Role of Apparel Merchandiser in Product Development Process

Product development is the very first stage of introduction of new style. After the receipt of specification sheet (tech pack), the merchandisers have to organize the information provided in the specification sheet in a single format by categorizing different product styles and their details. Consequently, the apparel merchandiser should provide proper instructions to the junior merchandiser about the product style and hence he or she could assist the sample coordinators to prepare the development samples from the sampling department.

Product development is the process where that sketch or design is converted in to a 3D form garment, with all technical and aesthetic approach keeping in mind. In garment industry, there is a close relation between garment merchandisers and sample section. In garment buying house, sampling section is known as product development section. Apparel merchandisers have to involve in every stage in product development. In the apparel export business normally the product development is handled by design department. But apparel merchandiser has to play a vital role in product development if design section exists or not in any garment industry.

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Role of Apparel Merchandiser in Product Development Process:
Product development is very important and crucial role for an apparel merchandiser. Role of garment merchandiser in the product development mostly cover below responsibilities but not limited to these only. Job profile may vary from one organization to another and factory locations. All product development process in apparel industry are given below.

  1. Fabric selection
  2. Silhouettes
  3. Proto type development
  4. Pre-costing
  5. Development of technical specification sheet
  6. Final costing

All product development process are described below.

1. Fabric selection:
The fabric selection process is the important process in the product development stage. Fabric selection is a crucial step in designing a project because fabrics are designed for specific applications, a fabric manufactured for one purpose, may not be adaptable for another use. Therefore selecting the appropriate fabric is only the first step in providing serviceable fabrics for apparel manufacturing. Designers specify the fabric as part of their design concept. Designers may develop new styles for fabrics that have been successful.

Fabrics used in garment manufacturing can be based on their properties and characteristics. Property is a static physical dimension such as yards per pound; whereas, characteristic is the reaction of the fabrics when a force is imposed upon it. In general, the selection of fabric is performed by three different views:

  • The consumer’s viewpoint
  • The fabric producer’s viewpoint
  • The garment producer’s viewpoint

In consumer point of view, the fabric for apparel is selected solely based on the appearance and wear ability characteristics of the fabric – the durability, utility and style values. The fabric producers are mainly focused on the fabric characteristics than the properties. A fabric property is of no interest to the apparel/fabric manufacturer unless it controls a fabric characteristic or cost factor vital to him, or unless the property itself such as thickness or weight, has definite utility or style value. The same concept applies for the garment producer also.

The fabric selection process involves designers and merchandisers going to major fabric markets to collect ideas, check trends, examine few products and get samples. The designer and merchandiser may visit fabric shows in and out of the country and fabric manufacturer’s showrooms. They attend fashion shows and also attend meetings with the representatives of textile fabric manufacturer to present their product line. The fabric selection is done based on aesthetics as well as technical demand of the garment. Following things need to be considered while selecting the fabric for product development.

  • Fiber content
  • Fabric construction—basic structure
  • Texture and engineered effects created by weave configurations
  • Yarn selections
  • Prints
  • Color range
  • Performance characteristics—wear factors, care requirements, sewing
  • Compatibility and drape
  • Versatility for use in multiple styles
  • Price and terms
  • Availability
  • Minimum order quantities

During the selection process, the designer and merchandiser mainly think about the intended use of that particular apparel product. This will help them to identify the needs of that garment and aid them to focus either on technical aspects like abrasion, UV protection, elasticity, color fastness, tensile strength, etc. or aesthetic aspects like texture, structure, etc.

2. Silhouettes:
Silhouette development involves transforming garment ideas into final garment sketches or technical drawings, which are hand or CAD renderings of the front and back of a garment, including stitching details. Technical drawings usually do not include body silhouettes and are used where construction and styling details are critical to the design. Other than this there is computer graphics software available to create sketches. Designers use this software because, these types of software allows them to store a database of body silhouettes, also called croquis, in many different poses.

Since the software has great potential to reuse the old croquis, designers prefer theses kind of graphics related software regularly. In addition to that this software also has a provision to transform that croquis into garment styles by using fabric images. This additional feature has a database of fabric details and scanned images of fabric for most of the specifications. Once, the user selects a particular fabric type, this software bring the fabric images and allow the user to view the 3D appearance of the garment in all angles. These kinds of software are the future of designing industry. They serve the design and apparel industry people in two very essential requirements like reducing time consumption and less requirements of highly skilled persons. Instead of spending hours together to see the final appearance of the garment, the designer can view his/her imagination in a matter of few seconds.

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In this process, either by manual or by software the croquis will be developed, then the designers and merchandiser will sit together to evaluate the designs. The developed designs will be assessed by merchandiser and other representatives from buyers (rarely) for their market suitability. The merchandiser will input the market requirements or the customer requirements with technical feasibility. Out of this process, few designs may get rejected and few will get selected for the next stage of the product development process.

3. Proto type development:
The proto typing process is the very next to silhouette development (Figure-3). After the silhouettes have been approved, the process of developing proto sample will be initiated. However, before making the proto sample there is an important step to be performed known as “Spec (specification) development (Figure-1)” / Line sheet development (Figure-2)/ spec (specification) sheet development.

Garment specification sheet
Figure 1: Garment specification sheet (Image:
Line sheet
Figure 2: Line sheet development

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In this process of specification development, the line sheets or spec sheets are developed for each style of the chosen silhouette (for different line). Here, the designer develops neat line sketches of every style in that particular line along with the fabric swatches he or she selected for that style. The designer decides the technical parameters of the garment along with the merchandiser and develops the specification sheet with all relevant information required for the prototyping process. Sometimes designers also use style boards for reviewing the line development groups. Style board shows the sketches of styles within the group or line.

Process step involved in proto sample development
Figure 3: Process step involved in proto sample development

After the specification development, the proto sample development process will be initiated in the sampling department. The prototype is the first opportunity for the product development team including the designers, to see an actual garment style visually and also to ensure the fit of the product in a fit model. There are two basic methods to develop a prototype.

a. Draping method: It is a process of cutting, shaping and draping the fabric on a dress form or mannequin. This process is generally used by the ready to wear sector designers and high fashion designers (client specific or fashionable clothes). This process allows the designer and product development team to evaluate the way a fabric performs for the selected style, while it is shaped to conform the 3D shape.

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b. Flat pattern method: In this method, the company creates basic blocks of patterns for the required designs at first. After making basic patterns/slopers, the desired silhouette is achieved by altering the basic blocks. This method is most widely used in apparel industries to create prototypes. The basic blocks are refined by the company for every season to ensure the better fit to the target market group.

The apparel manufacturing companies are majorly located in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other Asian pacific countries. In all these countries, most of the apparel industries receive orders from America- or Europe-based customers, who have a dedicated design team to develop the design requirements. During this prototyping process, the information from customers to manufacturers and from manufacturer to customers’ needs to be transferred effectively. The time and cost involved in making and delivering the prototype samples from global sourcing partners complicate this process. Hence, it requires that the merchandiser needs to monitor the initial phase of product development process keenly in order to exclude styles, which does not fulfill the requirements of the line plane. These issues can be eliminated only by the proper communication between the buyer and manufacturer.

The following are the essential requirements of proto sample request process:

  • Buyer name
  • Season
  • Style description / code
  • Detailed description of the garment
  • Garment technical drawing
  • Sample pattern
  • Size measurements with tolerance
  • Fabric description
  • Bill of material
  • Cutting instruction
  • Sewing instruction
  • Label details
  • Finishing instructions
  • Packing instruction
  • Target price

4. Pre-costing:

  • The proto sample development process makes the manufacturer and merchandiser to understand the various raw materials, trims and accessories are used for the product. This gives them a broad idea to estimate the manufacturing cost of the product.
  • It is important for the merchandiser to understand the nature of the each raw material and their availability before making the pre-costing.
  • The garment merchandiser should have a comprehensive database of product cost and effective cost accounting support for making this process success.
  • This pre-costing must cover all the cost incurred in the manufacturing of that particular garment including the material, labour, overhead, design and distribution, general, administrative costs along with the profit percentage.
  • For this process, merchandiser should be aware of the fabric consumption details and other cost factors like factory overhead, average labour cost. He should update his database or knowledge periodically to avoid major loss in the process.
  • Too low cost for a style may put the company at risk or the too high costing of a garment will lead to loss of order in the competitive scenario.
  • Finally, if it is found that the estimated cost of the product is too high for any particular company to get the order or the facilities to develop the products are seldom available in industry, it is recommended to leave the order instead of wasting time in product development.

5. Development of technical specification sheet (Tech Pack):
After the pre-costing process, the styles which are estimated to meet the acceptable price points are approved by the review committee, which consists of all department heads, company’s chief officers. Initially, as a first process, the preliminary manufacturing specifications are developed. Based on the measurements and details provided, the final production patterns are developed. The developed patterns are then graded and sent to the production.

The developed specification sheets are more detailed in order to educate the individual department people. The specification sheet may differ factory to factory based on their production method and technology used. This company oriented specification details provides the merchandiser a detailed operation break-up with machine and man power requirement. This helps the merchandiser to calculate the cost of the product. After this initial costing, a meeting with industrial engineering and production planning department will help the merchandiser to bring down the cost of the product by changing the operation sequence or machine or type of process without compromising the product quality. This will finalize the cost of the product for companies who perform the product development process.

During the specification sheet development, the details of other parameters like, fabric, sewing thread, print or artwork designs, placement details of design, care label instruction, etc. are mentioned in detail for better understanding.

6. Final costing:
The very important and most crucial step in the product development process is finalizing the cost of the developed product. This process verifies the detailed cost of the product at each manufacturing stage along with the initial costing developed by the merchandiser. In this process, there may be changes in the initial amount quoted. Since, the product prototyping process provided better information about the required raw materials and their cost factors in detail, based on that, the cost sheet will be revised. It is important that, the cost fixed at this stage must be as accurate as possible because style adoption and selling prices of the garment will be based on the results of the final costing process.


  1. Apparel Merchandising by R. Rathinamoorthy and R. Surjit
  2. Garment Manufacturing Technology Edited by Rajkishore Nayak and Rajiv Padhye
  3. Apparel Manufacturing Technology by T. Karthik, P. Ganesan, D. Gopalakrishnan

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