What is a Technical Designer in the Fashion Industry?
While it’s pretty easy to come across a general description of what a Technical Designer is and what they do, I’ve found it’s a little more difficult to figure out what it is that they actually do at work.
Quite frankly, I’ve been to interviews where the person interviewing me doesn’t even really know what it is that a Technical Designer does, yet they know they need to hire one. That being said, this is how I, as a Technical Designer, like to explain it.
For starters, I don’t believe that limits should be set for a Technical Designer. Each company’s needs can vary greatly for a Technical Designer. One company may prefer to have their Technical Designer be more a part of their Design Team and another company may prefer to have them more a part of the Production Team with varying responsibilities.
The Technical Designer should in fact work as a liaison between Design and Production. They are essentially the engineers of fashion. Once a garment has been designed, someone has to figure out how to make it!
I’m going to go into the details of what most Technical Designers do and then follow up with any additional responsibilities that may be required of a Technical Designer. The fun part is that no two Technical Design jobs are ever the same and your learning opportunities are endless!
So here we go….
1. When you get a sketch from design – its go time! This may be a hand sketch or a sketch already done in Illustrator by design. If your sketch is done by hand – you will have to create a front and back flat sketch of the garment in Illustrator. You will have to work with the designer to ensure you have all the correct details – number of buttons, stitch gauges, thread colors, etc.
Front & Back Flat Sketch
2. Now that you have your sketch, you will begin to create a Technical Package (also referred to as a Tech Pack, or TP). A Tech Pack’s basic pages are Sewing Details, Points of Measurement (or POM), Wash Description (mostly with denim), Label/Hangtag Placement, Bill of Materials (or BOM), and Packaging Instructions. All of these details are very important – the more detailed the better. Usually production is done in overseas factories where English is not their first language – so pictures, diagrams, and sketches are very helpful. (It also can save your butt if something comes in wrong – if it’s not in your TP or the TP was wrong, your company may incur a chargeback from the customer that bought it. If it was included in your TP and the TP was correct, then the factory must absorb the cost of the mistake.) Please see My Portfolio for what a finished Tech Pack looks like with all of the different pages.
3. After the Tech Pack has been created, it is emailed to the factory where production will take place. From the TP and pattern, the factory will create a first fit sample. When the first sample comes in, it is spec’d (measured) and if it is out of tolerance it is noted in the fit comments. Then, a fitting is scheduled with a fit model and any other adjustments are noted as well. For example – even if the specs were correct on the first sample, the designer may not like the look of the back pockets on a pair of pants once it is on the fit model and will want to adjust it. Once all of the fit comments have been made, the Technical Designer sends the comments to the factory and adjusts the Tech Pack accordingly. Usually fittings are attended by the designer, the TD, and the patternmaker. This fit process is repeated until the desired look and fit are achieved. Once it is approved, it is ready for production.
So, while the above is generally what Technical Designers do, it is definitely not limited to that. I’ve been in positions where in addition to the above, I am also helping the patternmaker check their patterns, calculating the shrinkage for fabrics, helping the design team out with sketching and designing and also creating embroideries. On the other hand, I’ve also done less than described above in other positions. At some companies I was not required to do fits at all. These companies had a Fit Technician that only handled fits while I only handled creating the Tech Packs.
If you have any other specific questions, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to comment back!
Other Tech Designers – what process do you follow at work?