February 20, 2008

Design with a plan

If you watch Project Runway or believe any of the stereotypical Fashion Designer drivel, you may think a line is designed by pure inspiration. A designer goes to a museum and is inspired by a piece of artwork and can magically create 5-7 pieces that all work together. Or perhaps a designer flips through some swatches and tosses some to an assistant to make samples out of. This kind of thinking is silly nonsense and will lead to disaster.

It is true that a designer can be inspired by a piece of artwork, a fabric print, color, etc. But unless one designs with a plan, or end goal, it will only be an exercise in design for design's sake. A design plan should follow some basic steps and answer basic questions:
  1. Review the past line.
    1. What sold best/worst?
    2. Customer comments
    3. Returns
  2. Review past goals and set new ones.
    1. Did you meet sales expectations?
    2. What are my sales goals for this season?
    3. How is my budget?
    4. Set design budget for the next season.
  3. Shop the market between seasons.
    1. What are my competitors selling?
    2. What are their price points?
    3. Do I hang with them?
You'll notice that none of these questions have anything to do with design. They are ordinary business questions and it is good practice to review them at the end/start of a new season. Finally, I sit down and actually "design" my line.
  1. Shop for fabric/trims. (this is where I find my "inspiration".
    1. Does the fabric express the brand?
    2. Does it fit within the price point for raw materials?
  2. Determine number of styles/pieces.
    1. Can any styles be carried over in new color/print?
I then sketch, come up with words to describe the group and generally get lost in the design process for about 2 days. I sample my styles directly in the real fabric. I don't do muslins or toiles - those are only to work out pattern problems. The sample making process can take a few weeks and gets a little nitty gritty.

Anyhoo, I guess I need to follow my own advice. This is as far as I have gotten:


  1. Looks like a start! Have fun :)

  2. interesting to here how you go about this process. thanks for sharing.

  3. Anonymous8:27 AM

    LOL! I'm one sketch ahead of you after 4 weeks!

    But I've used the time to really research my market---competitors, price points.

    One of the only things I'm having trouble with is designing within my price points for my interlock knit shirts. The applique costs make it a losing item. Gotta think more about how I can pull it off within cut and sew costs.

    Thanks for all the great business side of things...it's what we need to do to make our lines successful.

    and I needed a push to get my sketch pad back out and get designing!

    With friendship,

  4. Hi; Great post, like you, we always analyze last years line to emphasize positive trends and don't finalize the line until the trims are selected. Hope you visit my blog at www.corkynation.com. We make children's clothing also. Kind Regards, Alan