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How the industry works

In order to understand the role and importance of a sample machinist it is necessary to gain an understanding of the design and development process (pre-production) involved in creating a piece of high-end fashion. Although the process is broadly the same in any environment, in this section we are focusing on the production of high-end garments.

The process

As illustrated in The Big Picture, the design, development and production process for high-end fashion is a team effort from design concept to finished piece. The overall process includes three key stages: design, pattern and sample development and production, with each stage including a number of processes, skills and teams.

Sample machinist - design to production

Depending on each business and on the specific garment there can be some variation in the design, development and production process, however most will follow the key steps below. These steps can be carried out entirely in-house, between a design studio and a manufacturing unit or at a sample unit. Depending on the complexity of the garment, some of the stages may be repeated until the sample and patterns are absolutely perfect.

Sample machinist - design to high end

The team

A sample machinist is an integral member of a close-knit team and each team member plays an important role in the creation of high-end fashion products.

The fashion industry is diverse and businesses work differently depending on their size, products and resources. This means that responsibilities within job roles vary from business to business and design teams can range from a two man band with multi-skills (i.e. designer and sample machinist) to a larger team (i.e. designer, pattern cutter, garment technologist, cutter, sewing machinist, sample machinist, presser and finisher). However, regardless of the team size, sample machinists are expected to be multi-skilled and knowledgeable in design, pattern cutting and production techniques. 

The process of a typical design team within a small fashion studio is illustrated below along with the responsibilities of each member. Some pattern cutters and sample machinists work freelance and are not permanent members of the design team. Sometimes an external sample unit or manufacturer is involved after the first sample is made up when one of their sample machinists will work on the development of the garment. A good relationship between the design team and the manufacturer is required.

Sample machinist - designer team

For a more detailed breakdown of the tasks, processes and responsibilities of each team member involved in producing fashion garments, take a look at the Apparel Manufacturing Technology Standards created by Creative Skillset in consultation with the fashion industry.

The sample machinist

The main role of the sample machinist is to produce a sample and specification that can be used to instruct the manufacturer for the final production. Below is a breakdown of each part of the process.

Planning

Working with designer and pattern cutter:

  • Assess the design concept and agree materials & specifications
  • Assess the construction techniques
  • Produce and confirm final specifications

Sample production

Working with designer and pattern cutter:

  • Produce initial sample and assess throughout the process
  • Review sample with team
  • Produce further samples as required
  • Continue until final sample is agreed

Produce

Working with designer and pattern cutter:

  • Construct final sample

Final sample

Working with designer and pattern cutter:

  • Review final sample with team
  • Produce and confirm final specifications

Take final sample to production

Working with designer, pattern cutter and production manager:

  • Share final sample with production team
  • Instruct team on specifications and production methods

Working with designer and production manager:

  • Oversee production

The sample machinist in action

Gosha London is a family-run production studio with over twenty years’ experience creating high-end and luxury fashion. Watch this video to find out how their sample machinists work with London Fashion Week designer Emilia Wickstead to produce top quality samples for their shows:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58VGKiD3SJ8