Manufacturing and Production Technology

Learn the Lingo: Key Manufacturing Terms to Know

120419 scaling retail - two seasons blog - fashion manufacturing lingo

Being new to the world of clothing startups can be overwhelming on many levels. For one, entering the manufacturing side of the industry can make you feel like you’re learning a new language. We’ve broken it down to a list of the essentials. Here are the key terms you should know for each stage of the manufacturing cycle.

Design Terminology

The first stage of manufacturing your products is the designing process. While, yes, this is an all-encompassing step that starts before you even get to the production process, it’s good for clothing startups to be aware of design terms that are useful to the manufacturers.

This is a manufacturing option that includes the full lifecycle of a garment: from concept and sample creation to full production. You should ask your factory for this in the beginning to avoid confusion going in.

All of the information about each garment a manufacturer needs in order to produce it. This includes measurements, patterns, flat sketches, dimensions, fabrics, and any notes or details for quality.

Your tech pack’s itemized packing slip. It includes the specific breakdowns for producing the garment: things like fabric color and type, trim details, hardware, packaging, tags, etc.

The technical sketch of a garment, done as if it were laying flat out. It includes details such as seams and stitching for your patternmaker to follow.

The technical representation of a garment that is relayed to the factory for sample pieces and full production. This should be included in your tech pack.

A digital rendering of a garment design to enhance both the design concept and highlight elements for production.

Increasing the scale and dimensions of a piece proportionally across sizes to ensure consistency of fit.

The process of coloring trim or an external accessory to match a garment’s main fabric color.

Color swatches sent for approval.

A fabric sample the manufacturer prints according to your designs and specifications that will be submitted back to clothing startups for approval prior to production.

The amount of fabric needed to cut one garment usually expressed in yardage.

Manufacturer Terminology

After your designs are finished and approved, the manufacturer goes to work producing the items. These terms are less focused on the design specifics of your fashion items but rather, are concerned with things like payment and production processes.

One of the most important words—especially from your manufacturer’s point of view. The terms disclose when your payment to the factory is due, be it a lump sum, a down payment, or installments. It’s important to be clear about payment terms from the start. Most clothing startups aren’t able to work on net terms (payment sent after delivery of goods) until they are well established. So, starting out, expect most manufacturers to set payment terms that ask for the money upfront.

If there are any specific changes, details, specifics to be aware of associated with a garment, those should be noted as a call out.

Broadly speaking, samples are test pieces produced of your garments. There are multiple kinds of samples with different meanings:

  • Pre-production sample. A piece created before production begins in earnest
  • Sales sample. An exact representation of the item sold to retailers
  • Top of production sample, a.k.a. TOPS. The very first completed production sample tested to ensure quality
  • Size sample. Ensure accuracy across sizes
  • Greige sample. A fully constructed sample not yet dyed or trimmed 
  • Prototype sample. A full-sized working sample encompassing all current specifications

Your purchase order is the full number of garments you are ordering to be produced. The manufacturer may have minimum order quantities in place, meaning the lowest amount of items required in order to run production.

The percentage of materials discarded in producing a line. It’s important to include this extra cost into your final cost, even though it will not end up being used on a garment.

Shipping Terminology

After your line is produced, it is time to ship! The final part of the manufacturing process is getting the items out of the factory and in the hands of retailers.

The list prepared by the shipper that includes exactly what each box contains and a breakdown of size, color, fabric content, and item type. This document is legally required by customs for international shipping.

A third party service that manages the shipping and importing process, including freight logistics, duties, packing slip preparation, etc. 

The price of finished items. This does NOT include shipping, duty, insurance, or taxes.

The price to the retailer as one flat price including all shipping and duties that they pay.

Code used to classify internationally traded goods and can determine duty rates.

There’s always more to learn more about the language of retail! Your best tactic as a business owner is to enter a room well-informed and with confidence in your knowledge. Check out our article Learn the Lingo: Wholesale Fashion Terms to Know to keep learning. As you take a step further toward understanding how to pick and price apparel products to meet market demand, make sure to take advantage of our free download, How to Plan Your Assortment for Maximum Impact. We break down the best possible production schedule, timeline, and product assortment—which impacts not only what you create in the market, but also how you choose to work with your manufacturers. 

At Scaling Retail, we’ve launched brick-and-mortar and e-commerce businesses all over the world. With our extensive knowledge of the manufacturing process and network of industry contacts, we are ready to help you succeed. Send an email to for a complimentary consultation.