A Top of Production (TOP) Sample is typically the very first garment that comes off of the Production Line at your factory. Oftentimes, this is the first time your piece has been made outside of the factory’s sample room, and everyone needs to make sure that the quality of production is matching what you approved through your development processes.
Most major apparel brands work with a TOP process. It is a very standard practice that is worked into each season’s timeline and it is a necessary approval step before the factory is given the green light to move forward on any more bulk units. The one issue I tend to see with smaller businesses using TOPs though is that it can really make your calendar tricky. At larger companies, when a TOP arrives for review, it is standard to turn comments around in 24 hours. Same-day review and approval is needed, so that the factory’s production line isn’t held up any longer than necessary.
Smaller brands don’t always have the luxury of being able to turn comments around that quickly though. What I recommend to my clients who need a little more time is to shift their TOP Process to a Golden Sample Process.
Similar to a TOP, a Golden Sample still needs to be made with all of the production approved goods: fabrics, trims and packaging components are all required to be from bulk lots and shipments. However, instead of waiting for the factory to set up their full production line, sew a garment and then send it out for approval, we allow the factory to use the production goods on two samples in the sample room.
These two samples are then inspected at the factory for any issues and shipped to the customer for their signature on the (usually yellow) Golden Sample Hang Tag. That signature on the piece is a key component to this alternative process because it gives the factory permission to proceed to bulk production immediately, as long as all quality of sewing and construction match what has been signed. This can gain your brand a couple of key weeks in the crucial production timeline. So if you’re cutting it close to the timeline in this area, those two weeks could make or break your launch plans.
I am a full advocate for both processes. If your team is dialed enough to implement a proper TOP process at your company, then it truly is the approval that gives you the clearest picture of how production will turn out. However, if you are rushing and could use a little more time in your plan, you might want to consider this alternate option and see if it works for you!