Clothing Design

Posted by Iain Russell on

*This article is a work in progress and has not been edited

"Creativity comes when constraints are applied"

Rough Idea:

So you have an idea! Perfect. That was the easy part. If you have endless funding please visit the contact form as I would suggest funding great ideas that I have. If you are looking at experiencing the pain that is fashion design do I have the info for you! I was super lucky to have people show me the ways and get me the contacts I needed to create a fashion line. I will do my best to outline the steps below including links to how you can look into the process more. And if you do have questions feel free to reach out and I would be happy to help as those before helped me. 

Most of the resources I will share will be centred around Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Sorry if you don't live here.

Fabric:

https://kendortextiles.com/

Fabric is moving to the online world and you can look at sourcing top level fabrics from around the world. The world of wholesale can be a little strange. There is generally some sign up - some phone calls. But fabric wholesalers are connected. They know the best manufactures and who is easy to work with. So working with a local fabric wholesaler can be really great. I once had to deal with rolls of Japanese fabric at the port of Vancouver needing to clear customs and then you need to get them to your manufacturer. Where Kendor would take fabric from their warehouse to the manufacturers free of charge. So research can save you money, time, and headaches. 


It's very normal to get sample cards that will have the width of the roll which becomes important when it comes to the pattern. There are also factors on how the fabric will wash. Depending on the fibers in the fabrics can also change the pattern and manufacturing of the garment. There will also be minimum and possibly maximum order quantities on fabrics. Some like Kendor require a wholesale account with them which is fairly easy to obtain. There can also be price breaks in fabric depending on the amount which can factor into price points. More than likely you will need to order a small amount of fabric to make samples with. But don’t rush in too far past the fabric swatches and width of the fabric. No fast fashion here. 

Design:
So.. We got an idea, we found some fabric that might work. Now we are going to need to flesh out the garments a bit more. This might be a good time to mention that most fashion designs are stolen OR WELL BORROWED. But shirts haven't changed that much in the last 100 years. A Vietnam era m-65 jacket is still cool and still released by brands every season. Fashion designed becomes about fit and fabric with a side of style. Designed is generally a series of decisions. A lot of what I was doing was creating garments in fabrics and making changes that fit to my and my customers lives. 

It is really common to take a sample garment and make decisions like longer sleeves, slimmer fit, different pockets. A good pattern drafter can work with you to create the graded size patterns you will need. But they will want to know details around what fabrics are being chosen and for you to have a solid idea of the overall concept. Designed kind of weaves itself though all parts of this process but for ease of discussing it I kind of put it between two big pillars of fabric and manufacturing. 

I don't necessarily want to impart too much of my personal design ethos, but what I will provide is just some words of wisdom. Think of your customers - as designers and artists we spend a fair amount of time dreaming about how things could be better. But we need to spend some time thinking about the who, what, and how, behind the end users of our products.

Manufactures: 

https://precisionpatternsinc.com/

Manufactures are magical. I loved working with Precision Patterns. The quality was amazing, they offered pattern drafting services which was great as when the people making the patterns are making the garments there is a better understanding of constraints and I find a better focus on the engineered side of creating the structure of a garment. If your manufacturer doesn't do pattern drafting or you have those skills you will want to enquire about what limitations they have. 

You will most likely want to get a sample garment made to test the design. You can get different levels of samples. I generally went for production quality to really test the fit and fabric. And then would ideally only need small changes for production. Depending on the garment you are making the need for the sample can change. Samples are really expensive as you will have had to get a pattern and fabric just for that one garment. It's really important to make sure you have solid funds going into your production cycle. But those samples can help you get pre orders, more funding, or build buzz for what's to come. 

 Now that you have a sample, fabric, and a manufacture, you are basically ready to feel that pain that is design by business decisions

Business:

I was going to put design after manufacturing because the costing will affect so much of what you end up producing. Then I realized that really this is the business of fashion part more than anything else.

So. Fashion works off minimums so say you want to make a shirt the factoring might say we can do a minimum of 100 shirts for 25$ a shirt. So unless you are really ready to sell 100 of one thing most factories will let you do that 100 shirts in a few colour-ways so 50 blue and 50 white. Which makes this part of working with the factories loop back into the fabric choices and also the designs themselves.

This is really what makes starting out hard - the lower the minimums the higher the cost of manufacturing. The more clothes you make the more fabric you have to buy and the more risk you take on with stock. This all gets into the profit margins which generally are set at the cost to make the garment let's say 45$ 20$ for fabric 25$ for each item to be made. You would wholesale this to a store at ~90$ and it would retail for $150-180. This is what pushed me into being my own retailer. Being able to set my own margin allowed for me to lower prices for customers while also making more money myself. That said if you can set up a strong partnership with a retailer then you can have success pushing sales though independent or larger retailers. 

Hey if you've made it this far then thank you. I will include the most recent concept line I did that I would love for someone to endlessly fund for me! [here]