top of page

The Fashion Startup Survival Guide: Common Fashion Business Terms

Do you know your SKU; your size standards; and your retail relations program? It's about to all be cleared up. We've plucked terminology that you can find all over the fashion - clothing business - to help you put your fashion business reporter cap on the next time you deal with designers, manufacturers, investors or anybody related to the fashion business.


Here is an A-Z dictionary of common fashion business terms that are useful to know, happy learning!


articles of incorporation - the legal document that outlines the nature and scope of ownership and operations of a corporation.

articles of partnership - written contracts to form a partnership between two individuals or among three or more individuals.


bias - the diagonal cut of fabric or 45 degrees to the length or width of the fabric, used to produce better shaping of the fabric than straight-grain cut.

bundling - the process of disassembling stacked cut fabric pieces and reassembling them grouped by garment size, color dye lot, and quantity of units ready for production.

business-to-business (B2B) - business operations that are conducted between companies through web-based technologies.


carryover - item in a line or collection that is carried over from one season to the next.

color forecasting - the process of predicting consumer's future color preferences for merchandise for a specific fashion season. Predictions are based on research conducted by color forecasters for companies and trade associations.

computer-aided design (CAD) - both the hardware and software computer systems used to assist with the design phase of the fabric or garment design.

consumer research - information gathered about consumer characteristics and consumer behavior, including broad trends in the marketplace as well as more specific information about a target group of consumers.

cross-merchandising - a strategy which apparel companies and retailers combine apparel and accessories in their product offerings.

cut, make, and trim (CMT) - apparel contractors who cut, make, and trim the garments for the apparel manufacturer.


design and product development - the process by which new styles moves from concept sketch to prototype.

digitizer - a table embedded with sensors that relate to the X and Y coordinates. That allows the shape of the pattern piece to be traced and converted to a drawing of the pattern in computer.

draping - a process of creating the initial garment style by molding, cutting and pinning fabric to a mannequin.


environmental design - design decisions related to the creation, use and discarding of a product in ways that preserve the ecosystem.


fashion season - the name given to line or collections that correspond to seasons of the year when consumers would most likely to wear; e.g. Spring, Summer, Fall, Holiday, Resort.

flat sketch - also called tech drawing, this technical sketch of a garment style represents how the garment would look lying flat, as on a table.

flatknit - goods that are knit flat, as compared to goods knit in a tube (tubular knit).

Little coffee break to remember the terms!



garment specification sheet - a listing of vital information for the garment style including garment sketch, fabric swatches and/or specifications, and specifications for findings, sizes, construction, and finished garment measurements. Great tips on creating tech pack:

grade rules - the amounts and locations of growth or reduction for pattern pieces to create the various sizes.


home fashions - textile products for home-end uses such as towels, bedding, upholstery fabrics, area floor coverings, draperies, and table linens.


initial cost estimate - the preliminary estimate of the cost of a new style based on materials, trims, findings, labor, and other components such as duty and freight.


jobber - an intermediary in the apparel industry who carries inventories of apparel for ready shipment to retailers.


knockoff - a facsimile of an existing garment that sells at a lower price than the original. The copy might be made in less expensive fabric and might have some design details modified or eliminated.


licensing - an agreement whereby the owner (licensor) of a particular image or design to another party, typically a manufacturer (licensee), for payment of royalties to the licensor.

line - one large group or several small groups of apparel items developed with a theme that links the items together.

long-range forecasting - research focusing on general economic and social trends related to consumer spending patterns and the business climate.


made-to-measure - a fully customized process where a garment is made specifically for one individual based on his/her measurements and preferences.

margin - the difference between the cost to manufacture a style and the wholesale price the retailer will pay the manufacturer for the style. Margin can also refer to the difference between the cost the retailer paid the manufacturer for the goods and the selling price for the goods.

marker - a master cutting plan for all the pattern pieces in the sizes specified on the cut order to manufacture the style.

market research - process of providing information to determine what the customer will need and want, and when and where the customer will want to make purchases.

measurement specification - the actual garment measurements at specific locations on the finished goods for each of the sizes specified for a style.

muslin - an inexpensive fabric, usually unbleached cotton, often used to develop the first trial of a new garment style.


off-price retailer - retailer who specializes in selling national brands or designer apparel and home fashions lines at discount prices.


patent - publicly given, exclusive right to an idea, product, or process.

PDM/PLM - a term used when combining product data management and product lifecycle management. This approach requires all computer systems in the pipeline to be compatible in order to share product data

prototype - the sample garment for a new style in the company's base size made in the intended fashion fabric or facsimile fabric. If made in muslin, the prototype is usually called a toile.


quality control - area of a company that focuses on inspecting finished products and making sure they adhere to specific quality standards.


ready-to-wear (RTW) - apparel made with mass production techniques using standardized sizing.

retail relations program - programs run by merchandising marts, which include a number of services designed to assist retail buyers during market weeks and trade shows.


sample cut - a three - to five - yard length of fabric ordered from a textile mill by the apparel manufacturer to use for making a prototype garment.

short-range forecasting - researching specific fashion trends and new styles for an upcoming season and determining the level of demand and timing for these styles (also referred to as what, when and how much to manufacture).

single-hand system - a garment production in which individual sewer is responsible for sewing an entire garment. It is used primarily for couture or very high-priced, limited-production apparel and for sewing prototypes.

SKU (stock-keeping unit) - a number or code used to identify each distinct product and service that can be purchased, thus enabling the company to systematically track its inventory or product availability.

"smart" fiber - optical fiber with integrated electronics that allow the fiber to sense, process, and store data, and which can be woven into fabric; applications include medical devices, high performance and protective fabrics, and military uniforms.

socially responsible design - achieved through inclusive design, physically and psychologically healthy design, that promotes fair trade, and design decisions that facilitate efficient factory operations.

sustainable design - a term used to designate the awareness of the full short - and long - term consequences of a transformation of the environment. ➡️ Learn more ⬅️


target customer - description of the gender, age range, lifestyle, geographic location, and price zone for the majority of the company's customers for a specific line.

textile mill - company that specializes in the fabric construction stage of production (e.g. weaving, knitting).

tolerance - the stated range of acceptable dimensional measurements as a + and + in centimeters or inches of the size specifications.

trunk show - marketing strategy by which a company will bring an entire line to a retail store as a special event to show and sell to customers.


usage - the number of yards (or meters) of fabric required to make the garment style.


virtual sample - digital images of merchandise samples that are viewed on the computer screen.

wholesale price - the price of the style that the retailer will pay the apparel manufacturer for the goods. The price is based on the manufacturer's cost to produce the style plus the manufacturer's profit.


yarn - collection of fibers or filaments laid or twisted together to form a continuous strand strong enough for use in fabrics.


This is it! The next time you have a meeting with manufacturers, suppliers or anybody related to the fashion industry will feel way stronger!

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!

Sincerely Yours,




bottom of page