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Once your designer has finished the initial patterns you need to do some sampling. This is to check the patterns work and that the finished garment is what you wanted. This is also the time you can start getting accurate costing’s for the manufacture. Your factory (if you have appointed one) should be able to do the sampling or there are numerous companies that specialise in making samples.  Most factories charge an hourly rate for sampling services. 

Sampling can be time consuming for the factory as they will have to stop the machines from production (if they are working), re-set them and change thread colours to meet the need of the samples. At the end of the sampling all the machines have to be changed back so production can continue. Specialist sample makers won’t have this problem as all they do is move from one sampling to the next. The problem with using a specialist is they may not have the same machines as your factory which means they may not be able to achieve the same finish in production as the samples.

When we do sampling it is always beneficial for the client to be there while we do it. This can save significant time and money as often errors in the pattern can be corrected immediately rather than an incomplete sample being posted back for further instructions. It can also help reduce the designer costs as the corrected patterns can be returned to them so they can see exactly what the problem was.

There are various different types of sampling. It is not always necessary to do all these samples and often budget will not allow it. Most of those listed below are only done by companies with an in-house sampling department and are listed for reference only.  The two most important samples are the toile and production. Your manufacturer will need to have a sample to reference against during production and you should also keep a sealed sample to verify production meets standards.

Toile or Muslin
This is a concept sample, often a rough rendition to test the pattern. Used primarily by designers who prefer to convey design ideas in actual fabric as part of their creation process instead of drawing a sketch. 

Fit sample or First sample
This is a sample made from the first pattern and intended to test the designer’s idea or concept in the chosen fabrication.  If design, fabrication and fit of this sample come out as planned and doesn’t need corrections it is approved and becomes the prototype sample.

This sample is the result of previous iterations, the version that meets the designer’s test for execution. 

This sampling stage is to prove the pattern, test cost effectiveness and consistency in production whether it is done in house or outsourced to a contractor. 

Photo sample
These samples are made in smaller sizes for photo shoots intended for editorial and marketing.  This may not be necessary if you can pin a garment strategically on the model.  Some people know they will need smaller sizes for photography so they use this as their base size.  This is not recommended.

Salesman’s samples
Ideally the pre-production sample above can be used for sales and marketing.  You would have duplicates of the approved pre-production or production sample made for each party.  

Show sample
Primarily intended for showrooms (but not exclusively) that market directly to editorial (fashion editors etc.), you may need to have photo samples as above and for the same reasons. You may also need the mid-range size for retail buyers who stop by. 

Sizing samples
This is a sample lot of a style in all the intended sizes.  Ideally you design sizes to target your customer profile early on in product development. This may not be possible if your silhouettes vary greatly between styles, meaning you will need to test sizes of various styles.

Production sample
This is the final approved version of a style produced by whoever is doing production. Often a production test run is done and the output is gauged for. The quantity of units produced will vary from one to a percentage of the intended production lot size.  This can be very expensive if the run includes all colours and sizes.

Ship sample
A sample that reflects what buyers will receive down to folding, tagging, bagging, labelling and final packaging if included.