The key differentiator between denim brands is how their jeans fit. Fit is primarily determined by the jean pattern denim is cut from. So how does a denim brand develop a jean pattern?
Designer, Technical Designer, Pattern Maker
The designer: creates the aesthetic, how they want the jean to fit and look. The technical designer: builds specification sheets, produces samples, and manages the fitting process. The pattern maker: makes the actual jean pattern, making sure the jean pieces are sew together properly. Each of these individuals should have an understanding of sewing and factory production.
The Jean Pattern Making Process
Rarely will you see a jean pattern made completely from scratch, generally there is an “influencing pattern.” An “influencing pattern” could be an existing pattern from the brand’s library of patterns or it could be an actual jean that has been taken apart (a deconstructed jean is essentially a pattern).
With a pattern to use as a starting-point, the pattern maker makes adjustments based on the target specifications provided by the technical designer.
Adjusting a jean pattern can be done two ways. Adjustments can be made to the paper patterns–with pencils, rulers, and scissors. Or the pattern can be digitized and adjusted within a software program.
Making a Sample Jean
The new jean pattern, along with the denim fabric are given to a sample maker. A sample maker could be an employee of the brand working in an in-house sample room, or an employee of a third-party contractor the brand uses for jean production.
Once the sample is made, the technical designer will measure the jean comparing it to the specification sheet. A jean has approximately 10 critical measurements (waist, seat, rise, thigh, knee, opening, etc.) and dozens of secondary measurements (pocket opening width, waistband height, etc.).
Fitting the Jean
A fit model is a person the brand believes represents its target customer. A fit model is brought in for a ‘fitting’. The ‘fitting’ is the opportunity for the designer, technical designer, and pattern maker to collaborate and discuss the jean fit and make adjustments. The ‘fitting’ is the most intriguing part of the process (the design comes to life).
Adjusting and Completing the Pattern
Rarely, if ever, would the first sample meet expectations. It is not uncommon for several samples be made before a pattern is ready for production. Each subsequent sample undergoes the same process as the first, scrutinized for measurements and fit.
Once the designer, technical designer, and pattern maker agree the pattern is ready for production, the pattern is graded up and down to create all the sizes (‘grade’ is a technical term meaning proportionally increased and decreased to create larger and smaller sizes from the base size).
Evaluating Customer Feedback
Once the new pattern goes into production and customers start buying the new fit; feedback follows. This feedback is carefully evaluated by the brand. Depending on the feedback, the brand will continue to make adjustments to the patterns for future production runs.
Accepting the Pattern as Good
Evaluation is ongoing, but there comes a time when a brand accepts the pattern as good. The time it takes to create a ‘good pattern’ is dependent on how discerning the brand is.