Skip to content

Free Shipping Over $50 | Sign Up To Get 10% Off

The Process of Creating + Manufacturing Shorts

After getting released in July 2020 by my company for not hitting my quota mid pandemic (we mostly sold to schools, banks, & offices), I made the leap to start PER and make, what I envisioned as, the ideal workout shorts.


Having no background in apparel design, I had to figure out how to 'make shorts'.


I knew a few things that I wanted at a high level:

  • Create gear that centered around comfort, quality, and function
  • Create a brand that was rooted in improving the health of men

Then more specifically:

  • Shorts that were styled to be worn anywhere, but had function needed for tough workouts
  • To Frankenstein together my favorite parts of my 7 most-worn shorts (The 4 best shorts I tried)
  • Use sustainable material, ideally from recycled ocean plastic

Okay, so now what?


I grabbed the nearest notepad and pen (not great for an amateur sketch artist, but haven't owned a pencil since college) and attempted to put my vision to paper.


It was a terrible drawing, but it got the ball rolling.


I then signed up for a 30-day trial of Adobe Illustrator, took a crash course on YouTube, and began to make shorts via CAD. Less terrible, but still not great.


Adobe Illustrator drawing of shorts

(The initial drawing in Adobe)


I grabbed my most-worn shorts and took copious notes on every inch of them. Created a Google Sheet and took 35 different measurements of each pair (which I learned was too many, and many of which were not common industry measurements). I recorded fabric type, price point, construction notes, waistband material, drawcord description, phone pocket location + function, thoughts on the functionality of the liner, and fit notes.


From there, I wrote out a simple document describing how I envisioned the shorts looking, feeling, and performing.


But I still had no idea how to get the shorts professionally designed, how to start sourcing material, or where I would have them manufactured. As it turns out, you can't just Google 'best men's shorts manufacturer'.


So I started telling some friends & family about the idea and was soon introduced to a few people that would end up being crucial for getting me off the ground.


  • My brother's good friend
    • Had created a capsule (assortment of clothing pieces curated for a brand launch) previously and was a Creative Director for a major athletic brand for a few years.
    • He gave me some direction and tips on websites (Maker's Row) to explore that give access to designers, manufacturers, and suppliers as part of a paid membership.
    • One of which I met the firm I've worked with for the last year. They've been so instrumental in everything during this process, especially in my apparel industry education.
  • My uncle's neighbor
    • For the last 30 years, he's owned and operated a textile manufacturing plant in Los Angeles. He's worked with all the major athletic brands that you can name. He took 90 minutes out of his day to speak with someone he's never met (me), give tips, insights, and trade secrets to help me get off the ground.
    • I asked if he would help me produce, but I was peanuts compared to what he was working on and it wasn't going to happen. I understood.
  • One of my best friend's wives
    • She's started her own apparel design company from scratch and has some big brands as clients. She's been so helpful in filling me in on industry tips like what to look for in partners, what normal timelines are, and how to make sure I'm not getting screwed over.
    • She's been super helpful looking over emails I send her asking "Does this look right to you?" anytime my internal alarm goes off.
    • She's provided excel templates, project workflows, and other resources on planning for a launch.

With this info in hand, I learned there was so much I didn't know. I made the call to work with a firm that could help me through the whole process - from ideation to production - instead of piecing it all together on my own.


We had to invest more to do it this way, but having someone in your corner teaching you along the way was worth it to me.



FABRIC SOURCING


It's fairly easy to find soft, breathable, durable fabric to make shorts. It's nearly impossible to find sustainable fabric that fits that criteria. Especially for a start-up looking to launch with small order quantities.


It's very tough to find sustainable fabric that is in stock and available at low MOQs (minimum order quantity). I would soon find out this would be the hardest part of making a product. There are plenty of mills that can produce fabric to the specifications you give them no problem. Recycled plastic, soft hand-feel, anti-smell, and quick-dry? Check, check, check, and check. Only enough so we can produce 500 units? Ah, that's a no-go.


Instead of the 1,000 yards or so of fabric I was realistically in the market for, I was seeing a lot of MOQs that started at 5,000-10,000y. When sustainable material is 3-8x more than virgin material, that initial bill quickly skyrockets. 


I started PER because I've always had an obsession with the feel of fabric. Roaming through clothing stores, with my arm extended, feeling and touching every item first before I'd even look at it. The feel + comfort of fabric has always been the #1 reason why I would purchase clothing.


So fabric wasn't something I was going to settle on.


So, back to the drawing board. Like manufacturing partners, you can't really just Google 'sustainable polyester blends made from recycled ocean plastic'... I'm sure you can picture the results.


I figured I'd start at the source and research companies that harvested ocean plastic, reach out to them and ask who they send their recycled plastic to. I would say "I'm not sure if I'm in over my head, but I'm looking to get X amount of yardage of recycled polyester. Can you point me in the right direction?" 


After about 2 dozen of those emails, I ended up getting to suppliers that were in my range of MOQs.


From there, I'd send fabric swatches from my own shorts that I was trying to match along with descriptions of fabric weight and qualities I was aiming for. I got A LOT of fabric swatches. And a lot of bad fabric swatches.


There were a few months where I didn't think I'd be able to find anything even close to what I was aiming for.


We ended up finding a company based out of China that agreed to match a fabric we provided and since they already used recycled poly at their facility, it was an easy transition.  They've custom-made our shorts shell material out of recycled plastic, yielding about 3 bottles per pair!


From the beginning of our hunt in July 2020, we got our first sample swatch of recycled material in February (8 months!) and have been pressing forward every since.


We're incredibly excited to use this fabric for the shorts and the response has been so far so good!



DESIGN

While sourcing was going on, I worked with the firm in Austin, TX to get my ideas into a real CAD drawing by a real apparel designer. They took my shoddy Adobe design and transformed it into a professional-looking piece. This was one of those first pinch-me moments where I felt like the idea was becoming legit.


CAD Drawing of workout shorts

Our first official CAD drawing to go in our tech pack. 

 

They added flow, shadows, legit drawcords, and a logo soon after.


Now we were rolling.


TECH PACK


I think of the tech pack as the mathematical design. It's a compilation of measurements, notes, detailed call-outs, and information about trims, heat transfer logos, drawcords, care tags/labels, etc.


Its purpose is to be an overly detailed, everything-you-need-to-know master plan for each garment. It tracks the progress of prototype measurements and tweaks, as well as a size set.


What a tech pack doesn't include is the pattern. This comes next and is the most critical piece for how the gear fits on your body.


PATTERN


In my mind, the pattern is more of the artistic design compared to the tech pack. After you make your tech pack, you work with a pattern maker to take all of your measurements & notes and turn it into a flowing, perfectly-fitting garment. Pattern makers have a way of taking feedback on fit, looking at a garment, seeing what's wrong, and being able to adjust the shape of the design (without changing the measurement much or at all) to create the desired outcome.


It's something that I don't understand at all, but am appreciative of the masters of the craft.


For example...

Have a crew neck shirt with a wavy collar? Bad pattern.

Have a shirt that looks more like a parachute than a tapered look? Bad pattern.

Shorts that bunch way too much in the front when you sit or squat? Bad pattern.


PROTOTYPE / SAMPLE


After the first pattern is made, it's time for a prototype. Using the fabric we've selected, we can put some life into the design and work with the manufacturer to get our first prototype constructed. Typically, you can count on 2-3 samples before you nail the fit and construction of what you're going for.


Working with the same manufacture pays off as you learn preferences and their orientation to detail. The first time working with a new manufacture often comes with growing pains as you learn to work together.


We've had about 4 initial prototypes as we tried different factories and once we decided on the one to move forward with, we were able to work on iterations to improve the product and get to the sample stage.


Prototype: First go at the design.

Fit samples + size set: Should be our best attempt at the perfectly fitting short and also get to see the whole S-XL set.

Pre-Production Sample: Everything should be dialed in, maybe a minor tweak or two

Top of Production (TOP) Sample: The first pair pulled off the line from production.



MANUFACTURING


Now the green light has been given and it's time to roll. We're only going about 550 pairs in our first run, so we're eager to get feedback and see how we can improve them moving forward.


Manufacturing only takes about 1-2 weeks for our small run and then they will ship via air to us. For larger runs we'll likely switch to shipping via sea to save money, but with unknown delivery times due to the pandemic and our light weight ship, we'll be able to get the shorts in days vs weeks (or months).


Let me know if there's anything you're interested in learning more about with our process!





Our Nomad Shorts are made of 95% recycled polyester made from recycled plastic bottles. The process of finding a supplier that could custom make material for us was a painstakingly long process, but we're beyond excited with the results and quality of the gear.


We carefully crafted the waistband to stay up on it's own, a liner that is incredibly breathable and soft while keeping all the moving bits in place where they should be.


The fabric is soft on the hand, but tested and rugged enough for endless WODs + barbell crushing activities.


The phantom phone hip pocket provides a sturdy location for any phone size to stay in place weather you're doing 10 miles or 300 squats.


We use zippers made from recycled plastic, recycled and compostable packaging options.


Our gear is made with care and we opt to repair before replacing.

 

Like this article? Sign-up for our newsletter to get a weekly dose of holistic health tips and look behind-the-scenes as we work to grow PER.

Older Post
Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Close (esc)

We're getting close!

Get your invite to Dawn Patrol for exclusive discounts, content, and products, as well as early access to our upcoming release.

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.

Search

Shopping Cart

Your cart is currently empty.
Shop now
x