The Making Of A bag Part II: Tech & Spec

The Making Of A bag Part II: Tech & Spec
The design party has finished. Now for the labour-intensive, costly and heart-wrenching bit in the middle.
Oh boy... a *very* early technical drawing

Hi everyone,
Hope you're all having a nice weekend.

Today we're talking about Part 2 of the manufacturing process: technical drawings, sampling (a.k.a. prototyping) and spec-ing the design. For those of you who missed Part 1: The Design Process, you can catch up here.

The sampling process begins when I am happy with a design and want to create a prototype, with a view to putting it into production down the track.

I feared a whole newsletter about technical drawings might not be that riveting, so I've tried to liven things up with a list (everyone likes a list, right?).


Not that type of sampling.

1. Sampling ≠ Freebies
Funny story: I always like to clarify what I mean by "sampling" as my poor father [hi Dad] had kittens when I told him I was sampling several products. He thought, like the free samples you get in the supermarket, that I was giving them away for free.

2. They're laborious
As the name suggests, technical drawings are all about the nitty gritty. You specify ("spec") every single design element - to the millimetre. You note the width of the strap; the length of the stitches; the colour reference of the thread; how much flex there should be in the flap and on and on. Despite being a perfectionist, I absolutely dread doing technical drawings because there are seemingly hundreds of minuscule decisions to make.

3. Tools of the trade
Personally I use relatively low tech tools to create my technical drawings: a tape measure and Microsoft Powerpoint. Most brands worth their salt will of course be using the latest CAD-type software. Then again, a very senior designer I worked with early on at LUXTRA (his background is Burberry, Coach, Gabriella Hearst) produced 1:1 technical drawings with only pencil and paper. Old school.

4. Receiving samples is like Christmas
I am very lucky: I have Christmas several times a year. Whenever I receive that box from Italy with the first samples of a new design my heart is thundering. I can't tell you my level of excitement.

5. Prepare to cry
And sometimes that goodie bag from Italy will come as a huge blow. The sample will look terrible. Terrible, I tell you! And the day is ruined. The main culprit is often the material (Piñatex, AppleSkin etc). These materials are very different to what manufacturers are used to, so it takes a few attempts to get right.

Powerpoint technical drawings. Nothing fancy, but they do the job.

6. It ain't cheap
Samples are pricey. For example, if the unit production price is X, the first sample could be anywhere between 4X and 10X: so budget accordingly. Ask for too many samples though and you'll find manufacturers start grumbling: their bread and butter are production runs, i.e. producing in volume. Indeed I remember the stern talking to I received when I asked for a 5th backpack sample... oops.

7. Road testing
Whilst I may treat handbags as delicate spring blossoms, most people are less protective. Samples therefore receive a deliberate and exaggerated battering to make sure they can stand the rough and tumble of real life.

8. Feedback
Given that I am completely biased when it comes to the design, I take the latest samples with me whenever I meet up with friends for some *slightly less* biased feedback. I pass it around, ask them to try it on, see if they can fit their wallet / phone / keys etc in it, and keenly asking them to criticise away. A bit painful, but always worth the while.

8189 or 1417? Spec-ing thread colours.

9. It's time
Once a sample is peer-approved and stands up to toil and trouble, we're ready to move on to... [drumroll].... the PO (Production Order). More on that next week.

I'll end with a shout out to my grandmother, Maureen, who celebrated her 90th birthday this weekend in locked-down Sydney.

Wishing you all a happy week ahead,

Jessica x

Founder | Plant Parent | Proud B-Corper



Reading next

The Making Of A Bag Part I: Design
The Making Of A Bag: Part III