How long does it take to develop a lingerie collection?

“Dear I A Samples: I have a launch date for my Lingerie collection and it is only 2 months away, is it possible?” We often have requests to develop a sample collection of lingerie in a few short weeks, which the clients then intend to put into production immediately and voila, in a month or […]

8th September 2017

“Dear I A Samples: I have a launch date for my Lingerie collection and it is only 2 months away, is it possible?”

We often have requests to develop a sample collection of lingerie in a few short weeks, which the clients then intend to put into production immediately and voila, in a month or two, from a seed of an idea they have a full production run off lingerie stocked and ready to sell.

This is unrealistic and unnecessary if you do your research and plan well. After all, business should be a marathon not a sprint.

I blame the ‘Amazon’ culture. You go online, click the item you want to buy, press the PayPal button and a few hours later it arrives on your doorstop. It is an amazing system but unfortunately it is not easily translated into the development and manufacturing of lingerie or swimwear.

In the 8 years I A Samples have been pattern cutting and sampling for lingerie and swimwear labels we have noticed the speed and urgency coming from new prospective clients increase inline with the ‘I’ve gotta have it now’ culture.

Often new designers are unaware of the work and level of expertise required in order to get the collection developed and into production. There are lots of pieces of the jigsaw, which need to be pieced together to create the full picture, in your case a beautiful collection of lingerie or swimwear. Each jigsaw piece requires special attention and organisation in order to slot neatly into the picture and it’s my honour to delve more deeply into each unique piece and flag up any areas that may need special attention.

Here are some key aspects to consider before setting a launch date of your new collection:

Brand sizing

By this I don’t mean your size range i.e 30B to 36B, I am referring to the unique fit and shape of your clothing which represents your brand and chosen customer.

Have you ever tried on a bra which has fitted beautifully, only to try on another bra in the same size albeit from another brand, look in the mirror and cry “What!! Whats that?!. Wrinkles in the cup, back rising, droopy boobs! But this size fit me so well in the last shop”. Most women have had that experience and it can be a little frustrating. There are no universal size laws or a fashion bible that determine measurements that we all must adhere to. Brand owners and garment technicians have free reign to make their patterns and samples whatever size they want therefore it is worth spending some time establishing who your customer is and what your brand represents in terms of fit and shape of the garments before the first patterns are drafted.

It is an important step and I will be writing a separate blog post to cover this. To ‘be on the list’ sign here (ooh you VIP, you!) and get these golden nuggets of information direct into your inbox.

Fit Models

Here at I A Samples we always use live fit models when carrying out our fit assessments. It is especially important when working with bras and basques to analyse the fit on a human, as it is crucial to achieve the correct support and shape for the wearer. Although garment technicians and sample units may have access to reliable fit models, each brand has their own unique model specifications, which can vary significantly.

For example, we have worked with a wide range of brands each with their own fit needs including: maternity and nursing lingerie, plus size bras, core sized lingerie, sports swimwear (athletic build), plus size swimwear, mastectomy bras to name a few.

Because of this, here at I A Samples we require the clients to supply their own models if ours do not suit. Sourcing a model for your brand can often take time especially if the requirements are very specific. This must be built in to your critical path and established prior to developing your collection to avoid delays.

Fabric suppliers

Ahh fabric suppliers, an integral part of the process.

Wholesale fabric suppliers can deliver within a few days or up to several weeks depending on what they have in stock and how busy they are. There are seasons they adhere to, and busy periods of business. International wholesalers also have several weeks a year when they are closed for business. If time is of the essence then it is crucial to be aware and factor in the timelines of your chosen suppliers. For more on working with wholesalers take a peek here.

Bespoke components

In addition to the fabric and component suppliers, you also need to consider any items which need to be custom made. This includes brand labels, jacquard elastics, engraved metal notions and dyed fabrics and elastics (which you can read more about those here).

The companies who offer these bespoke items are often in high demand and again need a few weeks to months in order to make to your requirements.


Most factories including the lingerie and swimwear manufacturers we have worked with both in the UK and overseas require the clients to have their full tech packs and samples completed before booking in your production run. The factories then commonly work to a 3 month lead-time.

Increasing the scope of the project

Sample units and garment technicians are often heavily scheduled for weeks in advance therefore it is imperative, when working to a tight deadline, that all services and designs are pre-booked.

At I A Samples we are usually fully booked 2-3 months in advance and run a very tight ship. If a client wants to add an extra design or schedule in an additional service that wasn’t pre-arranged we will always do our best to accommodate. In most cases, with a few cups of extra strong coffee and a positive attitude we power on through and achieve those extra requirements. However a sample unit cannot guarantee this and you run the risk of needing to postpone the completion of your collection until your extra requests can be honoured.

Carrying out in depth research and familiarising yourself with the process before commencing can help you to avoid this.

Back to the original question.

Good preparation, a little risk assessment and a time buffer for those pesky, unpredictable issues that may pop up will help you streamline the process and give you a realistic critical path to follow, along with a well thought out timeframe to work within. Once you have all those in place you will be able to assess if two months is enough time. In our experience, no, it takes a lot longer to develop a full range of lingerie or swimwear especially if the initial groundwork still needs to be put into place. However once relationships with suppliers, pattern cutters, sample makers, factories and models are firmly established and systems are established your turn around time will speed up significantly.

Now, I can sense you are ‘chomping at the bit’ to get started and want to put an action plan into place for developing your collection. Am I right? If so drop us an email at: and we can work together to realise your designs and produce a beautiful collection.

All the best

Maxine x

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