China / People

Patternmaker lifts garment industry

By Xie Chuanjiao In Qingdao, Shandong Province (China Daily) Updated: 2016-04-29 08:10

Renowned Western fashion houses trust Qingdao woman for perfect templates

At a recent MBA training course for startup entrepreneurs at Top Innovation Works in Qingdao's Licang district, a woman arrived on a young man's back. Dropping to the ground, she trudged to her seat on a crutch and took out a notebook.

Her arrival created a commotion as curious attendees clamored to find out who she was. "This is the very best Patternmaker in Qingdao," said Luan Xiuying, who runs a garment plant focusing on the export market. "Her name is Yang Ping and that was her son helping her. Many of Qingdao's clothing factories lean on her help to gain orders from top-notch fashion brands in the West."

Yang runs a pattern-making studio in Licang, Shandong province. With a few computers and machines, she creates clothing patterns for renowned brands, including Armani, Hermes, Burberry and Marmara.

Workers follow design sketches and create templates from which the parts of a garment are traced onto fabric before being cut and assembled. "The drawings of designers appear to be simple, but they hide a lot of challenges for Patternmakers," Yang said.

In 2005, a designer at Vero Moda sent a piece in which the garment's back was 1 cm longer than the front. Many of Qingdao's Patternmakers failed to create a template that satisfied the designer, but Yang made it correctly. After that, her reputation began to rise.

Although she doesn't speak English, many foreign designers like to collaborate with her. Patternmakers typically have to revise their work four or five times, but Yang often produces a satisfactory version the first time.

Pan Rongcheng, who works in Yang's studio, said pattern making is high-intensity work. Yang's studio strives to deliver sample clothes in two working days, much faster than average, Pan said. Once they receive an order, they work overnight to create the pattern, sew the garment and ship it to the airport on the afternoon of the second day. The process usually takes other studios nearly a week.

"Technique and speed both help me build my reputation in the industry," said Yang, who ensures both qualities by working until the small hours of the morning.

Yang has walked with a limp since she contracted polio six-months after she was born in 1962. She underwent surgery twice in an effort to correct her deformed foot. She wanted to attend university, but she said a teacher dissuaded her parents from making the effort.

"The teacher told my parents that even if I took the exam, the university would not let me enroll because I am handicapped," she said. "My parents only told me the bad news when the exam approaching, and I left for my aunt in Beijing for three months after crying for three weeks at home."

A job as an accountant at a tailor's store drew her out of her depression and set her on a new path. She observed the tailors' work, practiced making clothes at night and became enamored of the clothes-making art.

In 1984, Qingdao hosted its first fashion design contest and Yang submitted five items. Despite her amateur status, three won first prizes. She then studied drawing and design with Wang Zujiang, a professor at Qingdao University.

After years of hard work, she started her own business and opened a tailor's shop. However, just asher career was on the rise in 2002, her husband was struck by a cargo truck and injured. The medical bills topped 400,000 yuan ($61,657) and it took the family six years to pay off the debt.

Now Yang's studio makes more than 300 sample garments each month during the peak seasons. The recognition her studio has won from top designers has been a boon for the area's factories.

"Her studio became the savior of many of Qingdao's export-focused clothes factories," said Luan, the exporter. Yang's company now has more than 50 employees. Forty of them are disabled. "I have been through a lot of hard times, therefore I wanted to make life easier for other disabled people after I achieved some success," she said.

With support from the government, Yang also founded an occupational training center in 2014 to teach garment processing to disabled workers. There are 33 mentally-disabled teenagers in the program, and none pays for the training.

"Their families have suffered too much and it would be a great relief for them if those kids could support themselves eventually," she said.

 Patternmaker lifts garment industry

Patternmaker Yang Ping works at her studio in Licang, Shandong province. Provided To China Daily

Patternmaker lifts garment industry

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