumptions on their own, instead of checking out the pending details from the fashion designer, which may lead to garments that are not what the designer originally created.

What tools do you use when creating a tech pack?
Beginners can use a database sheet such as Excel to create tech packs as per the required layout. Once completed, these tech packs can be converted into pdf format for convenience in handling. Some factories prefer tech packs to be sent in excel format as it becomes handy for them to insert fit comments and measurement details once the samples are being made. People with proficiency in Adobe Illustrator can create a tech pack directly in a format and convert it into pdf once done.

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