Preparing Talking Points for a Patternmaking Agreement

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Preparing Talking Points for a Patternmaking Agreement

Closeup of a human hand sketching a dress for the new fashion collection on the foreground

Patternmaking is an essential step when it comes to manufacturing garments. Your patterns are the very foundation of your clothes and will determine how your apparel line turns out. You should therefore take your time to shop around and find patternmaking services you will fully be satisfied with. Here are some talking points you should go over with your potential patternmaker and include in your agreement.

Grading Does your patternmaker offer grading services (adjusting patterns to different body sizing)? Are those services included in his hourly rate or per-unit price? How many sizes do you want for your collection? Do you have any sizing specifications in mind? Those are all aspects you will have to discuss. If your potential patternmaker does not do grading, you will have to plan accordingly and seek pattern grading services as well. 

Technical specifications Providing your factory with a detailed techpack is absolutely crucial. Talk to your patternmaker about what your factory needs to have included in the techpacks and what file format it will need to be in. A detailed techpack should include instructions regarding trims, fabrics (try to include a sample of the material you plan on using), stitching and other aspects such as the presence of pockets on your garment. You should have clear flat drawings illustrating these elements and information regarding your projected size range, including detailed body measurements of your median size profile customer. A very detailed techpack acts as an agreement between you and your factory, so be clear about what you want. You might also want to agree on a policy regarding the return and modification of patterns that do not meet your or your factory’s specifications.

IP Ownership As the designer, you might want to have ownership over the patterns generated from your designs, in order to prevent their use for other customers. Usually, all rights are given to the client, but it is important to discuss how patterns are normally handled. Does the patternmaker tend to use his previous work in order to make new patterns for clients? Does he keep copies of customers’ patterns? Ask your patternmaker what his usual “code of conduct” is with their clients and try to work out an agreement from there. For instance, you might want to include a non-disclosure clause to protect the sketches and information you will be giving your patternmaker.

Testing through samples Once a pattern is made, you will want to test both the original and the graded versions, through sample making. To catch issues early on, you might want to ask you patternmaker to make a muslin mock-up of your design. Test your patterns after every single modification to make sure you are satisfied with the final product. Discuss with your patternmaker how many modifications are included in their pricing as well as the cost of extra modifications.

Pricing Patternmakers will typically charge you on an hourly rate. Some do however ask for a unit-based fee, which will differ depending on the types of items you need a pattern for. Other expenses should also be discussed. For instance, ask if the prices include the cost of pattern paper, modifications, grading and the making of a mock-up. Because fabric costs can vary, you might want to send your patternmaker some fabric and explicitly state that it be used for the making of a mock-up.

Payment terms Decide on payment terms with your patternmaker. He will most likely expect you to pay for his services right before shipping the patterns or you picking them up. Some also ask for a deposit up front so make sure to work out all of those details beforehand.

Timeline When first contacting your potential patternmaker, ask how long the process should take as well as how early an order must be placed. When determining your timeline, take in consideration the patternmaking process, sample making time and shipping times, if your sample maker or patternmaker are in another town or state and you would like a physical copy of your patterns. If you have a set deadline, let the patternmaker know. Your estimated timeline might not always be reasonable considering his existing workload, so make sure to decide on a deadline that is convenient for the both of you.

As with all Law on the Runway posts, please use this as general information, not as legal advice. Make sure to contact an attorney to review your patternmaking agreement. If you have any questions, please email