Updated: Nov 11, 2019
One of the first questions fashion designers/brands want to know when they contact our company is: How Much Does A Sample Cost? Although this is a very complex question to answer we will try our best here to explain some general pricing guidelines.
Getting a sample made can vary depending upon where you go. The more skilled your pattern cutter or sample machinist is, the more you will likely pay. We have seen some hourly rates from £10 - £40per hour, but we believe the way to view how much you should pay should be focused on what type of product/garment you wish to receive.
Before we delve into the costings. We need to first understand what the sample process is and what it includes:
A sample to an experienced person in the manufacturing industry is your final garment made in the your final fabrics, with all the trims and finishings, ready for your customer to buy.
To an inexperienced person they tend to think the word 'sample' encompasses the whole process of developing a garment, but it does not.
So what does this mean? Well let's start at the beginning of the entire making process - designing.
If you went to fashion college/university; to start the design process you would have to start with a theme or concept and research around this.
You would gather a combination of primary and secondary research and then start designing with a theme or concept and research around this.
Depending on what your tutors demand you may have to come up with 50-100 designs, whittle those down to create a collection of approximately 6-8 designs and then if your lucky (a matter of perspective) you only have to make 1 design into a garment.
Now the 3D development starts.
With your design in hand you need to make your pattern. Pattern? I hear you ask. Yes pattern.
Patterns are a 2D version of your design that we can use as a template to make your 3D garment.
Are you still with me?
You can make a pattern manually or digitally. Manually means making the pattern by hand, good old fashioned ruler and pencil. Digital means made on the computer. (Check out our blog post "Manual Vs Digital patterns?")
From our pattern we will then go on to make a toile. A toile is a prototype of your design, usually made in a similar fabric to what you will be selling your garment in. This toile is made so that we can see how closely the pattern resembles the design, and how it looks on the body with regards to a fitting.
Typically for woven garments we mostly use calico to make our toiles, for non-woven garments like jersey we would use a fabric that will have a similar weight to your final fabric. We do however think it's sometimes best to toile in your final fabric, but we will cover this in another post.
Sometimes it may be necessary to toile multiple times. We must stress that if your manufacturer requires further toiles to be made, this does not mean that they are not good at what they do, this is just part of the development process. It's worth noting that the big fashion houses can toile the same garment up to 20 times or more, to get the perfect shape and fit.
Once you have done your toiling, had your fitting/s and finalised your patterns, you are now ready to make your sample.
A sample is your garment in the final fabric with your required trims and finishings.
So now we know what a sample is and the process needed to get you there, we now need to discuss how much a sample will cost?
Different fashion studios/manufacturers work in different ways. Some may charge an hourly rate and some may charge a flat fee.
Let's create a scenario and see how much a garment could potentially cost. See figure 1 below.
As we can see in figure 1 the total hours to make our shift dress took 19hours to make the pattern, 1st toile and sample. So if you were being charged £10 per hour it would cost £190, and if you were being charged £40 per hour it would cost £760 to make.
Whilst the difference in price may be great, the quality of the final product may be also. It is more than possible that the cheaper product will be very inferior and not usable and so in turn you may lose £190. It is also very possible that you can spend £760 and get a fantastic garment with a great fit, professional patterns that are timeless.
Please see example of story below of two clients we have encountered:
Client 1 came to us with a short sleeveless top pattern that needed to be sampled by us. Upon our examination of the pattern, the notches did not match, side seam lengths were different, there were no grainlines present, or seam allowance information, which rendered the patterns useless for us to work with.
We were informed that the pattern cutter they had worked with charged them £15per hour, it took 8 hours to complete costing £120.
Client 2 came to us with a basic top pattern also that needed to be sampled. The nocthes matched, everything lined up nicely, grainlines were present along with clearly defined finishings and seam allowances. This client paid £30 per hour and the top took 5 hours to make costing £150
As we can see it is not so clear to determine how much a garment will cost. We can see that not every business will have the skillset to produce a well made garment and so therefore may charge a low price in order to win your business. And we can see that at the top end you will have to pay more, but will most likely get what you require.
It is also important to bear in mind that no two designs are the same and that because of this timings may vary. Also, some fabrics are easier to work with than others and so this can have an impact on how long garments take to get made.
In our experience we find that the designer/brand needs to be invested in their brand to develop the garment aesthetics that they require. Therefore, we think it's better you find a provider who will give you what you want over how much you pay. Creating a fashion brand is an investment that can take a lot of time to build and so researching who you would like to help you develop it is key. Please let us know your experiences and comment below.