If you've been reading the blog for a while you may have heard me mention 'fit sessions' and how they are one of the main things to get right, if you want to have a successful range. You might have also read my articles on tech packs (here and here, if you've not seen them and are wondering what I'm talking about), where I outline how to complete the form following a fit session. This post is to clarify what a fit session is and how to run one correctly, to ensure that your fashion garments fit well and look amazing.
What is a fit session?
A fit session is a meeting involving the fit model, a garment technician and the designer or buyer. A fit model is an employee or freelancer who will maintain the same body measurements and who has the measurements of your average customer. The fit model will try on any fit samples from the factory, so you can assess the fit and decide if it is suitable for your customer. During the meeting, fit samples (samples sent from the factory at various stages of development, to check the fit) will be tried on by the fit model. The buyer/designer will comment on the overall styling, fit and quality of any trims or fabrics sent for approval. It is the garment technician's job to make a note of what has been approved and what needs to be changed. This information is recorded on the tech pack and will be sent to the factory so they can work on any amendments, or make the final order if the sample has been approved.
How do I prepare for a fit session?
You will need to know, or organise the following in advance of the meeting;
- Before the meeting, I would measure the garment, so you can check how it compares to what you have asked for. This will make it easier for you when you come to do comments on the tech pack.
- You will need to book time with your fit model and make sure you have space for them to change, wherever you are holding the meeting
- You will need to bring the sample that needs fitting, as well as any previous samples as they may need to be referred to
- Tech packs for each of the styles you are fitting. This could either be a printed document or on your computer, whichever you will find it easiest to refer to and make notes on
- Personally, before going into a fit meeting I like to familiarise myself with the situation; things like, which sample we're on, any problems we've been having and how long we have until the item ships, are all useful to know
- If the sample is made from sub fabric (i.e. not the actual fabric you will be using for bulk) you will need to bring a sample of the actual fabric and any trims, if you have approved them. Note; wherever possible samples should always be in the correct fabric.
- You should bring a tape measure and a camera. A tape measure for obvious reasons and it's always good to have a camera as it's often helpful to have an accompanying photo with comments that you make to the factory.
What should I look out for in the fit session?
The purpose of the fit meeting, or 'fits' is to make the garment as close to perfect as possible. Unfortunately, it's not always possible to correct every issue, but the idea is to make sure the garment is suitable for your customer. You're not only looking at the styling to see if it appeals to them, but also at things like the fit and how it feels when it's worn. If it's supposed to be for work can you sit down in it comfortably? If it's meant to be for sports is it stretchy, can you move easily? Is the fabric pulling and creating drag lines? Over time you will develop an eye for detail, but here's some initial things to look out for to start you off;
- Look at it from a customer perspective. If your customer saw this in a shop, would they like it? Would they want to try it on? Does it give the impression it's well made?
- Look at the stitching, is it straight and neat, or is it wobbly and inconsistent?
- Ask the fit model how it feels. Ask him/her to move around, look out for common problems such as restrictions on moving your arms forward, or things (especially trousers/pants) being uncomfortable when you sit down.
- If the garment is meant to be fitted, is it saggy anywhere, are there any drag lines (where fabric 'bunches' together)
- Is this the right size for your fit model? If not, change the measurements so it is a good fit.
- How about the length? Is it working for the look of the garment and also in terms of practicality?
- Are all of the components working together, such as styling details, buttons, pockets? Does anything look over the top or out of place? Or do you feel something is missing?
- Can the model get in and out of the garment ok? Is the zip long enough, is it good quality or is it getting stuck? If the garment uses buttons, are there enough, or are there gaps where you can see the model's skin?
Essentially, you are looking for anything that will either affect the performance of the garment (such as zips that get stuck, or seams that are coming apart), or things that will stop your customer from buying it (like it restricts movement, or is uncomfortable to wear).
How often do I have a fit session?
Here, I would love to write 'as many times as you need to', but unfortunately it's not always that simple. When time planning, I always allow for 4 samples and fit sessions, but aim to only need 3. A first fit, pre-production (sent for final approval before the stock is made) and a shipping sample (sent after the stock is made but before it is shipped so we can check for any issues before it leaves the factory). You may need extra fit samples, on a really frustrating style I've had as many as 6 samples (4 x fits, 1 PP and 1 shipping), but this is rare and usually this only happens if the factory hasn't followed instructions. Giving clear instructions to the factory is essential, as they are often unwilling to use common sense or imagination (sounds awful to say but sadly that is often true), so make sure you're very specific about what you want. Next week I'll be going into more detail on how to communicate your fit comments to the factory and make sure they understand what you're saying. The other things to consider are how much time do you have and are you paying for samples? If you're a startup or small business, the factory will often charge you for the samples, so you need to decide how important the changes that you'd like to make are vs the cost of an extra sample. In terms of timeframe, if you're asking for extra samples (i.e. more than 3), this may cause a delay to the delivery, so again you will have to assess how critical the changes are vs the delivery date into store is.
I hope this has given you a few ideas for things to look out for. As always, if you're not sure of any of the terminology used here, you're welcome to leave a comment below, or get in touch here and I'd be happy to help. If you're finding the above a bit overwhelming or you don't have a garment technologist to make the changes to the tech pack, I'm excited to announce that in addition to my consulting services on this topic, I'm also starting to do in person fit sessions with clients. I have appointments available in several cities across the UK and Europe and I hope to be adding the US soon as well, so please feel free to contact me if that is of interest.
As promised, there is a free PDF download to accompany this post and help you when you have a fit session. It has a checklist of things to bring, as well as an easy to print and refer to recap of the things to look out for. This is available in the resource library now. Not already a member? Get FREE access to this download and many more to help your fashion business, by signing up below....