In many ways, gathering inspiration, sketching and selecting fabrics is the easy part of creating a collection – the harder part is getting down to the nuts and bolts of actually transforming the vision into reality.
The process of translating a sketch into a set of patterns and then into a perfected sample is long but very important. Many times, the vision just doesn’t translate into a wearable garment, or significant changes are required to make it work -- there are a lot of trial and error and “back to the drawing board” moments! Often, design details are tested first to see if they can be recreated in fabric and thread.
Here's a test of the channel-stitching -- rows of parallel topstitching -- that is one of the key design details on the Luxe Parka. I made these test samples to make sure the parallel rows could be sewn neatly around the curved seams. It was tricky, but do-able.
Here's the channel stitching on the final fabric. I used a heavier weight thread to make sure the stitches stand out from the fabric.
From a sketch, the patternmaker drafts a set of patterns using a “block” or master pattern that is unique to the designer. Every designer has a set of blocks – master patterns for bodices, skirts, pants, sleeves, etc. – that are representative of the unique “fit” that the designer wants his or her line to have. This is why there is so much variability in how different brands fit, even when comparing the same sizes across brands. The blocks are all in a sample size – generally the size in the middle of a designer’s range of sizes.
To test the patterns, a muslin or toile is made using a plain cotton fabric. For accuracy when it comes time to fit the muslin, all of the guidelines are carefully marked. This muslin is used for a first fitting on a fit model – a model whose measurements represent the sample size. During the first fitting, checks include whether the overall design is attractive and representative of the original vision; how the garment fits key areas such as the shoulders, cross back, bust, waist, etc.; and whether any design or fit changes are needed. Any changes are clearly marked on the muslin, transferred to the patterns and another muslin is created for a second fitting. Depending on the complexity of the design, there can be several rounds of pattern alterations and muslins until the design is perfected. As an additional test, muslins can be made in fabrics that are similar in weight and texture to the final fabric.
Once the muslin is approved, a sample is made in the final fabric and, again, there could be multiple rounds to perfect the sample, as the final fabric will likely behave differently than the muslin fabric. All of the hardware and notions, such as zippers, buttons, etc. will be used at this point to make sure they are appropriate for the design. Once a final sample is completed and approved, it is ready to be photographed for the website, lookbooks and other sales materials.
The Luxe Parka for the photoshoot.
Sometimes, a design just doesn’t work, even after it has made it to this point. Here’s one of my designs for FW15 that made it all the way to the final sample stage but didn’t cut it once I tried it on real people with a variety of figure types. For me, this is an important step, because even though two people may be the same size, their proportions can be very different, and I want to make sure all of my styles suit as many figures as possible.
Back to the Drawing Board: This Crop Swing Jacket didn't make the cut for FW15. It is a cute style with a gorgeous printed silk charmeuse lining, but the fit was finicky on different figure types.