Why Making Samples is So Expensive?

One of most asked question by young designers is: “Is this the price for only 1 sample? Why is sewing one sample so expensive?”

Lets go through the details together and i'll explain why is sample making expensive:

Making only one at a time – let’s think about baking for a second, If you’d make 1 cookie or 20 of the same type of cookies, the time and cost for either will be about the same, agree?

  • In both cases you will need to mix the different ingredients - mixing for 1 or 20 cookies will take the same time (making 20 will only increase the quantity of the ingredients but not really the time spent on mixing).
  • The baking time for 1 or 20 cookies will be the same.
  • The overhead cost (gas/electric for using your oven and your kitchen, the water to wash the dishes after, etc.) will be very similar.
  • Whether it’s 1 or 20 you will only be able to use your baking sheet and oven for this recipe.
  • The overall time spent on your end in both cases will also be about the same.

Therefore the cost and time spent on labor will be almost the same in both cases, only that if you would to sell your cookies, making 1 cookie at a time would have cost fortune, agree?

Not to mention, what if this is the first time that you are trying this recipe? It will take even longer. You’ll need to read the recipe for the first time, understand it, plan your steps ahead, probably debate if you want to change anything, etc. So, even if you have been making cookies for 20 years, since this is the first time you are making THIS SPECIFIC recipe every step will take you longer.

The same thing happens when making a sample, whether we cut 1 or 20 pieces of the same style the difference in time is minor, the cutter can only cut one style at a time and the cutting table can only be used for that style at that time frame. Same thing goes for sewing, one sewer, one machine, etc. get the idea?

Now considering price is a function of time spent on it, the cost per 1 piece gets expensive.

Cost of labor – Sample makers are not production sewers. Sample sewers are usually more skilled, more experienced and their focus is on quality and solutions as oppose to a production sewer who is part of an assembly line and most time requires to only do specific part of the garment (and focus on quantity/time). Therefore sample makers usually have more experience, their job is not only cut and sew the sample but also to understand the pattern for the first time, finding and suggesting the best steps to make the garment, identifying possible issues and suggest solutions. As a result, samples makers are paid more than production sewers, most times double or even more.

Btw, this is also the reason why small production runs are expensive, due to the small units there is really no room to start an assembly line for the style and the sample makers end up making the garments - hence higher labor cost.

Cost of overhead – a sample room has its own overhead cost re: rent, utilities, cost of machines, etc. Sample rooms are usually smaller (on average 1 cutter and 2-3 sample sewers) and therefore can only accommodate a limited capacity so these costs has to be covered by the number of samples they make in a day.

When you add all the above reasons, the hourly rate becomes quite high and therefore the cost of samples.

What can you do to make it cheaper?

The same thing you should consider for production which is design your product with all that in mind, try to keep your sewing construction on the simple side. If you need more than one sample/color per style than bundle them all together, have all the fabrics, trim and notions ready so the sewers can start and finish your product in one shot. Remember any time a sample room or contractor stop their process it’s a waste of time for them = cost for you.

Hope this clear some of your sample cost questions.