It is all about Design Development
Last time, I introduced you to the general modus operandi in brands. Now, I want to delve a little more into the more interesting aspect of thinking up the designs themselves and how that works. Although, this is quite a personal endeavour for each designer, so I will be mainly talking about what my process is like. Designing new collections basically all comes down to inspiration, creativity, and imagination. Designers can generally be inspired by anything – a piece of music, a sculpture, a feeling and so on and so forth, the options are endless! Case in point, at university I remember one of my tutors saying that by the end of our 3 years there, we should be so in tune with our creativity and know how to work with it, we should be able to design a full collection inspired by a pencil. I think some designers will lean towards a more specific group of inspirations – for example, some may be generally inspired by tangible things – architecture, sculptures. Others, by more intangible, surreal things – a feeling, a reaction to something etc. No inspiration starting point is better than another (that comes from the quality of the finished product!) and your starting point is literally just that – the start. The initial idea then needs to be developed – what about it will be used and how?
For example, if it’s a sculpture – will you be using the silhouette? The material? The textures (or lack of)? The size, volume, colour. What is makes you feel? Base the collection on what the meaning behind it was? You can dive in as deep as you want. It can get exceptionally complex when a designer starts to develop an idea – and that is before any drawing is even done, because there are just so many angles that can be picked up and worked with. But its super important that the designer limits the number of aspects they focus on because if not, the collection is likely to end up as visual chaos – all over the place and lacking cohesiveness. There are so many methods to developing the idea as well – mood boards, sketchbooks, experimenting with fabrics, on the tailoring dummy. Very often, all of those are mixed up. I had problems with the sketchbook during my university years, as the expectation was that the sketchbook needs to be all perfectly tidy and lined up, and that is just not how my creative brain works. The developing of the collection is an extremely personal process because each designer has a slightly different approach. Now, I am aware that what I am about to say is risky but, but, but! And even the amazing Yohji Yamamoto has said this – “Start copying what you love. Copy, copy copy. At the end of the copy, you will find yourself.” To clarify, I am not in any way shape or form condoning copying other designers’ collections! What often happens is that during the years of study, or even before university, a designer-to-be naturally has professionals who they admire, and whose style they love, and through doing projects they experiment with this style, that style and in the end something new comes out of that. In link to the above, I will share a project I did back in 2010, during my foundation year. The project was based on exploring the work of another designer and I picked Haider Ackermann, who I absolutely adore. Love. Worship. So, I chose a leather waistcoat that I put together with card and leather pieces. Eye-opening experience, to say the least.
Developing an idea can be done in so many ways – sketching, playing around with fabrics, with different arts materials – paints, pastels, charcoal, and mood-boards. They all result in a visual representation finalising colours, shapes and textures that will be used within the collection. A designer might end up with a collection that visually isn’t an obvious representation of their starting idea – and that is great because it means the idea was developed thoroughly. Here are some examples of my developments, exploring colours and textures. This was done in a sketchbook, and it often involves repeating a focal theme (here, it was the simplified body) and changing other elements – background colours, finishes etc.
And here are the mood-boards for the Achromic Hallucination collection. Notice that the colours are shown in the threads on the bottom, and that the abstract theme is carried throughout the images. Consistency is key.
I personally have a little black book! I jot down ideas for collections as they come to me, which can be at very random times. It dates back a few years, and it is interesting because there are ideas in there that I wouldn’t pick up and develop now. Sometimes, a great idea comes to you, but the timing isn’t correct, for whatever reason, so my notebook is very handy – I make detailed notes about what the concept is, and anything that is related to it, so that when I look back on it, in 6 months or 4 years, I can bring myself back to that specific moment, and pick up the theme straight away. Another way that I love to work is that after putting together a general concept for a collection, I go exploring for fabrics. The textile industry is producing some incredible things right now, and it is a glorious moment when you find a fabric, and designs form around it, at the snap of your fingers – you can just see that fabric being used in a specific way, to create specific results, and its beautiful. I feel it is a lot more freeing, and flexible to work this way, but it does not necessarily happen for every collection. It depends on what the concept is, and whether that approach is appropriate for that collection. When it comes to creativity, it is so freeing just being able to create whatever garment comes to mind. It is a two-way street – making tangible something in your mind is beautiful – there is a great sense of accomplishment, but even more importantly, having the freedom to do that feeds long-term creativity. There must be an outlet for all the ideas bubbling up inside, and sometimes when it comes to commercial fashion, it is a great challenge to tame and control that creativity so you can create something that is wearable. This challenge can be both very fulfilling but also quite frustrating.