Production Checks And Balances: The PP Sample

By Anya Ferring

So you’ve started your designs, sourced your fabrics, and developed your own first pattern sample. Great work! However, even if you have what you believe to be a perfect pattern and a first prototype sample already sewn up, the factory will still need to cut and sew a sample of their own.

This may seem confusing as many designers went through the prototype process so that they would have a sample to use for finding a manufacturer. Why would the factory then need to make another one instead of going straight into production? This sample that the factory makes prior to production is called a Pre-Production (or PP) sample, and it is fundamental for these 3 reasons:

  • Before any pattern goes into the next stage of production–grading and marking–it is crucial the pattern is tested to make sure that it is “production-ready.” This means checking that notches match, making sure that seam allowances are correct for type of stitch required, and that grain lines are correct, among other things. The only way to truly test if a pattern is working is to sew up the sample. If the samplehand notices anything off during the cut and sew process this needs to be communicated to the patternmaker so proper adjustments can be made before production.
  • Accurate production cost cannot be assessed until the factory cuts and sews a sample themselves. They must see how much time and labor is required to complete the project to accurately quote costs.
  • It is important for the customer to see the factories workmanship and approve the sewn sample! This is the designer/brand’s moment to communicate their quality level and what is acceptable or not acceptable during the sample process. Often levels of quality will come at higher price points as well.

Any factory or production company that does not insist on a PP sample first from taking and outside pattern/sample is setting themselves and their future clients up for many headaches further down the labor supply chain road. The pre-production sample is one of the first checks and balances in production, and also one of the most important. The more problems that can be caught at this stage, the less problems are likely to arise down the road.