Which sample when?

The process of sampling is a really exciting time for your business. It's when your ideas start to become *real* physical things! You may order as little as 2 samples, or find yourself edging towards double digits to make your designs perfect. In an attempt to streamline your development, I aim to breakdown the purpose of each type of sample. This means you'll be better equipped to order your own, and understand what the supplier means when talking about your sampling timeline.


The first sample generally ordered. The purpose of a toile is to check that your 2D design has been correctly turned into a 3D object. Used to review general design, shape & construction. Arrives in available fabric with available trims to avoid wasting expensive materials. It’s common to do a very rough fit on the toile to check dimensions, but bear in mind fabric hugely affects the fit, so detailed fit sessions shouldn’t be held until samples arrive in the chosen fabric.

Proto 1

The second sample ordered after a toile, but in correct fabric. Can sometimes be classed as your toile if you use correct fabric from the start. This sample should be used to complete a detailed fit review. All decisions should be made at this point to avoid ordering more samples than necessary. This includes decisions not only fit, but construction, trims & branding placements. The aim is to not make changes to the design after Proto 1.

An example of a toile received in available fabrics.

Proto 2

Necessary only when lots of drastic changes to fit were required at Proto 1. Should be reviewed as a Proto 1, but hopefully with a much improved fit. Again the idea is to not make changes to the design after Proto 2.

Once you have approved your design for fit in one size, move on to….

A full size set featuring XL - XS from my cycling apparel days.

Size Sets

Ideally you will order 1 sample in each size you are offering. The aim is to fit each of these samples on someone who would wear this size to check the grading (difference between sizes). You may need to alter the proportion of some sizes, for example reducing length of sleeves on smaller sizes, or increasing leg length on larger sizes beyond what has been suggested on your size chart. You should not be making changes to your original sample size at this point.

If these are your first samples with branding on, use it to double check placement & confirm all trims. If you have bulk materials in by this point, request each size in a different colour to ensure these are put together correctly.

Pre-Production (PP)

Can be combined with your Size Set if confident in design & supplier. The PP sample should be 100% correct with all fabrics, trims, branding & packaging. This is what you use to approve your designs to production. These samples may be used for QC checks so it is of the utmost importance that these are perfect. If you miss something here, it’s on you if your production order is made up the same!

Shipment Sample (SMS)

Also known as the Gold Seal Sample. This sample should be 1 of the first off the production line. In industry this sample will be sent to you to review and approve before the whole order is shipped. This is good practise, but can cause delays if there are any issues. Also if you are only ordering a small amount (less than 1000pcs) often production will be finished before the sample arrives with you! Therefore as a small brand it is much better to rely on confidently approving a 100% correct PP sample.

It's worth noting that all suppliers work in different ways so it is vital to understand their process before you start working with them. Questions are encouraged and a good supplier will be more than happy to explain how they work to you!

Let me know how you get on!

Demi x

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