We hear it all the time. “Do I really need a techpack?” The long and short answer is a definite, “YES!”
New designers often question the value of this essential document. They think skipping out on techpacks will keep their development budget down. Maybe they are working directly with their pattern maker, or they send an inspiration sample to their factory and tell them what to change and think that will be sufficient. Working this way will set you up for failure and costly mistakes down the road.
Techpacks are essential. Repeat that with me. TECHPACKS ARE ESSENTIAL. They will serve as the guide for your sample maker to know how to sew your garment, what materials and trims to use and where. This is where your size range will be recorded, your fabric details, your revisions, and much, much more.
Now, you will likely not be able to finalize your Techpack in one shot. This will be a living, breathing document that is revised throughout the development process. It is only finalized before moving to bulk production.
All Techpacks are NOT created equally
Depending on who creates your Techpack, the style of this document, and its contents, can vary greatly. We have seen the most basic of Techpacks to the most detailed and everything in between. What is most important is that your communication in this document is clear, understandable, and covers important details of your product.
Over the course of my career, my Techpack set up and contents have changed. I have developed hundreds, if not thousands of garments and have spoken to countless factories about what information is really important to them. With all of this experience and data I have created the best, most comprehensive Techpack template you can find! Here I’ll share with you what you absolutely need and tips on making this your number one product development tool.
The Anatomy of a Great Techpack
MUST HAVES TO START DEVELOPMENT
- Style Cover Page
This is your intro. You want to give an overview of key details on this first page, so the viewer gets a quick understanding of your product. Be sure to include the below:
Front and back view of your garment (and side or interior if necessary)
Written construction details including stitch methods, hem finishes, etc.
Visual callouts of stitch lines and details shown on your sketch or product image
Size range you will produce
Area to track revisions
- Reference Sample Page
If you’ve got inspiration samples here is where you use them. Show photos of design details, construction methods, stitching, finishing, placements, etc. from existing garments if you can. This will help the sample maker know more what your expectation is for this garment. If you are using a reference sample as a starting point for your spec measurements, don’t forget to record your reference sample measurements before sending it off.
- Bill of Materials (BOM)
This page will serve as a breakdown of each component needed in your product, where it is from, where it is used, even what it costs. Keep all sourcing details here including vendor name, article number, fiber content, fabric width, trim dimensions, and unit cost. Once you start sampling and approve your fit you’ll want to calculate yield per item and record that here as well. By the time you have a fit approved garment and yields you will be able to easily see a per garment cost of materials. Don’t forget a column to detail where each component is used and one for which color or print it should be. If your garment has a care label include it here. A hang tag? That, too. You can even add any known packaging here to track cost and ordering needs when you get to production.
I also like to include images of each component in my BOMs for a quick visual reference as well as a written one. I also add a thumbnail sketch of each color way and the style and color number.
- Swatch Library
This section is mainly for your factory and/or sample maker to ensure they are pulling the correct materials. Factories work quickly in order to stay efficient and profitable. They also are always working on numerous different programs at a time and many materials look very similar from a quick glance. Cut and tape or staple physical swatches to your swatch library page when sending your techpack to your factory. This will give them better guidance on which materials are correct to use for your product. You can also make a copy for your own records to for quick reference when you review your samples for quality approval.
- Cutter’s Must
A cutter’s must is an itemized list of all the pattern pieces that pertain to a particular style. It should tell you how many pattern pieces there are, how many pieces to cut of each and which fabrics to cut them from. If possible, it is helpful to also give a visual representation of your pattern pieces here as well in small scale.
- Point of Measure Diagram (POM)
Points of measure refer to the exact place you take a particular garment measurement. For example, the sweep of your garment is the measurement taken at the hem edge from side seam to side seam. Here, you will list each point of measure, and show a diagram on a garment sketch of exactly where/how to take that measurement. This gets everyone on the same page and measuring each garment consistently. Some areas of measure are less clear than others which can cause differences in how you measure compared to your factory or pattern maker. When measuring the armhole of a sports bra, do you measure straight across from shoulder to underarm or along the armhole curve? You will get two very different measurements depending on which you choose. Without a POM diagram, you leave your measurements open to interpretation to the reader.
- Sample Measurements
Pretty straight forward here. This is where you will record the measurements of each of sample you receive. Remember to always measure your samples beforeyou trying them on. You want to have a column for your target measurements, sample measurements, and the difference for each sample. Record above that the date and which sample round it is. If you have a team where more than one person may be taking measurements, it can be helpful to add the initials of who reviewed each sample. Highlight any measurements that are out of tolerance to pay special attention to when you are fitting.
PAGES TO BUILD THROUGH THE DEVELOPMENT CYCLE
- Grade Spec/Grade Rule
Once you have an approved sample in your fitting size you will need to grade your specs and patterns for the rest of your size range. Your Graded Spec sheet should have the target measurements for all sizes. The best practice would be to establish your grade rule and add it in here as a formula if you are using excel. Doing this allows you to update your specs when needed for your base size only and the rest of your sizes will auto-populate. Easy!
- Fit Comments
Record all fit comments here. Again, keep in mind that you want to use both written and visual communication here for changes needed. You will likely have more than one round of fitting. Add a new page for each set of fit comments. You can do the same for your pre-production and top of production samples as well.
You may not have your exact production colors and prints all confirmed when you start development. That is ok. Before you move to production complete a page that shows a rendering of each style and each color way in front and back view, side if necessary. This is especially necessary when you are working with a style that has many components. Showing each color way will ensure your bulk gets the correct color combinations whether you are using contrast details or all dyed to match.
- Label Placement/Packing Method
Show the factory where to place brand and care labels, heat transfer, embroideries, hang tags, and any other items your garment needs. Again, showing visually where things goes works best. Get specific. For example, don’t just say, “place at back.” Say, “place at inside, center back neck seam.” Or, place at hem, 2” out from side seam on wearer’s left.
If you are using an individual poly bag (or better yet, an eco-friendly paper-based bag), you can show images here as to how the factory should fold and pack your garment. This is important if you want to have your hangtag or other branding visible when packed. If you are unsure how to pack your garment, just ask your factory to suggest a folding method. Once you approve that packing method add those images to this page before passing your final production techpack to your manufacturer.
You do not need fancy software to create a techpack!
Don’t worry. Chances are you have the tools you need to build a great techpack right now! You could even build a techpack with pen and paper if needed. Don’t forget, there was a time when this is all designers had in their toolbox. If you have a computer, though, the two most common programs to build techpacks in are Adobe Illustrator or Microsoft Excel.
Garment sketches will likely be done either by hand and scanned in, or directly in Illustrator. Your techpack though will be most efficiently created in Excel. I prefer this method for numerous reasons. The number one reason: formulas! In excel, you can take advantage of being able to formulate your pages so that information that is repeated in more than one page only needs to be entered once. This is really helpful to save time and avoid mistakes of not updating every area. It also allows you to not have to do so much math when you are figuring out graded specs or the difference between your target measurements and sample measurements. Secondly, not everyone knows how to use Illustrator, but most people know how to use excel. In short, creating tech packs in Excel allows you to work smarter, not harder.
Whew! That seems like a lot, right? It can be! Don’t forget though that this is an evolving document throughout your development. Start with pages 1-7 in your early development phase. Build out the rest of this document as you move through fitting and confirming style details.
Manufacturing is an imperfect process. Human error is extremely hard to avoid completely. Having a complete techpack for each style will keep you organized and will help to avoid mistakes from your factory in sampling and bulk production. It will also help to provide consistency in your product from season to season.
Remember, even if you are producing domestically, there is often a language barrier between the person preparing the Techpack and the sample maker. Keep this in mind while you are building your Techpack. Use clear language. Avoid being overly wordy. Use visuals to communicate wherever you can.
Do not skip this important step in your product development. You cannot expect quality control in your bulk production if you do not even have a standard to check back to.