THE DESIGN PROCESS
Fashion designers help to create the billions of dresses, suits, shoes, and other clothing accessories purchased every
year by consumers. There are no two designers in the world who will go about creating a fashion collection exactly the same
way. Some designers do their own research while others rely on trend reports published by fashion industry trade groups.
For the aspiring young designer, the following paragraphs detail basic core steps necesssary in developing a design idea into
a real garment.
Research represents the first stage in the design process which must be done thoroughly.
Good research will help lay the foundation for developing your collection and inspire the direct of the designs. A designer
should explore their creativity by selecting a subject, concept or time period that excites and intrigues them.
- Inspiration: When it comes to finding inspiration, use your environment to explore, analyze and borrow ideas, colors and
shapes that stand out for you. Whether you live in the city country, both settings can offer a wealth of inspiration. Develop a
theme, story or philosophy for your collection.
- Design Style: Observe international runway shows and study the themes that help define the looks of different collections
past and present. Consider any giants from the fashion world that you really admire. Most world famous designers are known
by a trademark look.
French designer Coco Chanel changed women’s fashion with simple menswear inspired suits and long lean dresses.
American designer Betsey Johnson is well known for her feminine, whimsical spirited designs that include a wide range of
colors and styles. British designer Bruce Oldfield is best known for his couture occasion wear. He dresses Hollywood
actresses, British and International Royalty and European aristocracy.
The sketchbook: The sketchbook is a very important part of the research process because it can record every stage and
thought along the way. It is an excellent way of collecting design ideas. Ideas are developed through drawing, note taking,
personal interpretation, and investigation before they’re transformed into initial designs for a collection.
Starting Out: Study the leading designers collections. Observe their signature colors and influences. Stay up-to-date on
fashion forecast articles to see if there are any emerging trends and keep the themes simple if possible.
After collecting a substantial amount of research in your sketchbook, start thinking about a specific mood that represents the
key image references. This exercise helps you communicate the theme, concept and direction of the entire collection. The
moodboard should showcase any visuals that are inspiring – magazine clippings, postcards, photos, drawings, sketches etc.
Include your choice of fabrics to define the color story.
The moodboard will be your reference tool and it should:
Be exciting, Interesting and visually inspiring and should communicate its theme clearly!
The size of the moodboard is determined by how much information a designer has collected and what kind of layout is
desired. Move elements around on the layout before you stick anything down. Keep the message clear, simple and don’t be
repetitive with unnecessary additions. Show your finished moodboard to someone who is unaware of the theme or concept. If
they can interpret and understand its visual message on their own, you’ve created a successful moodboard.
3] DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
Design development is the point at which ideas begin to move from the moodboard to a drawing model. As you begin to
decide what the collection should look like, aim to prepare a variety of styles that differ in length, cut, fabric and color. Try to
remember that there are no set rules in design development.
Refining the collection:
-Work through one or two ideas at a time.
-Aim for garments that are wearable and reflect the original theme.
-Take and idea from its research sketch origins and illustrations to further evolution at the.
-Choose the right fabrics.
-Choose design details.
4] USING THE DRESS FORM
Designers use the dress form to start working out the shape of a garment by draping different fabrics. Working through ideas
on a dress form helps to visualize the look of different fabrics on the three-dimensional human form. The human form is
where all designs must work successfully.
-Draping helps a designer learn about a fabrics stretch, weight and texture.
-Take the most successful design ideas and drape them on a dress form.
-Develop a good understanding of how different shapes and fabrics hang on the female form.
-Practice developing ready-to-wear garments and outfits.
-Be prepared to record your work at different stages with drawings or photographs from all angles
on the dress form.
-Pinning fabrics on the dress form will help you understand their strengths, possible weaknesses
and come up with more design ideas in the process.
Finalizing a garment:
A garment may be nearly complete but require that an important detail be hand finished to achieve the desired look. As a
designer, one may need to take a step back and consider the visual impact of a fabric combination or shape of the neckline.
Choosing a dress form:
Dress forms vary in size. Most designers work on size 8 or 10 to produce samples for their collections. Dress forms are
traditionally covered in calico with a thin layer of wadding that allows for pins to be inserted when fabric needs to be held in
place. Choosing the correct dress form is essential to the success of a designers work. You may opt for a collapsible
shoulder dress form which is good for close-fitting garments. A lower body form can be used for fitting and draping skirt or
5] UNDERSTANDING PROPORTIONS
As a designer, you must be able to understand the female form and garment proportions to get the desired finished look of a
Designs should be practical and flattering on the women who wear them. No two women have the exact same body
measurements so a designer should offer variety in the proportions of the collection and let the buyer decide what fits them
A designer always considers how the proportions and lengths of garments will work together in the final collection.
Allow for individuals to wear pieces of the collection in their own unique way. For example, a skirt being worn over pants, a
cardigan worn over a dress or shorts or maybe a knee length jacket worn over Capri pants.
Finally, consider how layers of clothing might work with each other and think about the variety of proportions that should be a
part of your collection.
6] DEFINING SILHOUETTE
Silhouette shapes are defined by the way that garments hang or drape on the human body. Companies and design houses
invest a lot of time, money and creative effort into developing signature silhouettes to make their design collections stand out
so their brand has immediate visability.
Look at the current clothing trends, the proportions presently regarded as fashionable and the outline created by the
garments when worn.
Let your previous research and moodboard help guide you to developing your own unique style of silhouette.
7] CHOOSING COLORS
Generally fall/winter collections tend to be darker and deeper although this is not a hard rule. The fabrics and colors chosen
by the designer will depend mostly on the season the collection is aimed at and personal choice.
The Power of Colors:
Colors are chosen for their power to evoke strong emotional responses.
A color wheel is an excellent way to learn about color combinations. Complementary colors such as red and green lie
opposite each other on a color wheel. Analogous colors like green and blue lie adjacent to one another. Reds, oranges and
yellows stimulate the senses and tend to be perceived as “warm” – capable of stirring up feelings of stimulation, cheeriness,
good health and aggression.
Blues and Greens on the other hand, are seen as “cool” and associated with feelings of calmness, peace and safety.
The fashion cycle follows the seasons of spring/summer and fall/winter. Colors are often grouped together in a season
related group. These groups will represent the most popular color trends for that season. Popular choices for the fall/winter
season include black, gray, deep blues, greens and reds. They can also include gold, purples, forest green and neutrals.
Spring/ Summer season colors are more likely to include pastels, bright yellows, reds, greens, blues, silver, pinks, white and
some highlights of neon.
Contrasting bright bold colors give a garment a look that is daring and pleasing to the eye.
Neutrals do not draw immediate attention but have a more subtle effect. They can be used to offset a more elaborate part of
Copyright © 2007-2016 The Michigan Fashion House. All rights reserved