Why is grading so darn difficult? (Or is it?) Part 1.


Grading. Making garments larger and smaller. The DNA of fashion retail. To fit and please a vast audience of eager consumers, that just can’t wait to get hold of your fantastic designs! But there’s just a problem – they want their size.

It’s purely technical. And mathematical. And therefore the very nightmare of most creative small design-business-owners and their start-ups. Unfortunately the majority of them just surrender before they even produced a single collection – with styles in different sizes that is.

What you usually are forced to do, is sending it all off to a factory somewhere, and hope they’ll get it right. Without your control, often sent back and forth with oddly shaped garments. Or, you simply order already designed and graded garments. And then add your own design flair with… well, a pocket or a color shade maybe. But is that original design? You tell me.

But imagine – just for a second… You have spent all this enormous amount of time designing just that dress. It’s fantastic! You’re very proud, and rightly so. And hey – here comes your first customer! You can’t believe your luck – it’s the very famous [insert your favorite artist’s or politician’s name here]…! Unfortunately he or she is not a model size – ‘coz most people just aren’t. And we’re in a hurry! What can you possibly do?

It’s in these situations, a bit of grading knowledge would go a long way! That is, when personal interaction occur. When exclusive or fashionable clientele starts to ring your doorbell. Or, when your bespoke customer’s friend, that just love the latest garment you made for your customer, also want to order that jacket. In other words, to being able to tweak a design into fitting another person without throwing all of your perfectly balanced detailing out of the window. To not start all over with your whole design process. And to absolutely not randomly just add width “here and there”.

But can’t that just be made with a laptop and some fancy software, you may ask? Well yes – but… we’re not quite there yet. First, if we want to go that way, your designs preferably have to be made within a software. That means no creative draping or shaping! Secondly, there’s the issue of printing the pattern. A4-sheets will not do since it’s such a hazard to assable. (It can be done – but hey! – there’re just so many things that can go wrong with complicated patterns. Or for that sake, just normal patterns! You will need an industrial printer.) And third – there’s the classic issue of cost, availability and knowledge. As we all know, new technology have an annoying tendency to not be cheap. And unfortunately, the hard- and software changes all the time.

So, what am I getting at? Well, let me tell you. Just that simplicity can go a very, very long way! And also be super-effective! With some basic knowledge of manual grading your pattern’s main parts could be graded in a day or so. All done! And then you can enjoy a well-shaped garment on your favorite customer! Just a pocket-calculator, a ruler, some paper, a pencil and you’re all set to go! To transform your award-winning designs into new personal sizes! That’s my point.

Let’s not surrender to badly shaped garments from huge companies! Let’s instead make and grade our own! Let’s learn about personal shaping! It’s not all that difficult. Just give it a try! You won’t regret it.

– Sten Martin / DTTA


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