Production: Patternmaking & Production

It has been important to us from the beginning that the factories we work with are ones that we can trust; both in their quality of sewing and in their labor practices.

Finding factories that will work with us to produce not only beautiful but sustainable clothes can be a difficult part of our production process. We’ve worked with several from around the globe including ones in Guatemala, India, and South Korea; each time making sure that they met the ethical manufacturing standards we hold.

After many years of collaborating with several different factories, all of our dresses and blouses are now made in the USA and South Korea.

In celebration of this, we want to share a little bit of our production process with you.

Once we have sketched a new design and sourced fabric options (more on that part of the process another day) we work with our patternmaker, Merin. She and her team create a first paper pattern and sew the first version of the dress in a medium.

After some back-and-forth with multiple samples, once we are pleased with the design, fit, and fabric, the pattern makes its way to a production factory in another part of Houston, Texas. Victor and his team take the physical pattern and digitize it, which allows us to make the dress in other sizes and larger quantities.

Somewhere along the way, we decide how many dresses we plan to make, find out how much fabric usage the dress style will take, and order the fabric in bulk. We also may have to order zippers, care labels, and other trim for the dress.

When we make each new size, we have a list of “grading rules” that are used to make sure the different sizes fit real human proportions well and not just what a computer thinks is best. For example, the armholes for an XS don’t decrease as much as the waist or bust. And the waist darts in an XL get shorter instead of longer to account for larger bust sizes. Each time we create a new style and receive feedback from our customers, we add to these rules to help ensure our dresses fit our customers and not a generic industry standard.

Victor’s team makes their own round of samples—from the first one to make sure the digitizing process has kept the integrity of the pattern, to then the other sizes, and also a sample the production team keeps as a “sew-by sample.”

This process is a collaborative effort between Victor’s team and us, and each time we do it our grading rules become more refined and accurate. Once we’re satisfied that the dress will fit well in every size, a “marker” is printed. This is a computer-generated map of all of the pieces that automatically give us the best usage for our fabric. These large sheets of paper are laid on top of stacks of fabric to cut out each pocket, sleeve, and skirt. Then, each size is bundled and they’re off to be sewn!

To help the production team know how to sew the dress, we make a “tech pack” which are blueprint instructions for how to sew the dress, and include a list of all of the measurements that each size should be.

At each stage of the process, we’re in touch by text and FaceTime because many questions come up! (We also like to have some pastries delivered to our sewing team once they’re working on our design.) Once the sewing is finished, each dress is quality-checked and compared to the list of measurements to make sure they were cut and sewn correctly. Then they’re folded into boxes and shipped to us in Virginia!

Now you know a little bit about our production process. Drop a comment below and tell us which part you found the most interesting!

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