My Design Process: Turning Inspiration into Short Girls' and Petite Womens Clothing
Whenever I have a conversation about designs, I get this question: What is your fashion design process and steps? I never thought this is something that people are curious about. But what I found is that by sharing my ideas and story, I get to spark someone else's creativity. In this post, I am going to share my fashion design process in hope to spark your imagination and creativity! Let's get day dreaming started.
DESING PROCESS STEP 1. GETTING INSPIRED
Like many designers, my design process starts with what inspires me most at that moment. I found that I am most inspired to create during 3 moments:
1. When something is missing that I just need to bring to existence
Sketch of the Madeline Jumpsuit designed out of necessity for short women like me. Available here.
2. Travels and experiencing other cultures
A sketch and concept from my Spring/Summer 2009 collection, inspired by my travel to Laos, the shades of saffron colors of the robes worn by the monks trotting on the streets, and the riverside village landscape of Luang Prabang.
3. Day-to-day discovery of little things
Being in museums, parks and nature always fuels me with an abundance of inspiration and ideas. Here is a snap shot from our recent family visit to the SF MOMA. In the picture, Charlie, my husband, was explaining to Madeline the concept of mobiles. This one is designed by Alexander Calder, serving as the inspiration for next collection in progress.
DESING PROCESS STEP 2. VISUALIZE & SKETCH
When I design, I have a muse in mind —
She is a 29 year old woman who is 5’1/2” tall, loves travel, culture, exploration, and on a quest for bunch food. She is on a mission to create positive societal impact, both in small and big ways, and is always on the go. So when I design for her, I think about her day–to-day life, hopes and dreams, and what occasion she is going to. Then I sketch out a silhouette that will make her feel like she living her life, and incorporate features and details that make her life a little easier.
This is the most exciting design process step because it is the phase where I merge my design with reality, brining my vision a step close to life. Since I design for short girls and petite women, I think about the proportion of my designs that would look outstanding on their bodies. The placement of the shoulder lines, arm hole size, waist line, hem or dress length, are all critical to ensuring the design fits their petite figure.
My goal to make them feel tall! When they wear one of my designs, they not only look taller because of its fit. It’s equally important to me that they feel confident and beautiful in their very self.
Usually the image of the garment just comes to my head in details. I am blessed with and grateful for the ability to visualize my designs in details when I close my eyes.
DESING PROCESS STEP 3. FINDING FABRICS
Once I have my sketches, I will search for fabrics that are closest to the color, texture and behavior I envision.
If I am making the design into a product offering for my online store, I will get swatches and sample yardages from fabric suppliers in the fashion trade. This is important and I talked about this topic in a previous post "Why Can't I Buy Fabrics from Mood?" You can read it here.
If I am doing a fun or experimental project, I will go to my local sources and fabric stores to lose myself in the endless possibility of fabrics.
On my About page, you can see some of previous experimental and unconventional material designs, such as a dress where I incorporated ~ 200 condoms for a fund raiser for Project Inform.
DESING PROCESS STEP 4. PROTOTYPING
Draping of the first Madeline Jumpsuit prototype on a dress form to see how the ruffle details fall on the bust.
For fabrics that I have already worked with, if the silhouette is simple, I will draft up a quick paper pattern (a 2D representation of the garment for each fabric piece to be cut out), and sewn the cut fabric pieces into its 3D form to see how it drapes.
If the fabric is new to me, or if the silhouette is more complex, I will drape the fabric on a dress form and cut into the fabrics directly. This is what I do most of the time so I can make changes of the design right there.
Regardless, it’s important to just let the fabrics speak. Even with fabrics I have used before, it can behavior completely out of my expectation. I tend to let the fabrics do what is natural to it. This It can lead to a small change. Sometimes, I also end up an entire different design — always an delightful "aha" moment.
DESING PROCESS STEP 5. REFINE
First fitting session of the Madeline Jumpsuit with Stacie, our 5'0" fit model.
It is very rare that my first prototype is my final. There are always refinements and tweaks. So I would go back to work on either the pattern or re-drape the garment until I am satisfied.
For designs that I will offer on my store, I fit them on a fit model – a step to test the clothes on a real person representing the intended body type to see how it fits on her.
What gets you inspired? Leave a comment below and let us know. Your idea may just be the spark that another read needs to get her creativity going.
Thank you for reading and sharing!
Posted on 14 April 2017