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Prototypes and Testing

December 09, 2017

Prototypes and Testing

Making clothes is as much art as it is science.  When you think about it, clothes are pretty much the most personal thing you can buy.  They are right next to your skin and have to fit your body, which is different from almost everyone else's body.  As a clothing brand, it's our job to make apparel that work for the most people possible in the best possible way.  Enter the prototype.

Here's how making clothes works (abridged version): The designer makes what's called a tech pack.  Think of that like a blueprint if you were building a house.  She sends that to a factory where there is a person called a pattern maker.  It's the pattern maker's job to, you guessed it, make a pattern to the specifications provided in the tech pack.  From there, raw fabric is cut to the pattern and sewn to the specifications in the tech pack.  This is about the spot where everyone crosses their fingers and hopes for a good outcome because everything up to that point has been everyone's best guess on what will work.

When that prototype gets in our hands, we have fit testing followed by wear testing.  To fit test a prototype, you need fit models. Those people have the ideal body dimensions of our ideal customer.  The designer will put the prototypes on them, then mark them with chalk to show the factory where adjustments need to be made.  The designer also uses digital overlays on images to show the factory how to better execute the tech pack.  When she's finished with the fit check, it looks like this:

The fit check is only part of what we have to do to test prototypes.  The fun part is wear testing.  This is where we get to try them in real world environments for the first time.  We take them on trail runs, crawls, swims ... basically beat the shit out of them. Doing this helps us figure out where even more adjustments need to be made.  Running 11 miles in a pair of tights makes you really familiar with all of the seams.  Some bug you and need to be changed.  Some chaffe you and need to be removed all together.  Here is one of our ambassadors, Laura Messner (@wickedlmessner) testing our sports bra and women's compression tights on a trail run in New Hampshire this summer.  She helped us made adjustments we'd only find by testing these in the real world.

I (Brent, the CEO ... @humanoctane) personally wear test all of our men's gear.  I'm sure my perfectionist tendancies can kind of be a pain in the ass because I notice everything, but that makes for a good finished product.  Here I am on a trail run up Diamond Peak in North Lake Tahoe earlier this summer: