When I started my Lullaloop journey, despite working with some of the biggest retailers for years, like ASOS, during my working life, I didn't have a single clue about the process behind how a piece of clothing is made.
So, when I started this journey and people started throwing words at me like 'PPS' 'Strike-Offs' 'Grading'...I had no idea what they meant. Luckily I found a designer, a production consultant and factories (finding factories...a whole blog post in itself) to guide me through the process.
As a little snapshot, here is the process of making our Autumn/Winter Girls dungarees.
I knew I wanted dungarees in the range, I love them on babies and they are also soft, comfortable and practical. Victoria, my designer, asked me for little snippets of information on what aspects of dungarees I had seen and liked. So I added a little mood board for her of details I would like to see on ours.
2. Initial Design
To start with, we just nailed down the shape of the dungarees. We decided on a relaxed fit, with some frills on the strap and either mock buttons down the front or little pockets, to make them a little different. Victoria then created a 'technical pack' for the factories, going into all details needed for the design and also on the accessories - poppers, pockets, stitching etc.
So we had got to this:
3. Proto Sample
Once we had decided on the shape, we had to come up with measurements. We came up with our measurements, working on my daughter who was around 18 months at the time. This particular dungaree has 20 measurement points!
We then sent this to the factory and asked them to send us a 'Proto sample' which is a sample they make in fabric and accessories (like poppers and buttons) they already have.
When these eventually made it back to us (about 3 weeks later) we highlighted the changes we needed to make, as you can see this didn't fit that well at the crotch or the leg length and we also didn't like the frill they had made. So we adjusted our design and technical pack accordingly.
3. Strike-Offs, Artwork, Lab Dips & Fabric Swatches
At the same time, we also had to get approvals from the factories for the other details of our final design. In the background Victoria and I had been working on a colour palette, prints she was designing and fabric requirements.
This particular dungaree was in a colour we call 'Mulberry', with an All Over Print (AOP) which she had designed and we wanted in a supersoft 100% cotton with a fleece packing.
So we had to approve:
- The artwork / Strike-Off
- Lab Dips - Our selected colours on the different fabrics, approving they were close enough to our pantone number.
- The Fabric quality
Once you have nailed a fit and all the measurements through proto samples after some back and forth, you then need to bring in a grading expert. These are experts that help you grade your sizing up and down - as we know, there are 7 sizes in just the first 2 years of our little ones' lives and the measurements are tiny, so this is not an easy job! This then gives us the full spectrum of sizing. At the next stage, we will sample in multiple sizes, to make sure we are happy with the grading of sizing that has been done.
5. Pre-Production Samples (PPS)
We had now got to the stage, after going back and forth with fabric, colours and fit/proto samples that we were happy enough to move forward to PPS. This means we can move forward with fabric production. Once fabric production is completed (about 20 days), then the factories will use our finished fabrics to make PPS. These are one sample of every single design you have, exactly as it will be in production - we ran this in two sizes so we could also check the grading. This gives you a chance to check the final design, details and accessories before moving forward with bulk production. We also then use these samples for our photoshoots while we await bulk production to be complete.
In this case, when our PPS came in for this dungaree - we were happy with the overall design, colour and accessories but we made a final tweak on some of the measurements - like leg length.
We checked these against two patient little models, in our two PPS sizes.
6. Bulk Production
We are ready to go!! We can now give approval for them to go ahead with bulk, Victoria provided them with a list of things we wanted to tweak for bulk and then they use those notes to get going. They create a pattern, then cut the pieces of fabric, trying to minimise waste as much as possible, embroid our logo on, sew and then add the accessories.
This should take a further 60 days....in my case it was much longer!
7. The Final Piece
Pretty, cute. Am I right?