Efficiencies around Technical Design and Apparel Production With Annie Cohen



July 25, 2023


Annie Cohen  00:03

Are there details that can be changed for consistency sake or for the cost when they come back and want something revised educating them on what that will do to their cost, their production, and things like that?


Emily Lane  00:21

Yeah, imagine even some of those decisions are branding moments, right? Like, choosing a certain style stitch or contrast is really, you know, things that can affect price but also can become a signature for the brand's


Annie Cohen  00:32

Exactly. I think that consistency can create the opportunity for a signature.


Emily Lane  00:52

Welcome to Clothing Coulture, a fashion industry podcast at the intersection of technology and innovation. I'm Emily lane.


Bret Schnitker  01:00

I'm Bret Schnitker. We speak with experts and disruptors who are moving the industry forward and discuss solutions to real industry challenges.


Emily Lane  01:08

Clothing Coulture is produced by Stars Design Group, a global design and production house with more than 30 years of experience.


Emily Lane  01:19

Welcome back to another episode of Clothing Coulture. I'm pretty excited about this conversation. Bret, are you?


Bret Schnitker  01:26



Emily Lane  01:27

Of course you are, of course. This is a topic that centers around efficiencies when it comes to tech design and production. And this whole concept came into being when we were talking with our great friend, Annie Cohen, who joins us today who is the consulting Director of Technical Design for Stars Design Group. And Bret you have always attributed Annie as being the most technically minded person you've ever met, which is pretty extraordinary.


Bret Schnitker  01:54

Yeah, for sure.


Emily Lane  01:55

Bret you've always said designers, they're artists, they just use fabric instead of paint brushes in our industry, but yet tech design, they're the architects of our industry. And I always think that tech design is this, this, it is an unsung hero of our industry. Because not only do you have to understand how a garment needs to look and feel, but you would have to, you have to be able to communicate that so that it it actually sees its full life. And Annie when you and I were talking one day, we were reviewing a prospective clients, technical their garments and everything. And we were looking at it and you said to me, Emily, this was not even designed to go into production. And a light bulb went off. I'm like, What do you mean? Give me some insights there. So let's talk a little bit about what what are some of those cues, when you looked at that garment, you're like, oh, my gosh, this wasn't even meant for production. So I'd love some of those thoughts. But just as a setup for today, everybody, we're going to kind of talked through some of the ins and outs of decisions that can be made all throughout the process from a technical perspective, to really maximize efficiency and garment making. So Annie, what are some of those cues that you were like we are off track?


Annie Cohen  03:16

Well, when I first looked at that garment, and I remember it very vividly, I could see that there were


Bret Schnitker  03:23

no arms, that's a problem. And it was a pant.


Annie Cohen  03:30

Right, there was no way to get into it.


Bret Schnitker  03:32

No way to get in.


Annie Cohen  03:33

I did see that there were multiple kinds of stitching and joining of, of parts that were more complex than they needed to be number one. Number two, they weren't the appropriate types of stitching. And the fabric wasn't supporting the functionality of the garment. So those were the key take.


Bret Schnitker  03:57

Besides that,it was fine.


Annie Cohen  03:59

That it was beautiful. Yes.


Annie Cohen  04:01

So the nerdy side of fashion is where I stepped in and looked at it and saw that technically, it should have been cleaned up before it ever was presented to be a manufactured garment.


Bret Schnitker  04:17

And there's always this interesting tension between kind of designers, if you will, and technical design, but it's such a critical step because and it's bigger than you would imagine, you know, just walking in and saying, Okay, I understand what the designer wants to do. I'm going to create the blueprint, the technical sketch, the bill of materials, the stitching detail, you know, that's only the beginning of what we're going to talk about tonight. You'll also in our world, because most of the stuff is commercial design. We got to make it hit price points and part of that are these big, massive key elements in in production of things you can control right, right consumptions speed. You'd have sewing, cost of labor, all these different components kind of you have to be considering the those as you're building this this technical?


Annie Cohen  05:10

Absolutely, I think that there's a whole nother part of the process that often gets overlooked when someone meets with a designer and wants to help them take their garment and their design and their idea to manufacturing. And I think what is skipped sometimes is helping that designer learn. And you have to, at some point, be an educator. And you have to help them understand how they can make good choices and be okay with things. And sometimes you have clients who you don't need to explain anything to you just to do it. Because it doesn't matter. But as to be successful. I think in partnering with a designer, you have to understand what they're looking for who their customer is, who they are, and what their brand wants, how it wants, they want it to be represented, is it are there details that can be changed for consistency sake, or for the cost when they come back and want something revised, educating them on what that will do to their cost, their production, and things like that.


Emily Lane  06:24

Yeah, imagine even some of those decisions are branding moments, right? Like choosing a certain style, stitch or contrast. You know, things that can affect price, but also can become a signature for the brand.


Annie Cohen  06:36

Exactly, I think that consistency can create the opportunity for a signature. So if you have you are producing new styles, and you maintain a certain stitch type, or top stitching, or the way that a collar is shaped or something like that, there are ways to make it efficient by repetition. And that becomes a branding opportunity and a signature to that style.


Emily Lane  07:05

Those are a lot of early considerations before you even get like from the design to the technical, right.


Annie Cohen  07:14

There's a there's a combination of merchandising, design, product development, technical design, and manufacturing. And it all has to be cohesive and compatible.


Emily Lane  07:29

Talking about the design phase, are there additional decisions that can be made during this time, that can really make sure that you're set up for success by the time your garment gets into production?


Annie Cohen  07:39

Definitely, there's a big difference between making those decisions for a new customer, someone who is entering into the world of design and fashion and the industry, and someone who is a seasoned experienced merchandising brand, an established brand. So if you have someone who's brand new, you are again, educating them, and one of the important decisions is fabric selection and trim selection. And the most important thing about fabric selection is to select a fabric that will perform as you have designed it. So often I have seen people select fabric that does not work with the garment. And so it has to support the design elements. And if it doesn't, you know, then you will not have success. And you'll go back to the drawing board. So one of the really important things is selecting the proper fabric. It could be too thin, it could be too heavy, it could be too shear, it could be not stable enough to maintain design elements that have a real specific line to them. So picking the right fabrics is really important.


Emily Lane  08:52

I imagine even making sure that certain fabrics that you're pulling into a garment, work well together.


Annie Cohen  08:59

Absolutely work well together. You want to always choose things that have the same care instructions, because that definitely can come into play. You don't want to put a fabric that can't be dry cleaned with a fabric that has to be dry clean.


Bret Schnitker  09:15

Put the label, do not clean.


Annie Cohen  09:19

That's a disposable garments.


Emily Lane  09:21

Yeah. Yeah, I can I can definitely see it. There's all these little spots where those kinds of errors can take place like pocket lining or you know, I could just see the opportunity


Annie Cohen  09:34

and the and that is why it's so important to also understand the consumer and the segment of the market that you are working in, because a designer can design something and want to be within a price point. But again, you have to make sure that the fabric selections are appropriate for that consumer market. A low cost, volume, commodity item should not be a dry clean item, things like that. So you also have to think about those kinds of things. Wow.


Emily Lane  10:06

Okay, that's great thinking.


Emily Lane  10:15

Tell me about piggybacking.


Annie Cohen  10:18

Yes, I love piggybacking. When you have an established brand, one of the best things you can do is piggyback. So as merchandisers know, when you bring forth a new season, you will have carryover styles from the previous season, you will, you might refabricate them in different colors and different prints and maybe some small changes. And then you'll have some brand new items. Even the brand new items should piggyback off of an old item that is tried and true. You have a successful business in a successful garment. So your next garment should pull in the elements of fit and construction.


Bret Schnitker  11:02

The things that were successful. Exactly the evolution not revolution. I don't know where I've heard that before.


Annie Cohen  11:09

Yeah. What did we say? Also? Inspiration, not duplication?


Bret Schnitker  11:14

Oh, that's a new one.


Annie Cohen  11:18

So when so piggybacking is when you might have a brand new style that looks brand new, but you are still picking up from an existing style that's successful, and you're making sure the fit is consistent, you're making sure your seam finishes are consistent. All that is a lot of that is internal in the garment. And you're most of the consumers are not even going to be aware of it. But from an efficiency standpoint, boy, can you jump ahead patterns exist and can be revised. With simple changes and it becomes a new garment. You might refabricate which can change some things, you have to be cognizant of that. But anything you can do to pull from history,


Emily Lane  12:04

right, you don't have to reinvent every time exactly. You've got these blocks in place or these patterns in place for.


Annie Cohen  12:11

And the other thing that that helps with is bulk ordering. So if you're always going to use the same pocket bags, pocket bags are very low consumption, right? So if you can always use the same pocket bag lining, then you can bulk order for all of your styles that have pockets. And of course, that's if it's compatible. Yeah. But that's one of the kinds of things that you want to do and also your interlinings all the cost of the material. Right. And there are some times when we can say Don't reinvent the wheel, right? Yeah. If it's not broke, don't fix it. Right.


Bret Schnitker  12:45

Right. For sure.


Emily Lane  12:46

You mentioned consumption, how do you manage consumption at this phase of the process?


Annie Cohen  12:52

There's a couple of key things, I think one of them is that you make sure that your patterns are efficient, in many ways. So there's a toss up between material consumption and the cost of your fabrics and labor. Right? So it's usually about half and half. Right? Bret,


Bret Schnitker  13:12



Annie Cohen  13:13

It's usually about half and half, depending on your market. But that's pretty typical your labor and your material raw materials. So if you can be as efficient as possible and have a a heavy, high usage item, but that it's efficient, when you put it in the width of your fabric is also a key element. So a lot of times that is completely overlooked. If that is not part of your process, it goes to the factory for that make sure your communication is there and say how efficient are your markers? Sometimes your communication is what helps the efficiency because you can say, what's your efficiency on your markers? Well, you know, we can only get one across. So we're wasting 20% of the fabric 25% of the fabric, what can we do? What can we do? Well, maybe we can put a seam down the back. Maybe we can take an eighth of an inch off that width. And suddenly we can get to a cross.


Bret Schnitker  14:12

And we've had situations where you move from 57, 58 goods to 43, 44 or you know narrower goods, because the utilization of that fabric is better, you're not wasting as much. There's a lot of adjustments you can make understanding what that pattern needs to be.


Annie Cohen  14:26

So the most important part of that is what is your percentage of efficiency. So my goal is always 80%. If I can't get 80%.


Emily Lane  14:33

Can calculate this at this at this planning stage.


Annie Cohen  14:38



Bret Schnitker  14:39

Absolutely have to know your ratio of sizes. You have to know what percentage you're running in each size. Because when you're laying out a pattern, a lot of people that have thought about or don't have the experience. You would think oh I have 50 larges and 100 extra larges and people go and lay out all the extra larges on a pattern. They caught all that and they go on layout all the largest on a pattern and then they go cut that that's not the case. And efficient pattern can utilize size pieces from all the size scales. And so when you understand the ratio of sizing, you're going to be able to lay in those pieces to the level of the overall cut, improving efficiency, because certainly, a small element on a small size might be able to fit effectively with large elements on larger sizes.


Emily Lane  15:29

I was just thinking it's a mathematical puzzle.


Annie Cohen  15:33

It is and there are times also that if you want to get even more complicated, you can combine styles. So if you if you repeat a fabric, which is also a great idea, it creates cohesive design, and it creates a signature, and it increases your bulk of of raw materials where you can get a better price, right? So repeating them also means that you might have small pieces in in other styles that can also fill in gaps. So but that gets a little bit tricky with your calculations of your ratios and your orders. But


Bret Schnitker  16:13

when you throw in colored dye lots, you have to make sure that all the components for one garment come out of the same dialogue in in long distance history. I haven't really seen that situation lately.


Emily Lane  16:26

We've seen it, we've seen it on a few projects that we've been evaluating.


Bret Schnitker  16:33

Right. So yeah, but you know, you would find that they would pull a shade from a different shade lot. So it you actually it looks almost colorblock the colors don't match up


Annie Cohen  16:43

I mean, there are definitely you, if you're doing these kinds of things, and you're looking that deep into the pre manufacturing stage, you have to make sure that you are partners, as far as manufacturing, are equipped to handle those kinds of things. You wouldn't ever want to write a purchase order and ask them to combine styles. If they are not equipped to handle that complexity, that's


Emily Lane  17:10

Thats a really good question to ask to the other side that's engaging a firm, right.


Annie Cohen  17:16

Ands that's where, you know, as I mentioned before, you want to understand the ability and capability of your of the of the factory that you are working with. And that also comes into play with choosing that manufacturer, if that is also something that you're doing. You want to make sure that you have compatibility with your styles, then as well, you're not going to send a swimwear piece to a men's suit manufacturer, right. And sometimes factories will say, Oh, yeah, we can do that. And you open up a whole can of worms because they don't have the experience.


Emily Lane  17:52

They don't even have the right equipment. Right.


Annie Cohen  17:54



Bret Schnitker  17:55

Or it's a bikini with the vest.


Emily Lane  18:00

You might have just discovered the next trend.


Bret Schnitker  18:06

I think Wall Street should see that.


Emily Lane  18:08

Absolutely. Speaking of thongs and suits.


Emily Lane  18:17

Let's talk about the extra details. You know, things like trims, buttons, all of that I'm sure that there are decisions that can be made that again, are, you know, really maximizing your production cycle.


Annie Cohen  18:33

Yeah, if you go with a branded button, which is very common, I've seen it around here, then use that branded button on everything, you can, again, a signature item, and you have costs of creating something that is branded for you. So make the most of it. And that that helps a lot. Yeah. And when it comes to fabric, backing up just a little bit in selecting the proper fabrics. Here at Stars, there is a library of 1000s of, of sources and suppliers and types of fabrics to choose from. And the person here who works with that is amazing. Amazing. You asked for, tell her what the property should be and she can find it and that is really, really a big strength of Stars.


Emily Lane  19:24

Thats true. We we have a librarian if you will.


Annie Cohen  19:27

She's amazing.


Emily Lane  19:30

I totally agree.


Emily Lane  19:38

You know, when we were talking about trends and sourcing various components, it's also something to be very mindful of, you know, we know we're producing a garment in India, for example, but we have goods that need to be imported to complete the garment and there are lots of things to consider.


Annie Cohen  19:55

Right? So one thing to think about is fragmentation. fragmentation became popular 10 No more than that 20 years ago,


Bret Schnitker  20:07

Time flys when you're having fun,


Annie Cohen  20:08

I know, right? Probably at least 20 years ago where things would be made in different parts we'd be made at different regions of the world. And they'd all come together to create a garment. You might have if you are, there's a suit manufacturer that gets shoulder pads made in China, the lining gets made in Korea, and the fabric is made in India. And all of this has to come together. Well, we know now, especially with supply chain issues, and transportation issues of goods, that has become extremely expensive. So you want to use the factory as a resource often and say, Do you have a supplier for these things? When


Bret Schnitker  20:52

Finding the verticality in  a solution.


Annie Cohen  20:55

Exactly. Exactly. And, you know, shortening those long trips that those parts and pieces have to go right. And defragmenting. Yeah, you know, it's like your hard drive, and you've defragment and like pull it all together and shorten those travel.


Bret Schnitker  21:13

And not every country can efficiently do that we still have a number of countries that rely on foreign material, and they're mainly CM nations. But there is definitely opportunities in some of the more established countries to have some a good amount of verticality.


Annie Cohen  21:30

And one of the neat things I've learned too, is when you have that open communication with the factory, and you talk to them openly. And often. Sometimes they generate ideas that you can take back to your designer, and say, hey, they have this as an option, you know, so being somewhat flexible, and not being afraid to learn something new. And opening it up to that kind of dialogue can, in the end prove really successful.


Emily Lane  21:58

Yeah, I think sometimes people are afraid of this, this, this transparency that we actually all seek, but they're afraid to tell too much, or give away too much. Or, you know, freedom to, to develop something and, and it can hold back progress and better solutions.


Bret Schnitker  22:19

These people are doing it every day. They are truly experts, but experts that are improving their skill every day, because they're actually doing it America, as we've talked to has abdicated, manufacturing, or for the most part for years, these people are dealing with these issues all the time. And they understand those variances that we're talking about globaly


Annie Cohen  22:39

And truth is, you can find it. I mean, if if you look hard enough, you know, nothing's really a secret.


Bret Schnitker  22:48

Sure, absolutely.


Emily Lane  22:50

So the the last point that I really want to kind of talk about is just the internal the day of the life of a tech designer, you know, what are things that you resources that you utilize, and things that you do to make sure that you're maximizing your efficiency or tapping into knowledge base that you have at your hands or previous projects, and that kind of thing.


Bret Schnitker  23:13

five hour energy at four o'clock.


Annie Cohen  23:18

And then another three or four hours. I think with PLM systems, we've become more efficient, because we have a data, bank of information, right. But if we don't use it properly, it becomes less efficient. So if we have naming conventions that are consistent,


Emily Lane  23:38

you want to give an example of that.


Annie Cohen  23:42

Sometimes you want to filter by a sleeve, a sleeve. And so we have raglan sleeves, we have set in sleeves, we have kimono sleeves, but


Emily Lane  23:54

But sometime, some of those leaves have the same name, like there's the baseball sleeve and the you know the raglan, right?


Annie Cohen  23:59

Exactly. So if we sometimes call it a baseball sleeve, and sometimes we call it a raglan sleeve, right, we're really reducing our chance of efficiency because you know, we're we're cutting our, our results in half when we run that search. So if we can make sure we have a naming, you know, consistency and that that actually going a little deeper, same thing when patterns are being made, because there are functions within the CAD systems where you can swap pieces and you can reuse pieces but searching for things becomes it sounds so simple, but it is an issue if you're not using it properly.


Emily Lane  24:41

It can be like old school libraries going to the card catalog and then having to go on up on it's right. Yeah.


Annie Cohen  24:48

So so using PLM to to do that is really helpful and again, it helps you to reuse work you've already done you know don't don't keep doing it over you can use you've you've got a wealth of, of information and things to use? What are some knowledge rights resources that you can reuse? Yeah,


Emily Lane  25:10

I think about so much of what you're doing and you are this as you talked about a puzzle, you know, a puzzle master problem solver, a mathematician all of these things and and if you can go back to that resource they're using nerd. Yeah, because


Annie Cohen  25:24

I think all of that together equals good


Emily Lane  25:26

I think equals genius. But


Bret Schnitker  25:30

Were you hate the department in high school, too,


Emily Lane  25:33

What's that?


Emily Lane  25:39

I was in the orchestra. I definitely am among my peers. But yeah, it's I can see how being able to reuse work you've already done, you've already done the math, right, you've already done the hard work. Now let's leverage it to aid you further and for your mind to focus on other new contributions.


Bret Schnitker  25:58

We live in a microwave society, people want things and decisions moving quicker. Technology should help support that. But input outputs only as good as the input.


Annie Cohen  26:07

Right, right. And think of it as tools really, like each piece of that is a tool, use it.


Emily Lane  26:13

Well, Annie, this has been such a pleasure. We've been friends now for several years, enjoying meeting each other at various celebrity moments in the fashion scene. And it's been wonderful to bring you on our team at Stars. Great to share some of your insights with our wonderful friends of Clothing Coulture.


Emily Lane  26:38

Thank you. It's a pleasure.


Emily Lane  26:40

Yeah. And don't forget to subscribe to stay apprised of upcoming episodes of Clothing Coulture.

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Efficiencies around Technical Design and Apparel Production With Annie Cohen