From Design

How many kinds of fashion illustrations?

sample_brushesFrom my mail, Luciana writes:

I'm a fashion student from Argentina. For my final project I want to pick fashion illustration and the various forms of representation used in the fashion industry (fashion figures, technical flats, diagrams, instructions, etc.) And for you being a professional in the industry, and having experience working with different types clients, I wanted to ask you for any advice or reference material you think would be useful for my thesis.

Considering the increasing complexity in this industry, I thought this would be a good subject to pursue, akin to the 13 kinds of samples post I wrote previously. I have a lot of books and sources so I could probably write this well enough on my own but it would be more useful to hear from practitioners who do the various kinds of sketch development regularly -since I only do it under duress.

It would be helpful if you could:

  • Name the illustration type
  • List its utility, why it's needed
  • When it's needed (if at all, it could be optional)
  • A resource for it (book, website etc)
  • and last but not least, a link to a sample illustration.

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What do good designers have in common? pt.2

In following up with the first part, What do good designers have in common?, I've used your helpful comments and added a few of my own in an attempt to quantify concrete characteristics of career designers.

The core elements I was looking for transcend design per se because if one only wanted design direction, one could hire stylists, consultants, merchandisers and/or subscribe to trend forecasting services. That said, Sarah's comment bears airing:

A good designer is one whose ideas sell and make a profit. Nothing else is essential. He/she can be knowledgeable or not, can be pleasant or a total (your favorite epitaph here). It doesn’t matter. If they sell, they are a good designer. If they do not sell, they are not a designer for long.

The most important skills (if not least liked tasks) required of a designer have always been managing projects, people, product and processes -today more than ever and apply equally to entrepreneur and employee designers. With a primary focus on project and or product management, the most important skills are organization and communication. Here's what I have so far, your comments are noted in parenthesis:

Practical skills of accomplished designers:

  • Computer literacy; competency in Illustrator, Photoshop, Excel, Word and PDM.
  • Effective visual communication: sketches that accurately convey proportion, dimensions and styling (Rocio).
  • Knows how to measure a garment, knows how to inspect a garment, knows and employs terminology effectively to articulate desired effects (Willetta).
  • Construction skills, understanding how garments go together (Heather).
  • Anticipate construction requirements to meet price points (Rocio).
  • Being aware of the number and order of steps in given processes as opposed to their costs.
  • Has the spatial ability to visualize in 3 dimensions (Sally).
  • Understand textile characteristics of drape, cut, weave, and maintenance/cleaning requirements (Willetta, Kimmie).
  • Shorten cycle time by understanding how design intersects with drape, fit and production needs (Rama).

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What do good designers have in common?

UK_ww2_fashion_designerSomeone asked me to describe the characteristics that all good designers have in common but I couldn't go beyond platitudes such as "good communication", "highly skilled", "professionalism" and "no baggage". Subjective answers like those aren't helpful because these apply to any work situation. Hard definitions and qualities that can be measured within this context are needed.

For example, it is obvious that experienced and professional designers are easier to work with because they have experience but what is it about their experience that makes it easy? And what experience? It's not so easy to answer while steering clear of circular logic. It has also become increasingly more difficult to answer in an era of increased job competition and the plethora of design degrees.

It would be greatly appreciated if you could -based on your experience of working as support staff or as a supervisor- describe core competencies and characteristics shared by good designers as concretely and thoughtfully as you can. Thanks so much!

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Organizing a spec sheet?

I'm not quite certain how to phrase this question someone posed so bear with me.

My friend is somewhat annoyed by the way spec sheets are organized. She thinks that forms should have the key attributes listed at the very top to save one the bother of scanning the list repeatedly (here is a sample). You know, a pant would have waist, hip and inseam listed at the top of the page -in addition to being listed along with all the other attributes in the chart.

I had two thoughts when she asked me. First was "doh!", because that would make my life simpler and save time, but two, it would mean creating a separate template for each garment or product type.

So the question is, how do you organize a spec sheet? Do you worry more about getting the right information plugged into the slots of whatever form is provided (or that the customer even has or wants one)? Or do you go above and beyond that to redesign the form (which presumes you have the say so to do something like that)?

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How much cash do you need to start a small clothing line?

On Quora, someone asked me how much cash do you need to start a small menswear label? I haven't responded over there yet, it was too long so I thought to post it here first. I frequently get variations of this question, a previous entry I wrote was how much does it cost to start a handbag line. My stock response is, how much does a house cost? Is it a dump in a crappy neighborhood or is it a restored pristine cottage on Martha's Vineyard? The questioner asked me how much cash I would need and I wouldn't be so boorish as to drill that down because why would he or she care? He or she would want to know what they can expect to pay, not what I would.

But then I thought, maybe I should answer the question literally in terms of how much cash I would need to start a menswear clothing line. That is a better question because most startups (nearly all) waste way too much money. Okay, so let's unpack this. By the way, I suggest you hang around for this even if you don't care one whit for menswear.

My first thought was "menswear label" is too broad, I'd have to determine my customer within the parameters of what I'm interested in producing. You need to do that too. Is your market young urban males, marathoners, bikers, C-level executives or your average IT guy? Each market has its own dictates for everything from styling and fitting in, to disposable income, signaling requirements and need. Since I have tons of menswear experience, I'd do casual western styled sportcoats at a mid range price point for men aged 35+. Forced to put a point to it, my ideal customer's wife subscribes to Cowboys & Indians while he reads Western Horseman. I'd do that for a few reasons:

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Advice to sewing contractors pt.3

This entry being third in the series (part one, part two), it has a distinctly different flavor. Again, I think it would be beneficial to read it even if you're not a contractor etc. Without further ado, a sewing contractor friend of mine -let's call him Al- writes:

Sometimes I wonder what should I do in the near future. I have a nucleus of 3 good pattern makers, real seamstress (not just machine operators) in my family plus a better than average setup of sewing machines. Should I produce a line? Should I or shouldn’t I? What would you do if you were me?

Two quick thoughts come to mind. First is that this contractor -in spite of having enviable resources- is facing a lot of the same hurdles that DEs do. Second, that because of these hurdles, you have less to fear from a contractor stealing your ideas than you imagine. Follow me:

In the book I explain that the whole shooting match is broken into three phases namely design, sales and production. Of these, Al only has the last part (production) in the bag. He has a few advantages in design in that he has the capacity to make patterns and produce samples but the first part is missing. In the sales segment, he's completely bereft.I know you think anybody in this industry is magically connected to all the other segments in this business but sales is the weak link -particularly for production people because we're talking about two entirely different personality profiles. Simplistically stated, sales and production are like oil and water -immiscible.

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Review: Leather Fashion Design

leather_fashion_design_coverLeather Fashion Design is the newest book written by Francesca Sterlacci, former fashion chair at FIT. Accordingly, some of you probably know her; I've never had the pleasure although I knew of her through an earlier book she wrote called Leather Apparel Design. Speaking of, this new book is very similar to the earlier one so if you have that you may not need this one. The new book amounts to a revised and expanded edition of the previous title which is now out of print. Lastly a caveat on my suitability for reviewing this book; much of my experience is in leather production.

Strengths: Overall, it's a solid focus on design and production constraints. In my professional opinion, this is required reading and careful study for anyone who is considering a career in leather production either as a manufacturer or designer. The text contains a nice survey of leather garment history (also nice photos), a comprehensive discussion of hide tanning and processing, as well as much needed explanation of hand, weights and finishes. Subsequent chapters include advice on line planning, costing, cutting, seam finishing and sewing.

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How to illustrate ruffles & skirt fullness

The short version: I'm finally learning to use Adobe Illustrator. Yay me!

The long version: In the olden days, pattern makers didn't need to know how to sketch because illustration was the designer's job. I think most of us took the class because it was in the first year before students knew into which camp they'd eventually develop their strongest interest. These days though... it seems few designers provide illustrations. Since the job must be done, it has increasingly fallen to service providers to provide sketches. Which is fine as these things go. What isn't fine is when new designers have the expectation that it is our job or worse, act like there is something wrong with us because we don't offer it as a matter of course.

But I digress. I put an ad on Craigslist for a tutor this weekend because I'm hopeless when it comes to teaching myself certain things. I lined up tutor A on Saturday and Tutor B on Sunday. Not sure which I like better, each have their strengths. Both are poor which makes me sad (they wanted $15 an hour but I paid $25. Considering their student, anything less amounts to cruel and unusual punishment).

Okay, so today I'm practicing what I learned and decided to do a very simple illustration tutorial for designers. I do not plan to do many, only as it relates to common problems in communicating your ideas that end up costing you a lot of money because you have to have your patterns remade. One such example is gathering and ruffling.

Below are two skirts. The one on the left is a straight skirt with gathers at the waist. The pattern for this is a rectangle or maybe a square depending on the desired fullness. The skirt on the right is a circle skirt. Its pattern is a half circle. Meaning, if you wanted the skirt on the right but you drew one that looked like the skirt on the left, it is not your pattern makers fault and you'll have to pay extra to cut a completely new pattern because you can't reuse the former pattern.


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La Bricoleuse -a costuming blog

labricoleuseHark! A new-to-me blog, La Bricoleuse, courtesy of Rachel Pollock, a costume artisan and graduate school professor at UNC Chapel Hill. I don't remember how I found the site but I was immediately attracted to its high quality content. For example, this entry on making a half scale dress form. While it may not be as in depth as one would like, the materials and chemicals used in the process are obvious if you're of a mind to make your own. I think many of the form tutorials available keep sources close to the vest. But maybe not now, I haven't looked in awhile.

UNC_student_projectsAnother feature of the site is an inside look at student costuming projects. I can't speak for you but I had never had to do anything like this. A sample is shown in the image at right. Kaitlin Fara's drape is on the left and Adrienne Corral's work is on the right. I'm very impressed with the level of craftsmanship, the result being very polished. It provides a striking counterpoint to a lot of costuming work seen on the web, much of the latter looks as though it has been glued together.

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Analysis of a knock off -what designers must know

Today's entry was inspired by a link someone sent me to a blog entry that featured someone's example of a knock off. The source is immaterial and remains unnamed but we can learn a lot from its example. The critical issues at hand were material selection and pattern execution. The thing to keep in mind is that its designer was not intending to pirate or anything like that. Regardless, even as an educational exercise, there are critical lessons to be had. The first one being material selection in so much as we've discussed it before, a rendition will hardly resemble the source of inspiration if one's materials are not compatible et cetera. Anyway, no criticism of its maker is intended but that the item is critiqued makes this a sensitive topic. However regretfully, I can only post it in the forum. Looking forward to your comments.

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