Garment technicians choose clothing fabrics and designs, and ensure clothes are made to quality standards.
New garment technicians usually earn
$33K-$45K per year
Experienced garment technicians usually earn
$45K-$70K per year
Source: NZ Fashion Tech and Competenz, 2017.
Pay for garment technicians varies depending on skills and experience.
- New garment technicians usually earn minimum wage.
- After one to three years' experience they usually earn up to $45,000 a year.
- Intermediate garment technicians with four to six years' experience can earn between $45,000 and $60,000.
- Senior garment technicians with additional responsibilities and more than seven years' experience can earn between $60,000 and $70,000.
Source: New Zealand Fashion Tech and Competenz, 2017.
- Employment New Zealand - information about minimum wage rates
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Garment technicians may do some or all of the following:
- choose clothing fabrics and designs
- alter designs using computer programs, or work with designers to do this
- ask patternmakers to change patterns
- check the fit and fabric of clothing samples
- check the quality of clothing being made and write reports on this
- ensure suppliers, such as fabric vendors, send the right supplies on time
- ensure clothing is made within budget
- check clothing faults and follow up customer complaints about clothing.
Skills and knowledge
Garment technicians need to have knowledge of:
- clothing design and garment construction
- quality standards for clothing
- how fabrics behave when sewn or dyed
- testing standards for materials used in clothing
- the New Zealand Fair Trade Act
- clothing design software
- usually work regular business hours, but may work longer hours to meet deadlines
- usually work in offices located in studios, workshops or factories
- may travel locally and overseas to visit manufacturers.
What's the job really like?
Ava checks out a career in fashion with NZ Fashion Tech - 7.26 mins.
Ava: Hi, I’m Ava, I’m in Year 12 at St Mary's College and I’m interested in a career in fashion with New Zealand Fashion Tech.
Clinton: We are all surrounded by fashion. The creativity that surrounds the way we dress as an individual, culture or country, is what makes us unique.
Clinton: Ava is going to learn about a career in the fashion industry with New Zealand’s leading educator in fashion and sewn products, New Zealand Fashion Tech.
Clinton: She’s going to visit campuses in Wellington and Auckland, and then get a taste of work experience with two leading fashion brands.
Kevin: It’s a creative industry, but you’ve got to be really practical as well – it’s a good balance. It’s always changing, it’s always interesting. There’s nothing ever the same, it’s a vital industry and it’s actually, for all the look of it that it’s a glamorous industry, it’s pretty cut-throat and it’s a busy industry.
Clinton: Ava has headed first to the New Zealand Fashion Tech campus in Wellington. Tutor Verena Tilson-Scoble is on hand to show her round.
Verena: I’m Verena, nice to meet you.
Ava: Nice to meet you too.
Verena: Let’s get started!
Clinton: Both Auckland and Wellington offer three programmes – there’s garment technology, pattern design, and then an advanced diploma.
Ava: So what happens in this room here?
Verena: This is our garment technology class, and this is our first class that the students come to and they learn how to sew on the industrial machinery, so they learn to sew accurately and to time.
Ava: And roughly how long does it take to get the knack of, or pick up the industrial sewing machine?
Verena: Everybody is different! It depends on the person.
Clinton: All instruction is geared to what the fashion industry requires – a thorough knowledge of garment construction, and good basic sewing skills that can be confidently undertaken at speed.
Clinton: Here in Wellington Miriam Gibson is the garment technology course tutor.
Miriam: Keep it controlled on the straight part, don’t lose the plot on the straight part, hand in close to the back tack.
Clinton: First there’s a rundown on personal safety.
Miriam: So the first thing is you just need to tuck your necklace in, because we need to get rid of anything dangly.
Clinton: Long hair is a big no-no, and accurate operation of machine pedals is important, so flat shoes are a must too.
Clinton: First Ava’s introduced to an industrial sewing machine.
Miriam: So what happened is we ran out of bobbin thread – and as you can see my bobbin is empty, so I need to change that. So I’ve already wound our spare bobbin over here.
Miriam: On the course it’s very hands-on. Most people that come to us come because they love to make things, they’re very tactile, they love to do things, so we keep the class lessons, as we call them, to a minimum – mostly it’s all about learning by doing. It’s more of a workroom environment.
Clinton: Well, no problems for Ava here.
Miriam: There you go, you did really well!
Ava: Thank you!
Miriam: Some of the things that the students do, in the first part of the class we’re still getting to know each other, is they’ll do a weaving project where they’ll weave a basket and they’ll do a knitting project where they knit this teddy, so a lot of them haven’t done this before, and while they sort of think that it’s fun and its social and it’s creative, what the students are actually learning is how woven fabrics and knitted fabrics are constructed.
Clinton: Industrial machines run about five times faster than domestic machines, so there’s quite a learning curve here.
Miriam: That’s great, now just a little jiggle…jiggle jiggle…just to get you started. It doesn’t matter if you stop a little bit – you don’t want to start off with a surge.
Miriam: That’s really good…that’s good…can you feel that?
Miriam: Yeah, then we bring this hand down to here as you move, so it’s like a spider walking, it’s like – you know those little robots that you get, and their feet go creak, creak, creak, like that?
Miriam: It’s like that OK? That’s what you’re going to be like but it’s going to come towards you.
Ava: Righto! Alright!
Miriam: Speed is very important so we have to be constantly trying to strike that balance between quality and time.
Clinton: There is also an introduction to the spec sheet, the all-important document which records the information about a garment. Measurements, quantities, work minutes required, costs, all relevant facts required to produce a garment commercially.
Miriam: So what’s happening is all the students are working through their production workbook, which has all the exercise in it that you need to cover in CGT. They’re all at different stages, so you can see we’ve got Saskia over here working on her little mini T-shirts, and she’s going to be doing 40 of those, and we do 40 so you can have a lot of practice and get the repetition you really learn the exercise well.
Kevin: We teach our students communication, they work in teams, they learn to develop their own learning styles, recognise their learning styles and develop other learning styles. We teach them how to present ideas clearly and concisely across to other people as well as the technical skills so they’re sort of learning all aspects of their development and the most successful students come from the fact that we have an absolute maximum of students for each tutor in a class.
Miriam: OK, so once you’ve learnt all the basic operations, we put them together into garment construction. So once you’ve finished your overlocking, you’re going to make a T-shirt like this, you’ll learn how to put the rib on and finish that off. You’re going to make a shirt so each garment shows you how we can use different techniques.
Miriam: So this is the pattern-designing area, which is our second course and the students learn how to draft patterns, from the start, they also grade everything they make as well, as well as spec sheet and they get to sew everything as well.
Clinton: Doula Matheos is tutor for the Pattern Design Certificate course.
Doula: So the first job you’re going to do is to make a cover for your set-square.
Clinton: And Ava’s going to use a pattern that she’s drawn up to do that.
Clinton: The shape is accurately measured out and then drawn…
Clinton: …then this first draft is transferred to the much stronger pattern card using pinpricks as markers…
Clinton: …and the pattern sheet can then be drawn and cut.
Kevin: The second programme certificate of pattern design is teaching all the skills involved for making patterns for men’s, women’s and children’s patterning, because each of those have different rules, and then all of the design adaptations that are possible, so making a straight skirt into a flared one or a flounced one or gores or pleats or whatever.
Doula: OK, so now we’re going to chalk around and cut it out…
Doula: …but you’re not going to be using scissors today, you’re going to be using this thing here.
Clinton: Cutters like this are fast and powerful, they have to be used with steel mesh gloves.
Doula: Very nice…well done.
Ava: It’s quite fun!
Kevin: The exciting thing about the fashion industry is that there are different jobs that we’ve sort of managed to itemise at the moment. It’s such a diverse industry, because throughout all the glamour and the shoots and the styling and that sort of presentation, backed up with that is the fact that the deadline is next Friday and if this range isn’t prepared in time and gotten to the customer by next Friday, they’re going to cancel that order.
Verena: How’s it been going?
Ava: Really good! It’s been really interesting – I’ve learnt so much.
Verena: We’ve got more to show you up at our Auckland Campus.
To become a garment technician you need to have a New Zealand Diploma in Fashion Technology (Level 5), which you can study through a course provider or apprenticeship.
Some course providers may require you to have the New Zealand Certificate in Fashion Technology (Level 3) and/or work experience before you can study for the diploma.
- Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) website - information on the Diploma in Fashion Technology
- NZ Fashion Tech website - information on the Diploma in Fashion Technology
NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include design and visual communication (graphics), digital technologies, maths, processing technologies, and painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking combined.
Garment technicians need to be:
- good at communicating
- persuasive and able to motivate people
- good problem solvers
- able to make good judgements
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- able to work well under pressure.
Useful experience for garment technicians includes work:
- as a sewing machinist, cutter or patternmaker
- as a clothing designer or textile designer
- as a fashion buyer
- in a clothing factory or workroom.
Garment technicians need to have normal colour vision and good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses).
Find out more about training
- 0800 526 1800 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.competenz.org.nz
- Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT)
- 0800 22 55 348 - www.eit.ac.nz
- NZ FashionTech
- 0800 800 300 - email@example.com - www.nzfashiontech.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Demand for garment technicians expected to rise
About 1,000 garment technicians work in New Zealand. This number dropped by 20% between 2014 and 2016; however, it is expected to start rising.
This is due to growing popularity of clothing that is environmentally friendly and made in New Zealand.
Also, while many clothing retailers get their clothing made overseas, they need New Zealand-based garment technicians to choose designs and fabrics to suit the New Zealand customer. Garment technicians also check the quality of clothing that has been made overseas before it goes on sale.
Demand for garment technicians is also rising due to an insufficient number of people training in this role.
Chances best for garment technicians with good design skills
Employers prefer garment technicians who can interpret, and make changes to, complex designs and patterns. This speeds up the manufacturing process.
Most garment technician jobs not advertised
If you are interested in getting work as a garment technician, it's best to approach companies yourself, as over half of new positions in the industry are not advertised.
Types of employers varied
Garment technicians may work for:
- small fashion houses
- large clothing manufacturers
- fashion retailers
- fashion buyers.
- Edmunds, S, 'New Zealand Designers Carve Out Niche to Take on Fast Fashion', 16 April 2017, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Marshall-Smith, V, academic director, NZ Institute of Fashion Technology Ltd, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, November 2017.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupation Outlook – Tailors and Patternmakers', accessed October 2017, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- New Zealand Apparel, 'Is NZ-Made Dead?', 2 August 2017, (www.apparelmagazine.co.nz).
- NZ Fashion Tech, 'Changing Times', accessed October 2017, (www.nzfashiontech.ac.nz).
- NZ Fashion Tech, 'Gaining Employment', accessed October 2017, (www.nzfashiontech.ac.nz).
- NZ Fashion Tech, 'Industry Opportunities', accessed October 2017, (www.nzfashiontech.ac.nz).
- Ryan, H, 'Fashion Industry's Moment to Shine', 26 August 2017, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Garment technicians may progress to become clothing designers, production managers or buyers.
Last updated 2 July 2019