What is a Garment Tech?
Prior to purchasing that item of clothing you’ve been coveting for a couple of months, it will pass through many processes overseen by many different experts before it reaches the shop floor. It will be designed by a designer, pattern cut by a pattern cutter and sewn by a machinist. These three people are the ‘stars’ we’re all aware of but who is the person behind the scenes?
The mysterious person who liaises with designers adapts designs to suit production methods, sources fabrics and accessories, undertakes quality evaluations of materials and responds to product queries, including complaints, from wholesalers and customers.
Drum roll, please…
The cog that keeps the wheel turning is the Garment Technologist, commonly referred to as the Garment Tech.
In the past they were typically known as the quality controller, however, their role has now evolved to include the aforementioned in their job description. Considering that there is so much information to make sense of, the Garment Tech will need to develop a Spec. This will enable them to add and amend information before and during the production period.
While a Garment Tech may not be necessary for a start-up fashion company, especially for the first couple of years, their role is vital for high street retailers who have multiple products across different markets. Larger manufacturers also employ them.
Stefanie Singer, a former Garment Technologist, had this to say, “When I worked as a garment technologist at a supplier to high street chains I had to ensure that the samples and production were of the quality and to the measurements required by each client. Clothes were produced in China, Romania, and Turkey. So I had to liaise with the factory managers overseas.”
Other roles for a Garment Tech include:
– Selecting appropriate fabrics and accessories for specific designs so that the garment can be produced within budget.
– They can be involved with the development of man-made fibres and the quality assessment of natural fibres along with spinning fibres into yarn, and knitting or weaving yarn into fabrics
– Identifying the latest fabric trends, developments, and innovations
– Ensuring quality in areas such as strength, durability, colour-fastness, and water and chemical resistance.
– They work with Pattern Graders to oversee the sizing, fitting and testing of the pre-production garments.
– Their role also includes the analysis of product returns and faults and quality control.
When do you need a Garment Tech?
As a start-up, the services of a Garment Tech may not be necessary throughout the developmental stages. Fabric suppliers should be in a position to furnish you with technical information pertaining to shrinkage and wear and tear. You will be able to select your own fabrics and ensure they’re suitable for your designs. Your pattern cutter will be used to check for pattern discrepancies, sample fitting and the development of the Tech Pack.
When your products have been manufactured they will need to be checked for quality control. It’s at this point that a Garment Tech would be useful.
When your products have been manufactured they will need to be checked for quality control. It’s at this point that a Garment Tech would be useful, as some factories do not supply a quality control service. It would be wise to pay a visit to the factory with your Garment Tech just to make sure that you’re happy with everything. In fact, dropping in unannounced with the Garment Tech, throughout the production process, is a good idea.
How do Garment Techs differ from designers and pattern cutters?
Fashion designers are responsible for conceptualizing and creating garments, handbags, shoes, or other accessories. Fashion designers typically create sketches, observe fashion trends and changes in the fashion industry, and perform trend research.
As an engineer of the fashion manufacturing industry, a Garment Tech will not necessarily be trained in design, as their role is related to testing materials and finished garments as well as to match the correct fabrics to specific designs and everything else pertaining to the production of the garment.
However, they should have an understanding of pattern cutting as well, as their role involves aspects of pattern cutting – such as the ability to check garment measurements and the fit of the product after it has been produced.
How to train to become a Garment Tech?
The key skills that are required to become a Garment Tech include pattern cutting, patience, and good communication.
Pattern cutting is widely taught through FE or HE colleges ( Further education) and independent classes can also be found through part-time courses or internet searches.
You could consider testing yourself by creating a Spec which is a very useful tool within the fashion production industry.
Other qualifications are also useful such as studying for a degree in clothing technology and production. You could consider testing yourself by creating a Spec which is a very useful tool within the fashion production industry. It’s possible to take (ABC) vocational qualifications in Fashion and Textiles; Manufacturing Sewn Products; Creative Techniques in Fashion; Apparel, Footwear, Leather or Textiles Production; Handcraft Tailoring; or Apparel Manufacturing Technology.
There is also a City & Guilds course in Creative Techniques in Fashion; an NOCN course in Skills for the Fashion Industries; and an SVQ in Kilt Making. The Textile Institute also offers a range of chartered professional qualifications for continuous professional development. An apprenticeship is also a great route to becoming a Garment Technologist. The apparel pathway of the Apprenticeship in Fashion and Textiles offers some insight.
How to find a Garment Tech?
In the world of fashion production, it’s important to source a Garment Tech through trusted recommendations. Perhaps your tutor or mentor knows of one with a history of good practices. Alternatively, consider contacting a small brand whose products you admire, and speak to their production manager!
Remember that a Garment Tech, like a Pattern Cutter, will specialize in particular areas of expertise. These could include; tailored garments, knitwear, separates, coating or accessories such as footwear or handbags.
Are Garment Techs worth it?
Stefanie Singer says, “They are necessary for bigger companies to ensure garments are produced to spec and of a high standard,” but what can they offer a start-up?
A Garment Tech will be worth their weight in gold if they spot any technical malfunctions in the production process.
Considering that Garment Techs are involved in all aspects of garment construction and are expected to keep up to date with technical innovations, I would say that they could be very useful for a new designer with limited time and a surplus of funds. The selection of materials they work with is wide, including natural and synthetic textiles – leather, fur, metals, and plastics. They could be used as a great resource and to offer advice in regards to fabric selection. A Garment Tech will be worth their weight in gold if they spot any technical malfunctions in the production process. You could employ them on an hourly basis and their input could save you a lot of expense should you accept, through no fault of your own, other than inexperience, any garments that have been made incorrectly.
While they may not be required in the early stages of your fashion business, it’s important to know that Garment Techs are available should you need one. They’re highly skilled individuals who can advise you about anything technical. They can amend fit issues, source the correct fabrics and trims and ensure that your product will not be returned from the shop floor due to poor workmanship.
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