Sampling is an incredibly important part of the production process. It presents the model standard for later bulk production and gives the designer insight into whether or not the manufacturer will be able to satisfy their needs and live up to their quality standards.
Sampling, more than any other phase of production, is particularly time sensitive. Any manufacturer you use should be able to give you definite timelines for the greater part of the sampling process. For example, Apparel Network provides proto samples within 20 days of the project being sent to the factory.
Lets take a closer look at the whole process and its various phases.
The first phase of the sampling process, sometimes called design development, is all about going through the designs so that the manufacturer has a clear idea of what is being made and how it should look.
The first physical sample your manufacturer will create is called a “proto-sample.” Based on the quality of the proto-sample, the designer will usually decide whether or not to entrust the manufacturer with the bulk production run. This doesn’t mean that the proto sample is what the final product will look like — it’s quite the opposite. Proto samples are the rudimentary, simplistic version of the garment. Their purpose is to examine the design’s style, measurements and construction.
After the sample department has completed the fit and size set samples (the purpose of which is to make sure the garment will properly conform to the human body in various sizes), a pre-production sample (PPS) will be made. The pre-production sample is made using the original fabrics and trims, constructed by the actual sewing line tailors. The completed sample will be exactly what the finished bulk-line production will look like.
Once the designer approves the pre-production sample bulk production can begin, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the sampling process is over. During the mass production process a few pieces might be pulled out of the line and sent to the designer so that they can verify that the factory is following PPS specifications. These samples are known at TOP Samples (top of production samples), and not all designers request them.
The last sample a designer might ask for is the shipment sample, where a few finished pieces that are already packaged for shipment are sent to the designer so that they can verify that their shipment and packaging specifications are being met.
The sampling process is essential for any designer, allowing them to survey the available manufacturers and decide which factory is the right fit for their designs.