Product development is a broad field of endeavour dealing with the design, creation, and marketing of new products. It involves modification of an existing product or its presentation, or formulation of an entirely new product that satisfies newly defined customers want or market niche. The textile industry is one of the world’s major industries and the knitwear industry is a substantial component of it. Knitwear garments are designed, manufactured and sold in a wide range of countries, and is the subject of a large amount of international trade.

Fashion changes very quickly, and continuously poses new challenges to resources and skills. The knitwear fashion market is also characterised by short life cycles, low predictability and high impulse purchasing. Many brands are responding to this by constantly introducing new collections. Because of this, the knitwear design process is subject to severe time pressures to develop new design ideas every time. The fashion of each season is defined by the garments that are created for it and the sources of inspiration used for them and new design must be able to catch the mood of the season. For all fashion-related products, the beginning of a new season in shops sets an unmovable deadline for delivery of the final products. Due to the requirements of production and the retail chains’ need to select co-ordinated collections, the design process for a season begins approximately one to two years before garments reach the shops.

Knitting fabric design is the making of a technically complex product corresponding to aesthetic considerations – the relationship between the appearance of a knitted structure and its structural characteristics is subtle and complex. Knitting is inherently difficult to describe, as no simple and complete notation exists. The knitting design process is shared by the designers, who plan the visual and tactile appearance of the garments, and the technicians, who have to realise the garment on a knitting machine. In current industrial practice knitting fabric design is a nearly a linear process. Two main participants share the knitting fabric design process: Knitted fabric designers and knitting machine technicians. These two elements need to be co-ordinated very effectively as the knitting design and sampling process is highly complex and there is a subtle interaction between the technical features of knitted fabric and its visual appearance. Normally, designers and technicians work on two or three seasons at once. While the designers are researching a new season the technicians sample the previous one.

The basic process of knitting fabric design development can be classified in two different ways, viz,
1. In house design and development
2. Knitted fabric development based on specification given by buyer

In house design and development

As figure 27.1 illustrates, the process starts with design research, which is nothing but gathering background information for design, including studying current and future fashion trends and it also defines the range of possibilities for designs within the scope of fashion and the intended target markets. The designers normally start working on a new season by researching the market, investigating the coming fashion trends and selecting the yarns used for all the garments in a season. It provides the sources of inspiration on which designs are based, and enables designers to relate their designs to the context of fashion. The quality of designs depends not only on the designers’ talents but also on the quality of their design research. Only extensive research enables designers to stay fresh and keep up-to-date with developments.

The result of this research process is to represent mood boards or theme boards, which present a collection of images and sketches of possible garments which defines the range for an upcoming season. At this point of time many fundamental design decisions are made before anybody thinks that design has happened. All the selected design for upcoming seasons will be checked by technical team to analyse the feasibility of the same or the production. If in case design is not feasible to produce then possibility of modification of the design will be checked. Once design is approved then it will go to technical team to analyse the technical specification of the design otherwise the design will be discarded.

After finalising the technical specifications by the technical team for the particular design manufacturer will start developing process if the design can be made with the available machines or the design may be discarded. In case of acceptance, as per the design, yarn and the specific machine will be selected and sample will be prepared and after confirmation of the order by the buyer production can be started.

Knitted fabric development based on specification given by buyer

In this case, buyer provides the sample to the knitting fabric manufacturer. Manufacturer then discusses the possibility to develop the given knitted fabric design with the technician and production team. Manufacturer will start developing process if the design can be made with the available machines or the design may be discarded. In case of acceptance, as per the design, yarn and the specific machine will be selected and sample will be prepared.

Once sample is prepared then it will be checked for Design and GSM. For dyed fabric, sample dyeing can also be done in order to match the colour shed given by the buyer. It is also important to check the design after dyeing because some faults are prominent after dyeing. After, knitting and dyeing is finished then shrinkage, fastness and spirality test can be done.

After checking, if the sample is matching all the criteria with the buyer sample then the same can be submitted to the buyer and wait for approval. If in case prepared sample is not matching with the buyers sample then fabric manufacturer need to do the detailed analysis of the fault and redevelop the sample. Once the sample is approved and after order confirmation, manufacturer can start the bulk production.