Designing Your Clothing Line Concepts
Designers typically focus on two major seasons: spring and fall. Have you decided the season in which you want to launch your first collection? To help you figure it out in terms of your life and such, just know that spring is generally designed in August, sold at market in October, and delivered in January, while fall is designed in March, sold at market in June, and delivered in August. Later, once you’ve got spring and fall dialed in, you can design for the minor seasons—summer, early fall/transition, and holiday/cruise. Just so you have it on your radar, summer is designed in November, sold at market in January, and delivered in March. Early fall/transition is designed in February, sold at market in April, and delivered in June. And holiday/cruise is designed in June, sold at market in September, and delivered in October. Lots to look forward to! OK, now’s the time to put it all together. You know your target customer—their lifestyle, income, activities—and you’ve decided the season you’re designing for. Next you have to make decisions about your assortment plan. At this stage in your brand, we’re really just talking about fabrics, colors, styles, and sizes. Later on, when you expand your collection, it’ll be more about deciding the number of skirts, pants, and jackets you’ll produce in a season. Sketch out your designs, even if you’re not in love with your artistry. It helps to get your ideas down. You can always hire a professional fashion illustrator down the line if you feel like you need better sketches. Choose which design ideas you like best and go with them.
The last part before we get into the technical stuff is figuring out your schedule. Work backwards from the delivery date to develop a timeline to get it all done. This step is important. Even if you’re not selling into boutiques at first, your ‘delivery date’ could mean when you plan to post your products on your own site for sale.
Creating a Pattern & Developing a Tech Pack
Patterns are the foundation for the construction of your garment and the entire manufacturing process. Not something to be taken lightly. Chances are you won’t be creating your patterns by yourself. Pattern making requires a specific skill set and a lot of expertise. Do your research and find yourself a qualified pattern maker with whom you can work. Your future self thanks you. And so does your budget. If the pattern isn’t made correctly, it could wind up throwing off your production costs. Meet with your pattern maker to go over your designs. If you have sketches, show them. If you have technical sketches, even better. You will want to make sure you detail things such as buttons, zippers, and folds. It would be great if you can also give them an idea of your target finished garment measurements. Let’s say you want a specific sleeve length or armhole size, for example. And don’t forget about fabric—it would be good to let them know what you plan on using; the weight and texture can make a difference when it comes to pattern making.
Once you have your pattern, test it. Create a sample made from it. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. It’s possible that you’ll need to adjust the pattern if it’s not exactly how you envisioned it. This is good. Work out all the design and technical kinks before you go into production.
Next step is your tech pack. Think of it as a document you will create in order to make the communication process more efficient between you and your manufacturer. You’ll include everything that someone would need in order to produce your garment exactly the way you want it. It should be so detailed that it speaks for itself. You could hand it over and your garment is practically as good as done. The more direction you give, the better the result. Your tech pack will evolve as you go but will definitely be finalized before you go into mass production.
Keep in mind that in dealing with the U.S. as well as overseas, you may run into communication barriers. The fashion industry is multi-ethnic. For this reason, you should make sure that your tech pack includes not only written instruction, but visual as well. Also, avoid using slang or any terms that could be easily misunderstood. Go for clarity! Include a header on each page of the tech pack that lists your company name and label, style number, delivery date, type of fabric, and a short description and/or a mini-sketch of the product.
Your tech pack will include technical flats which are two-dimensional drawings of the front and back of your garment. They show the proportion and special construction details required for production. Clearly show how your garment opens and closes and the placement of any embellishments or trim. If you have any complex details, include a callout or a blowup of the section. Be sure to document measurements, technical aspects, and special sewing instructions such as fuseables, interlining, seams, stitches, the exact placement of the pockets, button spacing, style of zipper setting, etc. Again, this is where drawings of details help to avoid confusion.
You may need to include special cutting instructions if you’re using a print or woven fabric. If you want your striped fabric to match at the seams, diagram it and spell it out. Leave nothing to chance. Remember, clarity is the word of the day when it comes to tech packs!