As one of the less well-known roles within the fashion industry, Garment Technologists are in high demand. It’s an increasingly important role as more and more fashion brands outsource their production to other countries. The shortage of professional garment technologists also means that you could benefit from rapid career progression.
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.
Read our garment technology careers guide and discover what a garment tech is, what they do, how much garment tech’s earn and how to become a fashion garment technologist.
WHAT IS A GARMENT TECHNOLOGIST?
Garment Technologists are responsible for the development and production of clothes. They provide Fashion Designers and Buyers with technical support throughout the design and manufacturing process to ensure that garments are made in line with the brands vision and budget.
Garment Technologists are involved with the creation of clothing before it reaches stores. They use their creativity, practical skills and attention to detail to oversee each stage of a garment's production. This includes but is not limited to, choosing the right fabrics, cutting the pattern, fit testing garments, quality assurance, liaising with manufacturers and ensuring that the finished garment is delivered on time.
“You’re the quality assurance team,” says Carmen, one of our Level 4 Garment Technology diploma graduates.
It's a garment tech’s 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!”
WHAT DOES A GARMENT TECHNOLOGIST DO?
Garment Technologists are involved in every stage of a garment’s development, from the very early stages of ideation right through to manufacturing the product.
Garment Tech’s work closely with designers, buyers, merchandisers and the production team to ensure that garments are not only fit for purpose in terms of style and functionality but that they have also been produced on time and under budget.
They provide advice and guidance on what materials are most suitable, the best construction processes and analyse a product's performance in terms of sales and returns.
There is opportunity for Garment Technologists to work across a range of small, medium, large and high street brands and depending on the organisation they work for they may work within a team or they might work independently.
Garment Technologists main responsibilities are:
- Collaborating with designers, buyers and merchandisers
- FIt testing samples
- Liaising with suppliers and manufacturers
- Costing and budget management
- Quality assurance and control
1. COLLABORATING WITH DESIGNERS, BUYERS & MERCHANDISERS
Garment Technologist’s work closely with designers and buyers to ensure that garments are being designed with the consumer and the manufacturing process in mind. They provide designers and buyers with guidance on how to construct garments as well as review, evaluate and approve designs for production.
This process includes making recommendations and suggestions to pattern makers, researching and sourcing fabrics, quality assurance and working with designers to finalise the fit and finishing touches of products.
Garment tech’s also work alongside merchandising and supply departments to make sure products are ready for stores. This includes ensuring that the fit of garments is suitable for the target consumer, ensuring that products are made to specification and liaising with merchandisers to make sure products are delivered on time to 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.
2. FIT TESTING SAMPLES
Garment Technologists work alongside pattern graders and are responsible for making sure garments fit and perform correctly.
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!”
They meet with fit models several times a week to make adjustments and fine tune each design. The fit models try on the product samples, so that garment tech’s can gain a better understanding of 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.
3. LIAISING WITH SUPPLIERS AND MANUFACTURERS
Upon finalising a design, Garment Technologists then need to liaise with external manufacturers and factories. They need to be able to clearly communicate with factories from all over the world, providing them with specific garment measurements in order to produce prototypes and final products.
Once they have received the samples from the factories, Garment Tech’s then check and clear them for mass production for stores. They're also responsible for analysing product returns and minimising faults with quality control. Sometimes, they will conduct factory production assessments, and make sure they can meet manufacturing demands.
Garment Technologists typically 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. This may involve visiting factories in South-East Asia, China or Eastern Europe!
4. COSTING AND BUDGET MANAGEMENT
Garment Technologists are responsible for ensuring garments are produced within budget. They also need to make sure that each garment meets quality standards in terms of strength, durability, colour-fastness, water and chemical resistance.
They must 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.
In addition to ensuring products are made within budget and to a high standard, Garment Tech’s must also review the performance of each design and analyse their profitability in terms of sales and returns. This information helps other departments within the brand make key business decisions.
5. QUALITY ASSURANCE
Part of a Garment Technologist's role is to manage the quality assurance of products and collections. This process is ongoing from the early stages of design as brands want to ensure the quality of products before they reach customers in stores and online.
“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.
Quality Assurance checks are carried out at each stage of a garment’s development, from sourcing fabrics and materials to the final stages of the finished product. The overall quality of a garment is determined in terms of fibres, yarns, fabric construction, colour fastness, durability surface design, garment construction, and final finished item.
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.”
WHAT MAKES A GOOD GARMENT TECHNOLOGIST?
Garment Technologists need to have 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, Garment Tech’s might be responsible for 20 or 30 garments at a time, so they 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!"
GARMENT TECHNOLOGIST SKILLS
Practical and Creative Skills
Garment Technologists need to have a comprehensive understanding of textile properties and different body types in order to be successful. Excellent attention to detail is essential, as they need to be able to hone in on tiny details, right down to the stitching of a garment. Furthermore, they must also have extensive knowledge of garment production methods, an understanding of manufacturing and construction processes and a creative eye for design.
Working for any brand, Garment Tech’s need to have an in-depth understanding of PLM (Product Lifecycle Management). They also need to have a methodical, innovative approach in order to provide creative solutions to problems. Knowledge of basic maths and measurements is also very important.
They also need to be familiar with design software such as the Adobe Creative Cloud, as well as industry-standard tools like Optitex 2D & 3D. Tools such as CAD (computer-aided drawing) tools enable designers and garment technologists to capture the technical elements of each piece including darts, seams, length, fit and shape.
Garment Technologists need to be able to establish and maintain relationships with suppliers, sourcing regions and technical labs, so strong communication skills are vital. When issues and complications arise, they must be tactful with clients to make sure they are resolved. Excellent communication skills are also essential when working with designers and buyers.
GARMENT TECHNOLOGIST SALARY
The salary of a fashion garment technologist can range from £16,000 - £70,000 depending on experience.
- Assistant/Junior Garment Technologist: roughly £16,000 and £20,000 a year
- Garment Technologist: roughly £25,000 and £35,000 a year
- Senior Garment Technologist: roughly £50,000 a year
- Quality Controller: roughly £50,000 a year
- Technical Production Manager: roughly £50,000 a year
- Head of Garment Technology: up to £70,000 a year
Career progression can be rapid, as there is currently a shortage of garment technologists in the industry.
HOW TO BECOME A GARMENT TECHNOLOGIST?
STUDYING GARMENT TECHNOLOGY
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.
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.
WHAT WILL I LEARN ON THE COURSE?
The Level 4 Garment Technology course at the Fashion Retail Academy has been developed alongside our industry partners to prepare students as thoroughly as possible for the “real world” of garment technology and fashion design.
From initial development with designers and buyers, through to the fitting and testing process to mass production, you'll learn all the necessary skills to be a successful garment technologist. Here are some of the units that will be covered in the course:
- Production techniques
- Quality assurance
- Product Development for Fashion Retailing
- History and Context of Fashion Retail
- Preparation for Progression in Fashion Retail
Throughout your course, you'll also attend masterclasses and lectures from Visiting Industry Experts (VIEs). Our VIEs come from a range of top brands including Alexander McQueen, ASOS, Sweaty Betty and H&M.
You’ll also be given the opportunity to complete a three-week placement to gain valuable industry experience. You'll be assigned an industry manager who'll provide you with tasks to complete, giving you an understanding of a specific job role.
Internships and Work Experience
Industry experience can be extremely beneficial when applying for jobs in Garment Technology. As the role is quite practical and hands on, having previous experience in product development or pattern cutting can really help you stand out to employers.
“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 Fashion Retail Academy, we offer all of our Level 4 Garment Technology students the opportunity to take part in a 3 week industry placement. This three-week experience is designed to help you develop practical and professional skills in order to boost your CV and put your theoretical knowledge into practice. Previous students have completed placements with Fortnum & Mason, Next, John Lewis, Whistles and Harvey Nichols.
If you have any more questions about any of the courses on offer at The Fashion Retail Academy, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org - we’d love to hear from you!
Read our guide How To Get Started In The Fashion Industry for more information.
Think you’ve got what it takes to become a Garment Technologist? Start your career today and study Garment Technology at the Fashion Retail Academy.