EP44 - The Fashion Designer's Guide to Grading Your Products & Samples

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Fashion Designer Guide to Grading Products & Samples | Fashion Podcast
Image via Fashion Insiders & Co

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Do I have to go to fashion school to start my own fashion brand?

This episode of the FastTrack Your Fashion Brand Podcastis my second installment of the segment, Fashion Biz Breakthrough where I answer Linda Nguyen’s question about grading your samples and productions.

RELATED: See EP36 Fashion Biz Breakthrough Question

Her question actually came from inside of our newly opened Podcast Community Facebook Group!

Yes! You read that right! The Fast Track Your Fashion Brand Podcast Community Facebook Group is now officially open!

Linda is my very first member of the FYFB podcast FB community and so I thought that I wanted to bring my A-game to her!

So, what I did was, I made a post inside the group mentioning her very name saying:

“Hey Linda!

I want to be able to support you this week. What’s one thing you can accomplish, source, or do this week to move you closer to your launch? What do you need help with?”

To which she replied:

“Thanks Nicole! Any help to give me more clarity on this path would be amazing! This week my goal is to finalize the tech pack for my jogger set (a hoodie and jogger) and narrow down at least 5 manufacturers I can reach out to next week.

I do have a question about grading as this is something I didn’t learn much about. Am I to come up with the measurements for each size I’ll offer my jogger set in? Or is grading something the manufacturer can do if I give them measurements of my sample in the tech pack?”

And for all of you FastTrackers, just like Linda, I want you to gain a little more clarity because we all know that fashion businesses don’t just happen overnight. I know each of you is on a continuous journey, where every step is a step closer to your launch, to your first sale and even to reaching out to a department store!

Now that’s what this podcast community is for! That in whichever stage you are in your journey, you will get the support you need not just from me but from everyone who will share what they know to be able to help each other get to the next step. So come and join our exclusive FYFB podcast FB community here.

And yes! Linda’s Fashion Business Breakthrough question about grading is such a great one! I say that because there’ll be even more questions and decisions you’ll have to think about as you take action and go a step closer towards having your sample and production.

What I also love about her question is that it’s so universal for anyone who’s launching a fashion brand. Grading is something that I learned as I became more entrenched in the fashion world, but it was a very steep learning curve and often requires a lot more time and thought than anyone budgets for when they begin the launch process. It’s definitely just one of these countless “fashion school” terminologies that might just intimidate you. But hold on! Let me be clear. You don’t even have to go to fashion school to launch your own fashion business! The good news is I got you covered here! Take a deep breath and we’ll break down this process together!

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  • What exactly grading is
  • What do I need to prepare for my sample run
  • How to ask for samples
  • Patience is a virtue

Just what exactly is this grading thing about?

Grading is something that you are going to experience throughout any part of your fashion business—every time you launch a new style or every time you want to run production.

According to Maker’s Row, "Grading, or pattern grading, is the process of creating a range of sizes for a single apparel style. The purpose of grading is to properly fit a pattern to a range of sizes. Grading will not create shape, but will only increase or decrease size of original shape."

For example, imagine you now create your product. You created it in a size that fits your model or whoever is your fit sample. Now you put it on your website and made inventory based on that one sample size that you guess. You run all this production. You have all the stuff in inventory only to find out… All your sizing is messed up! The medium looks like the small, the extra-large is maybe the size of the medium and you all have this in your inventory!

Now this is one big mistake a lot of people or designers make; they make inventory without grading!

Listen up, grading is a step just so important before you actually launch, create inventory and run your production. Essentially, grading a size is taking your fit sample and have it “graded” for the range of sizes you want. This can be done by a professional electronically or by hand. Say you have a size small, what is the next size up to medium, large and extra-large? You got to nail down this step so when you are working with a manufacturer, you can be sure that you are both on the same page in the way you want your sample run and fit at each size increment.

You can follow an industry-standard way of grading or you can think of all the distinctive features based on how exactly you want your garment to be. You want your pants to fit a little bit wider on the hips? Or you want it to be a little bit longer? You call the shots!

What Do I Need to Prepare for My Sample Run?

Grading is arguably one of the most important factors in launching your fashion business. And making sure your manufacturer is on board with your trial process is huge! I always recommend asking for multiple samples so that you can grade them yourself and then ask your manufacturer for a full pre-production run of your sizes. By asking for this it ensures two very important things:

  1. Your grading is correct across all your products.
  2. Your manufacturer is willing to take the time to get your sizing right.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this will cost more time and money up front for your business and manufacturers might push back on you initially. However, in the long run, you’ll be saving so much time and money not wasting the expensive fabric you purchased for your clothes and avoiding the blame game with the manufacturer.

Patience is a Virtue...

I know this can all feel a bit overwhelming at first. But trust me when I say that taking your time with your grading will be the best thing you can do for your brand and your product launch. By taking it slow you are learning the lingo, making sure the fits are exactly how you want so your consumer feels the best in your product, and you are saving money by not making mistakes up front.

When Linda asked this question, I knew that it was indicative of a larger theme within the launch process. So many times when we start to take action, we find ourselves running into little road blocks because we don’t have the knowledge, resources, or time to spend on finding the answers. That’s where the Fast Track Your Fashion Brand Podcast Community Facebook group comes in. By having a community of like-minded entrepreneurs Linda was able to find her answers quickly and get her going to the next level.


02:15-04:35 - Podcast Community Facebook group

04:55-08:40 - What is a Grading Scale?

08:45-14:10 - What Do I Need For Sample Sizes?

14:20-17:00 - Asking for Samples

17:05-19:10 - Take Your Time

19:15-47:10 - Ask Us Questions!


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Hey there FastTracker!

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The Podcast covers the TOP QUESTIONS from Fashion Business Entrepreneurs. 

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🎙️ How to wholesale your clothing line

🎙️ How to start a sustainable clothing brand

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🎙️ How many styles to start a clothing line

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