20 Fashion Design Tips for Aspiring Designers
Work in a Job you've Always Dreamed of Doing !
When I finished my degree in Philosophy and French, I decided it was time to listen to my heart and set upon getting trained in fashion. I undertook a 2 year Diploma for this qualification. It was hard work but I learned excellent skills such as sewing and pattern drafting and how to manage time and money. If you don't have the time to undertake a full time course, you can get books and look at tutorials online to help bridge the gap for the knowledge that you need to get started in this exciting industry.
Careers include, pattern drafting, sample sewers, seamstresses, trend forecasters , buyers , visual merchandizing, brand marketing , fashion illustration and of course running your own fashion business.
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1) Begin With the End in Mind
Whether you want to see your name in lights or just have a few clients on your books , have a clear idea in your head of what your end goal is.
2) Research Research Research
Many designers start with a point of influence such a piece of artwork for example. A great thing for you to do is to do your own art and base your designs on that. In the picture on the left, I've shown how I based a skirt I made on ginger. I drew the wrinkly lines and created mixed media displaying the texture of the ginger with tracing paper to get across the outer skin of ginger. My skirt and blouse that I made were based on this with the blouse being made from a sheer fabric and the skirt I made of a pink fabric and used a shearing technique( involving elastic thread) to represent the lines of the ginger.
3) Keep a Fantastic Notebook.
They say that each of the arts should inspire each other so fashion designers should inspire interior designers and so on and so forth. Keeping a notebook of all the things that inspre you should help you get a clearer focus of what you like as a designer. Whether its an odd shaped leaf or a colorful tissue paper, keep a lovely notebook to record your thought process. You will be inspiring other designers on day with your work!
4) Read Around your Subject
Fashion History is a huge part of fashion design. For example the Victorian era can inspire the collar of the moment. This is why it's so important to learn about the trends of times past. In addition to this, you will want to learn about the dress of other cultures as many designers choose to base entire collections on other cultures dress and fabrics.
5) Get Familiar with Other Designers
In order to find your style as a designer it is necessary to study the work of others. Analyze the silhouettes your fellow designers enjoy creating. Whether they enjoy playing with light or if its shape that gets them going. This will help you to discover that you enjoy perhaps working with texture and you can find your niche in the market. It is also important to network with other designers as collaboration is key to getting along in the industry - a group of you could get together to put on a fashion show of your collections for example.
7) Keep Abreast with Trends
I make fashion boards up for myself all the time so that I can be familiar with the colors and textures that will be popular in the coming seasons. The four boards in the picture, I made up after having visited Premiere Vision in Paris which is an excellent event for seeing the trends which are upcoming. If you don't have the chance to go to that event you can get designers reports to get you up to speed.
8) Invest in a Good Sewing Machine
A good sewing machine is a great investment for you. If you don't have the money you can check online for deals on second hand sewing machines which will at least get you started.
9) Purchase an artists dummy
Practice drawing the figure for fashion illustrations. Illustrating your designs is very important especially if you choose to have personal clients for whom you want to get your ideas across to.
10) Get Friendly with Fabrics
I absolutely love hunting out fabric shops and fabric markets. The color, the texture the whole visual feast excites me. Keep a fabric notebook (yes I love notebooks by the way). Buy small scraps of different types of fabric, sheer, heavy weight, stretch etc and sew seams on them. Learn how they behave and what tension suits them best. Wash them, dye them become a scientist and record all your results in the notebook so that when it comes to working with this fabric down the line, you have a ton of information at your disposal. You will also chose what your favorite fabric to work with is.
11) Design for Your Skill !
As a student I was terrible for trying to either 'overdesign' or design things that were too complicated for what I could manage. You have to build on the basics before you can become a master! Remember that what you design has to be structured into a pattern and then sewn up using your chosen products. In the picture I've detailed what was my design for a coat , the pattern layout on the fabric and the final product on the runway.
Also it is very important to keep a record of your pattern layout, and laying the fabric in the most economical way so as to minimize waste. The reason for keeping such records is for when your design is made up in a commercial standard there is a record of what was the best layout of pattern pieces.
12) Get an Internship
One of the best things you can do is to get yourself an internship in one of the bigger design houses or even an up an coming designer. Unfortunately you can expect to be paid little or nothing in this role but the experience you will be gain will be priceless. To be able to see firsthand the process from design to runway is an advantage you will have over other candidates when looking for employment in the industry.
13) practice with a Pattern
A ready made pattern is the perfect way to get used to the skill of sewing up a garment from a pattern. It takes the pressure off drafting your own at tern and allows you to familiarize yourself with such things as notches which are little markers indicating where to sew . This will help you to gain a deeper knowledge of pattern drafting as you begin to understand the terminology and why it is important to mark the straight of grain ( which means placing your pattern piece on the straight of the fabric )
14) Learn The best angle to cut a Particular Fabric
For example cutting a piece on the bias ( a 45 degree angle) allows for more ease. Often times you will hear of a bias trim which is a fancy way of saying a piece is finished on its edges with pieces that have been cut at 45 degree angles. This is a very nice way to finish such things as collars and hems. A designer who was famous for cutting on the bias was Madeleine Vionnet and is credited with creating the bias cut.
14) Seams Important
The most common seam is a plain seam. But there are many others, which you should be familiar with that determine the finish of a garment. For example if you are using a sheer fabric, it would be appropriate to use a French seam. Make up a seam library like the fabric notebook so you have examples to hand of all the different seams you can have.
Draping is an excellent technique where you pin fabric to a mannequin and record accurately the pattern you created on paper with the fabric you pinned. It can be used to create tailored items such as jackets as well as more free styles like flowing dresses.
16) Target Market
It is very important to know your target market when designing. Creating a customer profile can help you focus who will design a range for and can be particularly useful if you decide to approach small boutiques with our collections. Doing a little research can help you tailor (see what I did there?) your garments to the customer base of a particular shop.
17) Craft Fairs
Crafts are a fantastic resource for new supplies but also possibility to get your stuff seen. If you can get yourself a stall or even share one with another designer, you will be well on your way to getting your brand out there.
18) Keep a Digital Portfolio
Remember to take photographs of all your work so that you can have images ready to hand to e mail potential clients and employers. You will also want to sign up to social media sights like linkedin and have your current CV uploaded for companies of interest to see your history. If you don't have a good camera, go to local photography groups and see if you can collaborate with them to set up a shoot with your work. Stident photographers are often looking for interesting subjects.
19) Equip yourself with Art Tools
You will need to invest in items like pro markers which are great for illustrating your designs and plenty of pencils. Some designers prefer to work with water colors, it is entirely up to but trying out a lot of different mediums will help yu explore which is right for you.
20) Timing & Pricing
Keeping an accurate time record of how long it takes to make the garment and the money spent on materials is vital if you are setting up your own business. Remember to charge yourself at least minimum wage per hour spent, after all you are not working for free !