Small Details That Elevate Clothing Quality


Emily Lane, Bret Schnitker


January 17, 2023


Bret Schnitker 00:01

The number one thing that people react to after you kind of make a decision on color and style of a garment is the hand feel. You associate softer nicer hand feels with better garments.


Emily Lane 00:26

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


Bret Schnitker 00:34

And 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 00:42

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


Emily Lane 00:53

Welcome back to another episode of Clothing Coulture. Today, we're going to talk about the little things, especially when it comes to garments, little things can make a huge difference. We've all had those experiences where we put on that shirt that we think is amazing, it feels buttery soft. But Gosh, darn, it has that tag in the back that just drives you crazy. Or you get a new shirt and all the buttons, pull off all these little things.


Bret Schnitker 01:19

You've actually bought a shirt and all the bottons have falling off.


Emily Lane 01:21

All of them all at once


Bret Schnitker 01:22

Buying at the wrong place.


Emily Lane 01:25

Well, the truth of it is a lot of these little details don't really affect the bottom line on the cost of that garment. All that significantly, there are so many decisions all along the way in the development of a garment that can elevate the product without it meaning it's going to cost a lot more, let's talk about this and break it down a little bit for everyone on the little decisions all along the way that can change your experience with a garment, and not really affect that cost either to the company creating it or to the consumer.


Bret Schnitker 01:57

Sure, I think you know, all starts all the way in with respect to fibers. And we've kind of talked about this in the past, there are decisions you can make even at fiber stage longer fibers versus shorter fibers, combed versus carded ways to arrange those yarns as the fibers are spinning, and you're knitting or weaving from that point that affects the quality of the garment. And sometimes visually, the garment on the rack may feel good or look at it's been pressed and might have some kind of a finish. And we'll talk about that in a little bit. But after the garment goes through a process of washing or cleaning or whatever, these little details, even at fiber stage can start to show up very quickly. And and negatively affect the consumer experience in terms of, you know, their satisfaction. One of the big issues when you're dealing with short fibers, and we we talk in our industry about carded or combed and it's a way of you know, spinning the yarn or a process within the spinning of the yarn. And if you're using short fibers, you're doing a carding, which is kind of a basic, if you do open ended spinning or whatever, it's a basic kind of way that the fibers are arranged once the garment starts washing one of the first indications of that as torquing. And so torquing is when he you know, when you buy the garment, the two seams on either side look very, very clean. And as the garment starts washing, that seam can sometimes end up almost nearly the front of the garment, depending on the lower the quality of the garment. And these don't really add a lot of cost to it. They're definitely considerations when you're going through and discussing at each stage of your manufacturing process to ensure that you're putting some of these little steps in there because customers today especially with a sustainability movement, we talk about that at great length. It's a big conversation in our industry and, and certainly one of the things that's our biggest failure, but people as part of sustainability are considering that, hey, I don't want it to be as disposable I want to wear it longer Well, in creating those garments that you can wear longer, you're going to have to increase quality so they don't fall apart and they don't end up landfills and so it is a beginning step and a minor in some cases a minor alteration to the cost to do at the fiber stage and improve decision.


Emily Lane 04:21

Okay, soon the thread of fabric, let's talk about shrinkage. We all hate that when we have that garment again, we we love it fits great. First time we were at then all of a sudden you wash it, dry it and it's a totally different garment. What causes that and is this something that can be prevented?


Bret Schnitker 04:39

It's based upon the nature of the fiber. So natural fibers in many cases are hydrophilic meaning that they absorb water and in that absorption of water in the drying process. The elongation of the fiber shortens synthetic fibers don't really have that much issue because they're hydrophobic. They don't absorb water. Polyester is plastic, for instance. So whenever you've put water on a plastic bag, it does and penetrates so you don't have as many issues on synthetics to that degree but in natural fibers like cotton, that elongation and the drying process is really what shrinks our garment. It's not always the washing process, it's the drying the heat applied, create a reduction in fiber length and our garments are frankly made up of a lot of different fibers right. And so, as all of those start shrinking, the garment can shrink in length a inexpensive addition to that process in fabric stage is called compaction. And they use a hot water treatment to compact the fabric before it goes into a garment. And that can take shrinkage is quite a bit down. Typical shrinkage is on non compacted garments in cotton basics and basic constructions like plain weave and poplin are somewhere in the range of 3% Basic shrinkage is in Jersey on a length of a garment and knitwear can be somewhere around 5% thermals those kind of warming kind of knitwear we use, they're notorious for shrinkage. Sometimes they can be as high as or over 12%. And so in those cases, instead of just basic compaction, you can also do panel washing. So take the stuff through get it shrunk down in terms of an actual washed panel that creates what we call00 finishing, and that helps greatly reduce shrinkage at all levels. And that, for us is an important thing to add to most all of our natural fiber garments, especially cotton.


Emily Lane 06:33

What about testing and fabric during this production phase? Are there different tests out there that can help make sure that you're really getting what you want, it's the best decision and so forth.


Emily Lane 06:43

Yeah, there's a whole battery of tests. And there's a whole battery of testing organizations. Some of them are well known, we happen to utilize Underwriters Laboratories UL in a global contract. But there are many out there that you can take your garments or fabrics and bring them into a lab and they can do a battery of tests. Things that customers don't like on fabrics we've talked about, the more common things are shrinkage. So you can send that into the lab, they do an accelerated washing, they can tell you what that shrinkage is they can give recommendations to what you'd pair up put on your care content label, they would also make recommendations on how to improve the shrink sometimes. The other things within labs that customers may may experience from time to time is crocking or colorfastness. There are colors in dying that are more notorious us for that than others red being the most. I think, maybe throughout tour lives, we've all heard about somebody that's had a red garment, thrown that in the laundry with white and then everything is pink. So that's colorfastness to laundering, crocking it there's dry and wet crocking. So that's when you rub one garment against another if you put that red garment in with a bunch of stuff in the laundry hamper and they kind of move against each other. Or if you're wearing that red garment, you're leaning back on a white leather sofa. On dry crocking you move it back and forth and you'll see a pink stain that's left some dye stuffs performed better dry than they do wet. So if you're going to do a red swimsuit, you want to make sure that what crocking is the fabric gets wet, is durable. So sometimes if you do a lab test under dry crocking only that may pass when the garment gets wet, then you all of a sudden see a tremendous difference. So there's torquing as we've talked about shrinkage pilling, there's a battery of tests that you can put through to make sure before that fabric goes into production into whatever type of apparel piece that you're going to produce that it's gone through those battery of tests and I recommend that for all fabrics.


Emily Lane 08:58

Okay, so you mentioned pilling, are there things that can be done that are inexpensive options to prevent pilling on that favorite sweater of yours?


Bret Schnitker 09:08

Yeah, sure. In a nutshell, there's anti pill finishes that you can put on things but there are other choices you can make in terms of the tenacity of the yarn, the stronger the yarn, the less pilling you have some yarns are delicate if the denier is very really really fine on a synthetic what happens in pilling is that when it comes under friction of some sort, the yarn elongates then snaps and breaks and that little brake all of a sudden pulls back on itself and creates that pill man that can happen on a very very micro level. So that's when you kind of see pilling all over garments. Spun polly's have a higher nature of pilling than filament polly's because they're just overall a lot more delicate. They'll impart a much softer surface, but they're going to pill at a higher rate understanding which fabrics and fibers are going to pill and which ones have a tendency not to is that very first process and then you You can have additional dialogue to determine content changes, anti pill finishes, and they're not a major expense to reduce that negative customer consequence.


Emily Lane 10:10

You mentioned soft hand feel there's so many things that can contribute to having something that feels amazing to the touch. Washes is all of those in part character also impart a feeling to the hand. Tell me a little bit about the options in that space and how that can improve the overall experience for the garment.


Bret Schnitker 10:29

Yeah, sure. I think regardless of anyone in the as a consumer in the apparel industry, the number one thing that people react to, after you kind of make a decision on color and style of a garment is the handfeel, you associate softer, nicer hand fields with better garments. And you can accomplish that in a yarn stage. But you can also accomplish it and finishing and fabric. Some of those finishes may not last the lifetime of the garment, some of those finishes can wear off. But there are ways to impart luster, softness, etc. In garments. And sometimes if you're using a, a lower quality, and I use that in quotation marks, there's all these different levels of quality within yarn, doesn't mean you're using a low low quality. But if you're using a slightly lower quality of yarn versus a really high quality of yarn, the handfeel can tend to maybe be a little bit drier a little bit last year. So finishes and different companies will utilize those finishes to bring back the more luxury finish. And so those can be things like silicone finishes, silicone finishes, and part a kind of an oily or buttery or hand, there's a number of other ones brushing techniques, micro brushing techniques, and enzyme finishes, golf ball washes, there's all these. And it looks like a golf ball and a rubber, you know, the rubber surface and there's a bounces around the drum, it gives these little wisp marks that create this real buttery finish. So there's a number of techniques that exist out there to create really unique and luxurious finishes. And again, depending on the finish, it can be extremely affordable, or it can be somewhat costly, but it's it for the benefit of a customer picking up a garment and going Wow, that feels fantastic. You will get will result in returns of customers, they'll come back more often they'll talk about that garment. You know, it's amazing the conversations I've been in and and they were it they already have gotten through I love the look of the garment. But they spend a lot of time talking about oh my god, I love the way this feels. And so I buy a lot more of it. And I think that's an important thing, to not underestimate the decision making on your garments.


Emily Lane 12:44

You know, I myself and for somebody who likes to shop, big surprise, I am often surprised by the garments that I see that have no personality or character when it comes to handfeel or, you know, looking at them no, you know, nothing really separates them from everything else that's out there. And knowing that there's so many options that don't have to really affect the overall price. It surprises me that they're not taken advantage of more is it? Is it that there's so many options that confuses people. Is it hard to learn about these options are they lesser known.


Bret Schnitker 13:18

Knowledge, but sometimes it's the bottom line that in a world of disposable fashion market finishes, take a second seat, it's about how that garment looks on me. And hopefully it fits right because I'm going to wear it a week and then it's going to end up in the landfill. And so I feel that importantly, as we're moving past that disposable kind of mentality that we're more concentrating on all these aspects that add launch activity and luxury to the garment.


Emily Lane 13:57

Okay, so one of the things that you mentioned was a key decision in purchasing a garment is does this fit me we have had a lot of conversations around fit. And that being such an important factor in the development of garments. Let's talk a little bit about some ways to make sure that you're really providing customer satisfaction in that space. And again, these things that really don't affect that bottom line.


Bret Schnitker 14:22

Yeah, that's a huge challenge in our industry, we moved down the route of vanity fit that made the customer feel really good for a lot of years because they would go into many shops and trade down a size. I know I've lost weight even though you probably gateway in the world of online that that complicates the issue, this massive variety of different fits. And so I believe that fit is something that can affect consumption of a garment consumption of fabric so it canincrease cost somewhat, but they're usually minor modifications. And so if you do your homework, and you really utilize company Is that we've had on before science of fit companies to determine the best fit for the industry and accurate portrayal of fit. And in some of our upcoming episodes, the actual transference of fit information to clients and utilize all those hand in hand, your result for fit will be much better and it doesn't add a ton of cost. So I think that's a really good point,


Emily Lane 15:23

really key factor there. So I mentioned it, as we open this conversation, those scratchy tags that are in the back of the garment trims are, you know, kind of one of those things that often get lost decisions there on how to really shape that experience. And I'm always surprised at creating a back label that scratches you cut it out, you've lost your branding. Usually you can never cut it out fully. So you're still irritated by that there's got to be options out there.


Bret Schnitker 15:55

Oh, absolutely. Trims have been so confusing for me over the years because they are relatively inexpensive. And the decisions that we make with trims sometimes are pretty short sighted, you know, to save pennies, we go between different trims. And when you mentioned the scratchy neck tape, that's one of the biggest ones that drives me crazy to those those labels are manufactured in a number of different ways. Taffeta is the least expensive. All neck labels for the most part today. Overall are made out of polyester. Those neck labels are then woven or jacquard added into the design that says the brand's name or whatever coloration that's in there. And there's different weaving techniques in jacquard so there's the beginning is taffeta. That's what we see with as cratchy because as those labels are produced, they're produced on a large bolt of jacquard fabric if you will repeat it all the way through. And then they're hot knife cut. So what happens is a hot knife technically cuts those out, and it melts the edges. So therefore sealing it. When the edges are melted, that really rough edge exists. And that scratchy feeling ends up around your neck. And I've had a number of better garments that they're still using this taffeta technique. Again, the disposable disposable market and bottom line is that or taffeta is the decision most people make. But if you just upgrade from taffet at o damask, which is a different woven technique, jacquard woven technique, it has woven edges, and the edges become very, very soft. And then the upper left most level and it has a specific unique look to is satin satin woven label is super soft, has a little bit of iridescence or shine to it. And as a really, really soft edge. Those things actually greatly improve those. The difference between taffeta and damask is very minor. And the difference between damask and satin, again is another step that's not major. So


Emily Lane 18:03

Does even thread, make a difference?


Bret Schnitker 18:06

Sewing thread. sewing thread can make a difference, but it's not typical that it does. There are some mass marketed groups that will run a monofilament thread to attach certain things or that can be outrageously scratchy. But that's usually to quickly attach a label if it didn't have one. And so utilizing typical normal sewing thread doesn't really provide much irritation.


Emily Lane 18:28

What are some other trims that are an easy decision to upgrade?


Bret Schnitker 18:32

Well you mentioned in one of these crazy shirts the buttons fell off it. You know that is that is when studies have gone out and come back. One of the number one irritations for customers too is that they buy a woven shirt and a new shirt the button falls off. A lot of brands will put extra buttons on there. But the time it takes to go to a tailor. No one really knows how to sw those on it.


Emily Lane 18:58

Hoepfully you can still find that button?


Bret Schnitker 18:59

Yeah, hopefully you can still find it. It just doesn't happen. So the whole garments dead lost, you've lost the button, you throw the whole garment away at it at some land in a landfill. Not a good situation. So it's generally not the button that breaks. There are cases where the button will break and we'll talk about that in a minute. But it's how the button is attached inexpensive sewing ways as parallel stitch button. They kind of run two vertical lines that quickly assembles the button on there and those can unravel and come off. There's cross stitch buttons which on their own, that's the one that provides durability. But here's a final process where you need to lock it down at lock stitches the end and sometimes that doesn't happen the buttons fall off. So the application of the button adds no cost whatsoever ensuring that you use the right decision on that is important today how you put that button on then there's different qualities of buttons most buttons that are synthetic poly based resin based today don't have much of an issue of cracking we don't we're not that rough on garments typically, nor our cleaners today, some of the luxury buttons like Shell buttons, etc, natural buttons of any sort, they can have the tendency at sometimes to crack if they're milled at a different level or they're just moredelicate. And, and you find those breaking a lot more readily. And those are usually an upper end garments. So it's interesting, interesting when you know, in effect, the structural integrity of a better quality mother pearl button or shell button is milled too thinly and it breaks. When we buy a luxury garment, we blame the dry cleaner, we don't blame the decision maker on the brand because they could possibly have made a bad decision. But typically it comes to making inaccurate decision on mill density or things like that, that caused those buttons to crack not always the drag.


Emily Lane 20:55

What about zippers, we all know what a great zipper looks like and what it feels like when you're zipping it up and down is that something that you can make decisions about?


Bret Schnitker 21:15

Sure, second most frustrating thing when a zipper breaks, right, we don't see that happen that often even kind of no name or lower branded zippers have greatly improved their quality over the years because the branded zippers YKK, YBS, Ideal like Tallinn, those major zipper companies have really stepped up their game, they've got sort of guarantees, that's a personal break. And so for others that are companies to survive, they've got to have some level of quality. So we're not seeing that as as often as we used to years ago. But I still would recommend and I would say that on varying degrees, these different branded zipper companies can have moderate impacts to cost depending on how many zippers you're doing and how big the zipper is. And then some of them can have more of a dramatic cost on an overall garment if you have a lot as of zippers who using the very most notable name and but you can certainly do intermediate steps to improve an issue of a zipper breaking.


Emily Lane 22:16

What about those brandable moments, you know, a lot of times you're buying a particular garment, because you support the brand you like the aesthetic of the brand. There's things where you got you know, brands, snaps, buttons, zipper poles, even design features, or those kinds of things that are relatively easy to implement,


Bret Schnitker 22:35

Certainly offshore, they're easy to implement. And if you're meeting offshore minimums, having branded and logo buttons is easy to do, it adds to the branding statement, it does not add a significant amount of cost very minor.


Emily Lane 22:48

Okay. You know, with so many consumers shopping online, a lot of us we aren't going to the store and getting that you know, fancy bag from the store and carrying our garment home, it's coming to us in the mail. There's I'm sure lots of wonderful ways to elevate that experience through shipping as well.


Bret Schnitker 23:06

Sure we shoppable bags printed with your with a great image and reinforcing your brand can help as the customer sees that. In fact, we're seeing a major growth in these packaging elements that are that are coming into different homes today. It's other opportunities to reinforce brand statements, you know, printed boxes, printed Mylar bags, those are printed tissue paper, all those things are individual decisions brand by brand, certainly ones that are maybe more sustainable in thought process. Minimize a little bit of that, because that stuff just ends up being thrown away. I would always recommend doing your best to use biodegradable or eco friendly bags. And there are some of those out there that you could certainly print on and look great. Yeah,


Emily Lane 23:54

they feel really good too


Bret Schnitker 23:55



Emily Lane 23:56

So well. Those are a lot of wonderful insights as to options you can make that really don't affect the bottom line on that garment too much but can make all the difference. Are there any other call outs that you think we should mention, before we wrap today's conversation?


Bret Schnitker 24:09

I think we've covered a lot of the major ones. And I think on a case by case basis, we're open to any questions you can as you subscribe and you reach out to us. We're happy to answer all those things. But there's a number of elements as you can see all the way through the manufacturing process that little tweaks make a huge difference.


Emily Lane  24:28

Absolutely yes. Don't hesitate to reach out to us at Stars Design Group. If you have anymore questions. We're happy to help you navigate this space of elevating your garments with those little small details. Thank you for joining us today. Don't forget to subscribe and stay apprised of upcoming episodes of Clothing Coulture

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Small Details That Elevate Clothing Quality