January 2, 2024

5 Tips for a Successful Pre-Production Sample Process

Sketches and color samples on a table.

In the world of garment manufacturing, pre-production samples–commonly known as PP samples–play an important role.

These samples are the first physical manifestations of a clothing design, brought to life before mass production starts.

They serve as a critical checkpoint for designers, manufacturers, and clients to ensure that every aspect of the garment, from fabric choice to stitching quality, aligns with the envisioned product. An approved PP sample represents exactly what the brand/client is looking for in the finished product.

The creation of a PP sample is a collaborative effort, involving skilled sample manufacturers who interpret design blueprints to produce a tangible item.

This initial sample acts as a benchmark for quality and design accuracy, setting the standard for the entire production line.

Understanding the nuances of PP samples is crucial for anyone involved in the garment industry, as they are not just prototypes but the foundation upon which successful clothing lines are built.

The Pre-Production Process Explained

The journey of a garment from concept to reality begins with the pre-production process, a critical stage in garment manufacturing.

This process starts with the design phase, where ideas are translated into detailed sketches. Accompanying these sketches are specifications like fabric details, colorways, and sizing details.

Once the design is finalized, the next crucial step is the creation of a tech pack. The tech pack is a comprehensive document that serves as a blueprint for the production team. It includes all necessary details, from material requirements to construction guidelines.

A rack of clothes on wooden hangers.

Following the tech pack, the manufacturer creates the first physical embodiment of the design – the pre-production sample (PP sample).

This sample is much more than just a prototype; it’s a critical tool for quality control.

It allows designers and manufacturers to evaluate the garment’s look, feel, and fit, ensuring that every element aligns with the original vision.

Adjustments and refinements are made based on this sample, which sets the standard for the entire production line.

The importance of PP samples cannot be overstated. They are essential in preventing costly errors and ensuring that the final product meets both the designer’s and the client’s expectations.

By meticulously reviewing and approving these samples, brands can avoid the pitfalls of miscommunication and ensure that the final production run reflects their envisioned quality and design.

This stage is really not just about creating a sample. It’s about laying the groundwork for successful mass production.

Designers are holding up various bows to decide which goes on the garment sample

In the actual production line, the role of the PP sample is multifaceted.

It serves as a reference point for the production team, ensuring consistency in every piece produced.

Manufacturers rely on this sample to replicate the design, fit, and quality in large quantities, maintaining uniformity across the entire batch. This stage is where the efficiency and precision of the production process are truly tested.

The PP sample’s influence extends to quality control during mass production. Regular comparisons between the bulk-produced garments and the PP sample help identify any deviations or quality issues, allowing for immediate corrections.

This rigorous process ensures that the final products not only meet but also exceed expectations, reflecting the brand’s commitment to quality and attention to detail.

How to Set Up a Successful PP Sample Process

Following a sound sample process can save you a ton of headaches later, and I’ve been involved in the approval process of countless PP samples. Here are some tips to follow to be sure your PP Sample Process covers all the bases.

Tip 1: Include Plenty of Time in your Timeline for the PP Sample Process

The biggest mistake that apparel brands make is not giving the PP approval process the time that it needs. The process you have to go through to CREATE the sample is as important as the sample itself, and the process takes time.

There are several departments involved with confirming the PP sample, including:

  • Design

  • Merchandising

  • Production

  • Materials

  • Color

  • Development

  • Tech Design

  • Fit

Each of these departments have certain requirements they are looking for, and the sample must make it’s way through those departments so the proper people have a chance to evaluate and sign off on the sample.

 

Tip 2: Have Multiple PP Samples Made

Be sure you ask for multiple duplicate PP samples to be made and sent from the manufacturer to you, because you’ll want to keep a sample and send one back to the manufacturer so you both have the approved PP sample. Each department will need to initial that they have approved the sample, and then the sample needs to have a final blanket approval with signature and date. The manufacturer needs to have an approved sample so they know what they are working toward as their approved standard and the designer or brand needs to have an approved sample as well so they know if their production matches it.

For these reasons, you need to have at least 2 identical samples submitted every time they are done.

Tip 3: Create a Detailed Sample Tag With Space for Sign-offs

I mentioned above that you need to obtain approval signatures from each department, so you need a large PP tag that has plenty of room for signatures of people whose authority is needed to sign off on the pre-production sample.

Now, you may not have several different departments, and that’s ok. You may be the only person signing off on this sample, but give yourself room to make comments on the specific aspects of the garment that are approved or accepted on that sample.

There are times that you will accept a slight change on the garment, and you need to make that clear on the sample tag that you have accepted that slight change. This PP sample is the only place this acceptance can be seen in physical form, so it’s crucial that you have it marked.

Tip 4: Make Sure the Sample is Created on the Production Line That Will Make Your Production Garments

This seems like a no-brainer, but you need to make sure your PP samples are not being created on a separate sample line. Many large garment manufacturers are so big that they have production lines that are dedicated to producing samples only.

If you don’t make sure your PP sample is created on the lines that will create your production, the PP sample is pointless. 

I’ve had garment makers create the PP sample in another COUNTRY from where the production will run. 

What good does that do for the brand or designer? If the PP sample doesn’t represent production, it’s no good to them. 

As the apparel brand, have the garment maker sign off ahead of time that ALL PP samples will be produced on the production line or will otherwise represent the production quality you can expect to receive.

Tip 5: Make Sure You Issue PP Sample Approval 2 Week Before Your Fabric is Cut

Strive to achieve a PP sample approval 2 weeks before the fabric needs to be cut to start the cut and sew process. This will give you time to communicate any problems there may be with the fabric to the garment maker before they cut it. Once the fabric is cut, the garment maker assumes responsibility for it, and they will resist replacing it if you’ve not already told them there is a problem.

Conclusion: The Essential Step of Pre-Production Sampling

In conclusion, the role of pre-production (PP) samples in the garment production process is critical. These samples are not just preliminary models. They are the blueprint that guides the entire production line. They ensure quality, consistency, and alignment with the brand’s vision. It is crucial for brands to recognize the value of investing time and resources in this phase. By doing so, they not only safeguard the integrity of their designs but also enhance customer satisfaction and brand reputation. Ultimately, thorough and thoughtful pre-production sampling is a strategic investment. This investment pays dividends in the successful launch of a clothing line.

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