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Bringing it home: why retailers are taking pattern cutting in house


What seems today to be an interesting concept, of course it is just history repeating itself. What has gone in between is the decimation of the skills base as suppliers, where the full range of technical skills were honed and transferred, either closed or moved offshore when retailers decided that the far east was a lower cost and better option. For me the title 'Pattern Cutter' or 'Grader' has always placed the roles as subservient within a Design Team and been relatively low paid. In order to be able to produce a sound manufacturable garment the practitioner needs a far wider set of skills then just marking card and cutting it, or sitting at a cad machine for the same function. Working blind from someone else's time served Block Patterns is possible but to be able to create, drape fabric and convert it into a production ready set of patterns requires a person with Super Skills. Fabric knowledge, Cutting Room Practises and the ability to make the garment to manufacturing standards and methods to prove the pattern and prove that it will fit the manufacturing system that will eventually produce the stock.. I quite like the American ' Technical Designer' title for this role as its use demands the skills to warrant the title and is not just a title to fit a pay grade level. For my initial training with Canda, in the dress factory, I first had to work on the sewing lines as an equal operator until I was able to make any style to production speed as part of each team in the factory. It took me 15 months to earn my place before I was allowed to begin any pattern development training. The two in house Designers and their Pattern Cutters, Sample Machinists and Graders, together produced new dress ranges of around 30 styles each week from which the following weeks production styles were selected. Three weeks later these styles were delivered direct to each of the 60 retail branches around the UK. No Warehouses, No Distribution Centres. As 'Just in Time' as was possible to be in the 1060's. 18000 dress units produced every week. This time served process required 'Trust' in the skills of everyone in the team. The Strong supporting the Weak. Skills were transferred, learning while doing. No messing about with the fit elsewhere. No Garment Technologists changing things on line. No distant factory, altering patterns to suit some other objective. I personally benefited from my 46 years in the industry when it was UK based therefore I do hope that the industry does reinvent this wheel and bring home these creative skills and benefit from the new technologies that offer additional consistency and speed to market.

Posted date

1 May 2019

Posted time

7:34 pm