Meet the Insiders – Garment Technologist

The best way to learn some hands-on information about the fashion industry? By speaking to those working in it. Throughout our series of ‘Meet the Insiders’ we’ll be speaking to garment technologists, fashion buyers, designers, marketers and more to learn more about their career history, and the top tips for you to achieve your career goals, too.

Firstly, tell us all about your work history and past experience?

My experience as a garment tech started out in university, where I was lucky to secure a work placement at a local company. I stayed on throughout my degree, then was fortunate enough to be made permanent as a Trainee Garment Tech once I graduated. 

In my first role I was taught how to thoroughly measure garments, I sat in on fit sessions, sent fit comments and coordinated the sample room. I stayed there for a year until I secured my first job in Manchester as a Junior Garment technologist at a womenswear fashion supplier. I learnt a lot by working with amazing people; from the Senior Garment Tech as well as the Designers and Buying team, and I started leading fit sessions for the first time whilst working on the suppliers in-house brand as well as customer accounts.  

After a while I decided to move somewhere more trend driven, and ended up working at a fast fashion brand. Working at a big company changed my role, and whilst there were lesser responsibilities, I still felt like I learnt a lot there because I was doing multiple fit sessions, facing new fit issues that I hadn’t seen before, as well as getting to work on new (to me) product areas such as maternity and swimwear.

In my current job I feel like I have thrived the most but it has also been the hardest one. Each day faces a new challenge from the team being reduced from six to just two, and then becoming the longest standing garment tech after only a year. This has meant my technical knowledge has really been put through its paces as I’ve had to fit pretty much every product area at one time or another. 

I’ve had to learn about a new brand and work with the Technical Manager whilst working from home, as well as hiring new team members and getting involved with other senior members of the company in meetings and producing product reports.  My Technical Manager has been amazing to learn from, she has taught me fitting innovations to make a garment more comfortable to wear (not just fit properly) she has given me the confidence to stand up in a room full of people and fit confidently and has shown me what it takes to be a good leader.

What’s your favourite thing about being a Garment Technologist?

My favourite thing about being a Garment Technologist is seeing the product end result. There is no better feeling than taking a garment at first fit that needs hard work and attention and then getting to the final production stage and the overall fit and style has been transformed for the better.

What other roles do you think you could use your skills for?

In terms of the fitting side and fabric knowledge, I could perhaps be able to go into bridal fittings. My leadership skills could help me to teach, and other industry roles I feel my skills would apply to are product technology and sourcing.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed work for you?

I’ve had to learn to be more hands on. With a smaller team and resources, you almost have no choice but to become a Jack of all trades, and everyone helps out which is great. When I first came back off furlough it was strange to not be able to stand up and handle the garment on the fit model due to social distancing, whereas now we wear visors and gloves which keeps ourselves and the models safe – it definitely makes you want to get fit sessions over and done with, but you really need to take that time on the garment.

What’s been a real career high for you?

A career high for me was when my Technical Manager left (in my current role), after discussions with the wider team at my current company it was decided that I would be guided to becoming the Senior Garment Technologist and help the team grow from the ground up. It’s a blessing being in a company that helps people to grow and get promoted rather than bringing people in to sit at the top and manage the team differently.

Another career high for me was that whilst I was working for the fast fashion company, by rolling out blocks on my product area and working with the factories that constantly had fit problems, I reduced returns by 12% over a nine-month period.

What’s something you would have done differently?

I would have taken extra-curricular pattern cutting sessions that were additional to my university course curriculum. I have basic pattern cutting knowledge from my degree, and I feel like if i had gone out of my way to learn more whilst at uni it could have put me ahead of the curve. It’s never too late to pick up a new skill but i think it would have been easier to do whilst still studying, rather than trying to pick it up alongside a full-time job.

How do you think the industry has evolved over the past year in particular?

The industry has definitely started to become more conscious in its effects to other areas of the world – the environment and supplier welfare in particular. In the past I’ve been at companies that will cancel orders at production stage without batting an eyelid for the people that have made the garments or the factories, whereas now more consideration goes into the possible cancellation of orders due to faulty goods and the overall impact that it may have on the factory owners or the workers. As well as this, now more than ever everyone is aware of fashion’s impact on the environment, as consumers are looking to make their shopping greener, companies are left with no chance but to do this also.

Finally, what are your top tips for how to act in a job interview?

  1. Be confident, we need to know you’ll be able to speak up and be confident with the fitting decisions you’ll be making. Believe in yourself and what you do!
  2. Bring evidence of your work, especially fit comments. We would love to see how you annotate your work and how similar your current working style is to what we’re looking for.
  3. Be honest about what you do and what you don’t know. Nobody is expected to know everything and it’s often the case that one person’s weakness is another person’s strength, but it helps us to manage expectations and makes sure you’re not thrown in at the deep end with something you don’t know.