Finding The Right Sample Maker for Your Line

Sample Maker

The process of finding the right sample maker for your product can sometimes be a challenging experience. It can take time to find a sample maker who really understands your vision, pays attention to your instructions and does not charge a fortune to produce your samples.

I am often hired to produce handbag samples for clients who do not have the time to oversee the job themselves.

I have a roster of Los Angeles based sample makers that I prefer to use. When I start a new project, I run through this list with the goal of matching each sample maker’s strengths with the client’s requirements. I have a very short list of exceptional sample makers who can make anything a designer dreams up – intricate pleating, unique braiding, unusual silhouettes, etc. Choosing one of these sample makers means opting for a longer production time as well as a higher cost. To keep things balanced, I also have a list of very good sample makers who do strong work for clients who create simpler designs.

When interviewing a new sample maker, always ask for the following:

  • Examples of their past work
  • A list of current and past clients
  • Information on the materials they work with
  • A pricing estimate
  • Payment terms
  • The lead time for sampling
  • Whether they take production projects or only provide samples

Additional sample making points worth noting:

Many smaller production houses only want to do production projects. These production houses will often take on sampling, but only if they are assured that a production order will be coming in.

Sampling costs can vary greatly. Many sample makers will charge a pattern fee because the patterns can be time-consuming. Sample makers will also charge a sampling fee to actually make the sample. Unfortunately for designers, I have seen the costs for sampling practically double recently in the Los Angeles area. I can only attribute this to the lack of good sample makers and the increase in designers wanting to have their designs produced.

Make sure that you have a clear conversation about payment terms. A reputable sample maker will have their payment terms clearly written out on the invoice they give you. Generally, the payment terms are 50% down payment and 50% upon completion.

There are two sample making related tips that I would particularly like to stress.  First, if you pay for the pattern, make sure that you can take it if you decide to move on and use another sample maker or production house. Second, have a conversation about changes on the samples. Unfortunately, a sample does not always come out how the designer envisioned. If the sample maker makes a mistake, you need to know whether he will rectify the sample and not charge for it – or not. You also need to know whether you will be charged the full amount if you want to make a change after you see the first sample.

Finding a sample maker can be a huge relief, but it is critically important to review many things to ensure that the sample maker is the right fit for your brand.

Image via Yovko Lambrev

Christine Syquia

Christine Syquia is the owner of Accessory Business 101, an online consultancy for established and emerging accessory designers. Based in Los Angeles in the Fashion District, Christine enjoys meeting new designers and sharing her extensive knowledge of the accessory world. In her spare time, Christine created Spotlight Accessories in 2012 as a side project to showcase emerging Los Angeles designers and is also co-founder of Fashion Camp Los Angeles. She is mother to two young boys, a passionate (albeit gluten-free) foodie and a hardcore Soul Cycle rider.

  1. Gary

    Thank you all for your great comments. I just stumbled on this website and enjoyed good suggestions. If anyone can help me find a sample maker for my jacket design I’d appreciate it very much.

  2. Jennifer

    Looking for a sample maker for sports bra, shorts, swim wear etc… Would love referrals!

  3. Deneen Williams

    Great Article – looking for a sample manufacturer for a new luggage identifier.

  4. Nelson Mo

    Great Article. If anybody want to make handbag sample, please contact me or visit for more information.

  5. Jeremy W.

    Great post and definitely hits the nail on the head in terms of what you need to be cognizant of when approaching the sampling process. My only add on to this great little article would be that you can get sample makers to make your samples for FREE.

    This industry is one that requires relationships to be in place for long-term success. Finding a partner that you can trust, and vice-versa, trusts you is essential to a successful scaling of your relationship from samples to mass production (if using the same manufacturer).

    Establishing a working relationship is important, especially at the outset of starting a business. Trust me moving from supplier to supplier is often more work than it’s worth. Finding someone early on that you feel comfortable passing along the work takes a lot of the load off your shoulders and allows you to focus where the business can most benefit from your time.

    Christine, would love to see your local LA sample makers list if you’re willing to share!

    • Christine Syquia

      Hi Jeremy – Thanks for your comments. I wanted to add that I do not know what sample makers would do samples for free. Often the projects I work on have a lot of detailed work, and I certainly would not expect the sample maker to work on a project and not get paid. I believe in paying people for their time, effort and work.

      In fact, if I were a sample maker and somebody didn’t want to pay for sampling work, then I would be even LESS likely to work with them for production.

      I do agree that once you find a trusted supplier and sample maker/factory, then those relationships are worth their weight and gold, and yes they do allow one to work on other issues such as scaling one’s business.

      • Laura Berens

        Would you be able to share the contacts of some of the activewear sample houses you know of? I’m looking to get a sample done of a sportsbra line. Would really appreciate the help!

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