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A comprehensive guide to the swimwear sample making process

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If you thought to sketch out your dream swimwear CADs was as satisfying as seeing your food order coming in a restaurant, let us burst that bubble because seeing your first swimwear sample just about beats it all (well, almost).

One of the most exciting, albeit sometimes stressful, parts of bringing to life your own swimwear brand is the sampling process. And don’t be ashamed, we also do that little-dance-and-fists-up-in-the-air celebration when the first CADs materialize.

The swimwear sampling process may seem a little confusing and daunting with types ranging from those designed for fit, sizing, mock-ups and a plethora of other purposes but it’s a non-negotiable step before your products hit the shelves.

The sampling process is beneficial for the obvious reason that you’ll get your hands on what the final product will look like before it goes into bulk production.

However, a few additional benefits include discerning the capabilities of your American clothing manufacturer, production cost quotations, and thread and fabric consumption to make a sound judgment about proceeding with bulk production of your swimwear line.

As such, we know the struggle, so we’re here to drop some knowledge before you drop your sanity. Keep reading for a comprehensive and easy-to-understand guide on everything you need to know about the swimwear sample making process and how swimwear manufacturers can help you out.

There are many different phases of swimwear sampling but for the sake of simplifying the process (but not omitting vital information), the procedure is broken into two main categories:

1. Development phase

2. Marketing/ pre-production phase


Development phase

Mock-up sample – The mock-up sample is essentially what it is – a mock-up. A real size sample of your design including the trims, frills and all things fancy. It tests the overall design, functionality and practicality of your final pieces prior to production.


Proto sample – The proto sample is the sampling of the initial design. The first round of samples is done in response to your (the designer’s) requirement. Essentially, it is breathing life into your sketches.

Typically, the first phase you enter with your swim or apparel manufacturer is to assess your range and potentially improve or completely eliminate certain designs before production.

Generally, the proto sample does not include fringe additions such as frills and buckles but rather a general design and pattern-oriented sample used for evaluation by the swimwear designer.


Fit sample – After tweaking the proto sample according to your feedback, the clothing manufacturing company will then get back to you on a set of samples to measure the fit.

This is used to evaluate the swimwear against a mannequin or model. This helps you, as a designer, see how your styles will look on your buyers and also provide tangible feedback.

It is important that the fit sample is designed with the actual fabric that will be used for the particular swimwear style for measuring and evaluation purposes.


Size set sample – Much like the fit sample, the size set sample is critical – do not skip it. It is the set of samples you receive to determine the ratios of all intended sizes you will use in your swimwear styles.

It is important to note that if different silhouettes carry different sizes, all of those must be sampled to avoid any hold-ups pre-production.


Marketing/Pre-production phase

Salesman/photo-shoot/marketing sample – This set of samples are often referred to in varying ways, but they all really mean the same thing: the final and all-inclusive sample set.

This sample is exactly what your bulk production pieces will look like. They include the right fabric and all the accessories and trims per style. These samples are often used for marketing purposes, artwork and the lot with all brand-approved work on it.

Sometimes, swimsuit manufacturers go one step ahead and include a ship sample. This sample is the exact replica of what a customer will receive including the product in its packaging including tags, cards, folding, etc.

This way, you know exactly what the customer receives when your product hits their doorstep.


Pre-production sample – This is your last sample before your swim or bikini manufacturer commences bulk production of your styles. This is the last line of approval before everything materializes and starts rushing into shelves (or your e-commerce store!).

Acceptance of this sample is the go-ahead for your manufacturer to finally start the real process of producing the styles to agreed-upon quantities.



Alternative to physical sampling – Virtual sampling

As you just read, the sampling types can be puzzling and let’s not add the time frame from the first sample to the final approved one – and this isn’t even accounting for the cost your manufacturer may charge you.

Despite the tedious nature of sample making, it is a must-do but it is isn’t the only way to get the green light for your swimwear to go into production.

Virtual sampling is a hot topic in the apparel-making industry and custom clothing manufacturers are testing the waters. The process is relatively new but it’s nonetheless more time and cost-efficient than it’s grand-daddy (i.e. physical sampling).

A bonus of virtual sampling is the sustainability factor.

By opting to use virtual sampling, you are enabling a much greener, viable and more environmentally sustainable process to be implemented. Essentially, you’re just at a win-win crossroads (with nothing to lose!).


What is virtual sampling, you ask?

In a nutshell, it’s combining all the development sampling into a virtual platform. That includes your proto samples, fit samples, mock-ups, and size set samples all into one virtual visualization.

This process effectively eliminates the bottlenecks of traditional garment manufacturing and you can bounce into bulk production a lot quicker (and saving some bank while you’re at it).

Virtual sampling will offer you a 3-dimensional view of every style you choose to market. This visualization will show you the front, back and sides of your designs and it’s a clear way to picture the aesthetic of your styling and design.

virtual sample of a one piece swimsuit placed on a female avatar


This will significantly bring down your time-to-market because the manufacturer wouldn’t have to procure a new sample every time you suggest a color change, a trim cut or a frill addition. Virtual sampling will let you incorporate all your (indecisive) change-of-hearts with instantaneous results.

Virtual sampling allows you to see the fit of the garment on your potential target market, as well. The technology used for virtual sampling can materialize an avatar based on your chosen measurements and body sizes and can thereafter don your swimwear styles.

You can use this as a way to analyze the fit and how the overall style will fit your audience. Want to see if the frills are too long? You can check that. Where does the off the shoulder straps fall on the arms? That, too.

Perhaps you want to check how cheeky the cut is at the back? Virtual sampling can check that for you, as well, with changes coming imminently. Above and beyond the fit, it will help ascertain the overall pattern work and embellishments of the swimwear against the silhouette construction and thus your potential customer.

It will give you a definitive indication of pattern alignments and accessory placements that you may otherwise miss.

Swimwear is a very close-to-skin piece of apparel and it is key to eliminate any awkward and ill-placed swimwear patterns. Whether that’s a snatched waist or an alluring deep neck cut, anything out of place is a piece that won’t sell.

Once you’re happy with all the changes made on the avatar, you can head into getting your hands on a physical product. The physical sample will be done on the actual fabric you will use for bulk production along with all the accessories you requested.

virtual sample of a bikini bottom placed on a female avatar


This sample can then be tested on a real model to gauge the final fit. So, by the time you reach this stage, you would have eliminated more than half the steps if you were to choose the more traditional physical sampling process for swimwear.

If you really want the cherry on top, get yourself a virtual sampling beachwear manufacturer, who will take more of the guesswork out of bringing your swimwear to life.




Whether you’re a seasoned fashion designer or someone just entering its realm, some swimwear manufacturers can help you through the hard stuff. If you have limited background in fashion but have all the heart to start your own swimwear business, you only need to provide four things to get you on your way to having your swimwear in the market:


  1. Any and all references and inspirational images showcasing prints, designs, styles, cuts/silhouettes etc.
  2. The target market, location and other demographics
  3. Trends you want to implement into your styles
  4. Fabric ideas, accessories and other technical frameworks for the pieces


After you provide the clothing manufacturer with the information above, in-house swimwear designers can get right into sketching up some CADs.

The more information you provide, the more that designers can incorporate a narrative and elements of design and aesthetics into each custom bikini or custom bathing suit so that every style is as unique as the brand itself.

On the other hand, if you’re an experienced fashion designer and you know exactly what you’re after (or even just somewhat), providing a tech pack, sizing set and any other relevant information can help you get started on some CADs, as well.

Whether you’re a fashion designer with years of experience to boot or you’re just starting out, consider all your options, from the inception of ideas all the way to sampling. The most important part about the whole process is shopping around for a custom apparel manufacturer who will be with you for the long run.

Got a design in mind or a whole tech pack?

Talk to the experts at Runway Kit to know how you can use virtual sampling to get your styles from dreams in your head to real pieces at a store-front without cutting any corners.



Runway Kit offers fashion designers and entrepreneurs the option to design, sample and manufacture in smaller, flexible quantities – all at start-up friendly, transparent costs.

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