Without a doubt, I have the best job on earth. I get to spend my days talking to new parents about their precious babies, looking at baby pictures and handling cozy soft fabrics. Yes, of course, there is the business end of it too, which is maybe not so fun at times but even that can be an exercise in creativity. But of all the hats I wear on a daily basis in my business, none is as fun or comfortable for me as the product development process. The process of creating new products for new people!
Product Development at CastleWare Baby
In the garment industry, product development is defined as the process of conceptualizing, designing, creating, producing, introducing and delivering a new product to the customer or improving on an old product.
I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to say THANK YOU, a huge thank you to YOU, our customers for all of your feedback, encouragement, and ideas that you have so generously shared with me over the years. While designing new products or improving on the old ones, I always take your suggestions to heart and you have helped to improve the line as we have grown. I’ve never been good at drawing so while most designers start with pen and paper, I start with a mental conception. I guess because I have been in the industry for so long, I can picture how a certain fabric will drape and fit. I use real swatches of colored fabric rather than color chips to play with combinations. I sew little samplers to test how a trim fabric will look or how a zipper should be inserted. I cut mock garments out of patterns that I have made myself or from bits and pieces of store-bought patterns. I work and rework the garment until I feel I have a fairly accurate representation of the final product that I am after.
Once I’m happy with my mock sample, I meet with my production manager to present her with my sample along with a list of it’s particular features such as:
~ What fabrications it will be made in.
~ What size range and colors it will be offered in.
~ What trims it will have.
My production manager then takes my sample to the pattern maker who will produce the base pattern, taking all of my requests into consideration and making the pattern to fit my size chart. This way, my new products will have the same consistent fit as my current ones.
At this point, there are usually many conversations between the pattern maker, my production manager and myself to work through the myriad of questions. Fit, style details, trims, production constraints and so forth. All of these points need to be thought about and worked through at this very critical point in the process. The master pattern should ultimately be perfect once completed.
Once we feel confident that we have it right, a sample is made from the master pattern to check the look and fit. Real babies wear the garment and real moms give us their feedback.
If changes need to be made then the pattern maker is informed and the pattern is reworked. Once again, we make a new sample and go through the testing process with our moms and babies until we’ve got it right.
Once we are sure that the master pattern is correct, it goes to a digitizing service where the hard copy pattern is digitized into a computer grading program. Once in the program, the rules will be entered for the various sizes so that each size matches our size chart and like magic, multiple sizes will be made in the program. After each size has been checked for accuracy, the new style is ready for production. From here, our production manager takes over and orders a marker, which is the sheet of paper that sits on top of the stack of fabric with all of the various sizes printed on it. Now the new product is on its way, working through the cut and sew process but that’s another story for another day.