The creation of clear technical specifications, such as a bill of materials and design drawings, is the key to success when developing new apparel designs. Regardless of where in the world your products are manufactured, you don’t want to leave your supplier guessing. To further get clarification on the subject, we decided to reach out to Saral Kochar, Founder of Techpacker.com in Hong Kong.
In this interview, Saral explains what you must know about design drawings and technical specifications when outsourcing apparel and textiles production to manufacturers in Asia – and how things can turn out if you fail to produce such documentation.
Saral, how did you end up in Hong Kong’s textiles industry?
By luck I guess. I wanted to study chemistry and physics but with poor education system in India and maybe not enough motivation, I was pushed into study business and accounting. So after high school, I was very indecisive regarding my career path but then everyone in our family from my grandfather to all his sons and daughters and cousins are in fashion and textile businesses, therefore I decided to study product design development in fashion from London College of Fashion.
After 3 years of study, I was offered to work at American Eagle Outfitters at their design office in New York. While working there, I came across Li & Fung from Hong Kong as one of the core suppliers. I was very intrigued by its business model as being the largest trading company in the world providing sourcing and logistics for many of the top brands and therefore wanted to learn more about it. So I flew to Hong Kong and interviewed with them and soon was offered a contract which I happily accepted.
What did you do after leaving Li & Fung?
While working one year into the contract with Li & Fung, American Eagle decided to setup their sourcing office in Hong Kong and I happily accepted the role as their product development manager. We started the office with three people and soon became 40. Four years later it was about time that I would move to family business, but I persuaded my father to allow me to try some businesses until I turn 32. So I resigned from American Eagle and started a denim trading company in Hong Kong.
We developed special denim slubs, rich indigos directly with denim mills and got approved directly from brands such as Perry Ellis, LandsEnd, Tory Burch to cut commissions to Agencies. The business was well but I couldn’t see scalability since we didn’t want to go into manufacturing and there were price challenges.
Right, and this is what gave you the experience required to create Techpacker.com?
While running the denim trading company, I was helping some friends in America to produce garments in China and other Asian countries. We had to deal with quality and product lead-time problems. We discovered majority of the problems was due to communication issues. Not just language barrier but also confusions among collaborations and managing multiple style development.
In addition, every detail had to be specified in detail otherwise you allow room for suppliers to select materials that are cheap and poor quality. Managing all of these was a challenge. So we came up with simple solution by making Techpacks (clear specifications) on Google Drive which helped reduce some of the issues. Gradually we were relying a lot on these solutions but it also had many limitations and that gave birth to Techpacker.com.
So, the key to success is the technical specifications and design drawings?
Yes, technical specifications and design drawings are the keys to avoid cost of multiple samples, faster product development and good quality products. In fashion industry, we call them Tech Packs. Tech Packs are the detailed design documents of any style that a factory can simply read and make a product. It’s an art to make a well illustrated and defined Tech Pack and takes years of experience to master it.
What sort of issues can importers expect if they fail to provide clear specifications – tech packs, to their manufacturers?
There are 3 major issues you will come across if you work with factories without a clear Techpack or specifications. The first major issue is time and costs. Depending on the complexity of product, it will take you 3-5 times longer to get your first sample made. This is because the factory will go back and forth on emails and phone confirming all details before making any sample. And since not everything is clear and poorly managed, you would hit the problems of incorrect samples that are not to the expectations.
The second major issue is Quality. Without a clear techpack, you would allow the factory to choose the fastest and cheapest possible way to make it. Let’s take an example of a simple t-shirt. If we don’t specify the exact ribbing quality for the collar or the stitch type on bottom hem, or clear care-label or placement, the factory will simply use the cheapest and fastest way to avoid any extra cost. It doesn’t matter if that factory is in USA or Asia. It’s how factories work on low-margins to make profits.
The 3rd major problem is, without a techpack, there is no clear contract between you and a factory. That means, if there are issues in production, which in most cases there will be, then you have nothing to prove with documentation. We have seen with most brands around the world shifting to TechPack as it has come to the rescue time and time again. When there is a claim, or factory misses something, a Techpack will be the only document that will be considered as a contract of your design and everyone has to abide by that.
How is Techpacker.com simplifying the creation of Apparel Tech Packs that manufacturers can work on?
First, Techpacker is build on collaborations with manufacturers. With years of research, we have standardized the details needed on a tech pack in the best convenient method that factory can utilize without having difficulties understanding.
Second, we have made the process of making techpacks very visual and minimize data entry. So for designers it’s simply pick and drop. For factories, less time spend guessing on terms that the factory staff doesn’t understand.
Third, Techpacker, in collaboration with designers and brands around the world is building world’s largest fashion PD (product development) resource library that anyone can use for free.
Fourth, Techpacker is 100% free to use with unlimited techpacks.
Fifth, Techpacker’s advanced technology of organizing the Techpack through cards, makes it very easy to manage and keep hundreds of styles per season updated.
Sixth, Techpacker is on cloud and available through any web browser so no downloads, updates, licenses required.
Seventh, Techpacker can be used on any device as its build responsive.
Finally, Techpacker is building the collaborative tool where everything can be done online.