Is a career in Garment Technology right for you?
If you’re creative, practical and love clothes, you’ve probably considered a career in fashion design. But you might not have thought about garment technology!
As one of the less well-known roles within the industry, not as many students choose to study the subject. There’s currently a shortage of professional garment technologists within fashion so if you’re talented, you could benefit from rapid career progression.
Garment Technologists are involved with the creation of clothing before it reaches store. They are involved in all stages of garment development, from the initial idea to the product manufacture. “You’re the quality assurance team,” says Carmen, one of our Level 4 Garment Technology diploma graduates.
As a garment tech, it’s your job to make sure the manufacture of products runs smoothly. The garment technology department is the communicator between brands and factories, making sure that the design team’s vision is aligned with the products themselves. James Kent, Technical Team Manager for Garment Technology at Superdry, explains the role as “taking designers' ideas from 2D to 3D. We go into the finest detail, down to the fabric hand-feel!”
It’s an increasingly important role as more and more fashion brands outsource their production to other countries. Stefanie Singer, a former Garment Technologist, says that garment technologists are “necessary for bigger companies to make sure garments are produced to spec and that they are of a high standard.” They’re particularly vital for high street retailers, who can have lots of different product ranges across many different markets.
If you’re creative, practical and interested in fashion retail, this could be the perfect role for you! It’s also a great career choice “if you’re interested in textiles, fabrics and fibres and you want to find out how to source them sustainably” says Mark, one of our current Level 4 Garment Technology students at the FRA.
A day in the life of a Garment Technologist
James Kent says that garment techs “make sure that garments are constructed correctly. We test the garment to ensure that they are fit for purpose and that the customer is going to have a long life with them, and hopefully come back!”
As a garment technologist, you’ll work closely with buying and design teams to create products. When designs are being finalised, you’ll suggest changes to patterns, and advise on suitable fabrics.
Each product will need to be produced within a budget, but you’ll also need to make sure they meet quality standards in terms of strength, durability, colour-fastness, water and chemical resistance. It’s also important to keep up-to-date with the latest fabric trends, developments and innovations to make sure you’re ahead of the competition and meeting consumer expectations.
Every so often, you’ll risk assess products for safety, and produce analysis test reports on your findings. “Every garment that is produced has to be deemed fit for purpose, in terms of fit, functionality, wash care, otherwise it will be returned,” says Rachel Fernandes, Subject Lead on the FRA's Level 4 Garment Technology course. Mark Davis, another Garment Technologist at Superdry, says “Fabrics go through testing for things like tear-strength and shrinkage to make sure the product stays as good quality for as long as possible.”
Working alongside Pattern Graders, you’ll be responsible for making sure garments fit and perform correctly. Several times a week, you’ll have sessions with fit models. They try on product samples, so you can see how they will fit customers. “We put the garments on the models and see how they move and hang. If it doesn’t look right, we’ll make adjustments,” says Beth, another Garment Technologist at Superdry.
Once designs have been signed off, you’ll be liaising with external factories. You’ll instruct factories all over the world on garment measurements, working together to produce prototypes and final products. When samples return from the factories, you’ll also check them and clear them for mass production for stores. You’ll also be responsible for analysing product returns and minimising faults with quality control. Sometimes, you’ll conduct factory production assessments, and make sure they can meet manufacturing demands.
Finally, the garment technology teams often work alongside merchandising and supply departments to make sure products are ready for stores. “You get to see everything within fashion! You know about the business side, sewing, merchandising, and buying,” says Anya, a Level 4 Garment Technology student at the FRA.
As a garment technologist, you’ll usually work in an office, with some time spent in design studios and factories to check on the manufacturing process. The job can also involve lots of travel, within the UK and overseas. You might be visiting factories in South-East Asia, China or Eastern Europe!
You’ll start as a pattern cutter, or an Assistant/Junior Garment Technologist, earning between £16,000 and £20,000 a year. With a few years experience, you can be promoted to Garment Technologist, and earn between £25,000 and £35,000. At higher levels, working as a Senior Garment Technologist, Quality Controller or Technical Production Manager, you can earn £50,000 or more a year. As a Head of Department, you could earn up to £70,000.
Career progression can be rapid, as there is currently a shortage of garment technologists in the industry.
Key Skills for Garment Technology Careers
Naturally, you’ll need a keen interest in fashion and clothing design! “To be a good garment technologist, you need to be passionate about what you do!” says Rachel Fernandes.
At some brands, you might be responsible for 20 or 30 garments at a time, so you need to be able to work under pressure and meet strict deadlines. Beth at Superdry says, “you’ve got to be on your toes, and be able to react fast. You need to be able to make quick decisions, and keep an eye on multiple deadlines at the same time!"
Practical and Creative Skills
You’ll need to understand textile properties and different body types to succeed as a garment tech. Excellent attention to detail is essential, as you’ll be honing in on tiny details, right down to the stitching of a garment!
You’ll also need:
- Great knowledge of garment production methods
- An understanding of manufacturing and construction processes
- A creative eye for design.
Working for any brand, you’ll need to have an in-depth understanding of PLM (Product Lifecycle Management). You’ll also need a methodical, innovative approach to design creative solutions to problems. Knowledge of basic maths and measurements is also very important.
You’ll need to be familiar with software like the Adobe Creative Cloud, as well as industry-standard tools like Optitex 2D & 3D.
As you’ll be to establishing and maintaining relationships with suppliers, sourcing regions and technical labs, strong communication skills are vital. When issues and complications arise, you’ll have to deal tactfully with clients to make sure they are resolved. You might be working alone or as part of a larger department, so team-working skills are also essential.
Getting Started as a Garment Technologist
To get started as a garment tech, you’ll need to prove you have all the required skills. This means you’ll usually need to study a specialist course and have some work experience to boost your CV.
Studying Garment Technology courses
For most jobs, you normally need a Higher National Diploma (HND) or a degree in a relevant subject. At the Fashion Retail Academy, we have a specialist Level 4 Garment Technology diploma that provides the perfect start to your career. You’ll also learn the important skills studying fashion design, so you could also consider our Level 3 Fashion Design course.
Studying garment technology or design, you’ll explore clothing construction in-depth, and discover how garments are made and pieced together. At the FRA, we also teach you the specialist garment technology software that’s used in industry.
“I can’t stress enough how important work experience is!” Lucinda, FRA Alumni and Garment Technologist at River Island. Completing several internships in product development or design can make all the difference when applying for jobs" Experience in pattern cutting and grading is usually very helpful for entry-level roles, so it’s worth getting some experience of this too.
At the FRA, our Level 4 Garment Technology course includes three weeks of work experience with a fashion brand!
If you’d like to know more about the courses and opportunities available at the Fashion Retail Academy, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org - we’d love to hear from you! Our team is always happy to help you choose the best course for your dream career.