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Fashion Design Inspiration: Where to Begin

Lesson 9 of 10

Craft a Collection

Jay Calderin

Fashion Design Inspiration: Where to Begin

Jay Calderin

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Lesson Info

9. Craft a Collection

Lesson Info

Craft a Collection

So now to the collection. Now we're going to start designing. So this is very similar to the process we went through with the mood board. It's a lot of the same issues. We're just going to talk, I think it's important in reviewing because we did this sort of organically and freeform and here we're applying it to and we're trying to imagine it within the context of actually designing a collection. So we're going to talk about color stories, the texture mix and I use the word mix very intentionally because I want you to think about having a mix. A lot of times designers will start off designing and everything is flat, you know and smooth and that's not necessarily the way a lot of people dress. Silhouette and style lines, so the framework and how to break it up. Patterns and prints and embellishments. So let's dive right in. I have the color swatches on the right, but I created this image with fabric because we want to have a sense of how that color is going to translate. So it's very im...

portant to think about how will it flow, how will it reflect light. Earlier we mentioned the look of velvet and how it was kind of just very deep and rich whereas a satin would be reflective and have lots of light play. Then we move from color and then we see those translations into fabric and these are a few examples of using similar colors that really are interpreted in different ways with the textile and this is a good example. So we have sort of a crinkly lame, we have sort of a raw silk or shantung and then we have the denim, the faux fur and sort of a felt and a satin and a tweed and a quilt. So technically smooth and rough and even introducing really subtle colors. Like here in the tweed you see this little sort of speckles of other colors. And this could be the foundation for a collection and yet all the rest of the colors in the collection are found in here, the different shades of blue, the white, the brown, so you can really delve in to one fabric can be the inspiration and yet it not look like the whole collection is tweed. Okay so now we have, we have color, we have texture, now we get to the whole process of designing the shapes. So we're gonna talk about silhouettes, the H, the A and the Y are actually names of collections that Christian Dior did, but they are the basic shapes we work with when it comes to designing. So the H, the H has a very straight look, it's a boxy look and from a fashion perspective we can think about sort of that flapper dress or we can think of a Chanel suit, like a boxy Chanel suit. But the idea is that this shape skims over the body. It does not contour. It creates, it's either flowy or stiff, but it's this H frame. Okay, the next one, the A, easily kind of tying in to sort of the A line skirt, but there's more to that. You can have sort of a tent dress that starts at the shoulder. So basically you want to ask yourself where do you start off narrow and where do you go to wide. Like I said so it can start at the very top, it could start at her waist, whatever you want. And then inverting that strategy you have the Y where you would definitely exaggerate the shoulders in some way and play down to a very narrow silhouette at the base. So this is pretty much what you got to work with. It seems really simple, but the first one I think is a great example because when you say a boxy Chanel suit from the 50s and you say a flapper dress they seem completely different, but they're basically the same shape. So even though it seems limiting you have a whole, I mean a whole myriad of ways to interpret it. Okay, and then we have two more. These are kind of the basic ones, but then we have two more. One we're very familiar with, the hourglass or the X frame. And this is where you might exaggerate the top and the bottom but just have that control at the center. Kind of what you mentioned with corsets, I think this silhouette really speaks to having a belt or a corset or something that kind of brings you in and then you have some play on the bottom and some strength at the top. Now this one's a little more unusual because we might think well I don't want to be round, right, the shape, but here I always use the example of this beautiful sort of cocoon coat from the 20s that would you know go to the floor and it would have this roundness to it. So never shy away from what you might think oh I would never wear that. We're talking about Dior. You know the new look, the look actually padded women's hips, there were actually pads in the skirts, but when we think about that we go why would anyone want to do that. It actually emphasizes the waist. It makes the waist look tiny. So we want to remember that we want to move past sort of conventions and things that we kind of stereotypically attach to certain shapes. [Woman In Green Shirt] Jay I have a quick question. Yes. From Liberace in our chat room. (laughing) I love it. What would a mermaid gown be in terms of those letters? Is it an A, an upside down Y? I think it would be, yeah, I mean it definitely plays to A because it flares out at the bottom, but it's kind of an inverted Y. And those are just guidelines. It's just basically saying where do you want that emphasis. Where do you want that little explosion? Do you want it to explode at the top or do you want it to explode at the bottom? So I would say definitely more that A frame. [Woman In Green Shirt] Thank you. So now we have these shapes and the shapes are great to start with but then we can take those shapes and break them up in a lot of different ways. So I'm just gonna bring over our dress form and pull out some bias tape. Where are you? Here we go. Okay, so when we design something. So for the purpose of this we're gonna say this is a fitted little dress. We're gonna imagine that we completely contoured this dress form, but now we want to figure out what style lines are gonna be important in this design. So I'm gonna take sort of twill tape, just black twill tape, and say how can we cut this up. How can we change the look of it? So, I'm sorry, my pins. So something as simple as you have the design, you have the fit that you want. This dress is going to be perfect, but then you want to modify this design a little bit and you want to ask yourself how can I visually break up this design. So the minute you were to put a style line right underneath her bust you're breaking her up horizontally at a certain point and that is probably the highest you can go on a waistline, right underneath the bust, an umpire or empire, and you've broken up the dress into a third and two thirds, right, so that makes a big difference. But then breaking up the dress with a waistline that's at the natural or true waist, which by the way for new pattern makers and drapers, remember that the natural and true waist is actually pretty much in line with your elbow. If you bring your elbow across you're gonna run into your belly button and that is the true waist. That is not where most of us wear our pants today. So I've had students design a whole skirt or pant and they're like it's up here and it's because they used the natural waist. So a lot of times it's somewhere halfway between the hip and the waist where we wear our clothes today. But this cuts a woman right in half. You know so there's a seam right here and if you're doing something like an A frame you can have a very small top and then go very big. Because you mentioned with your corsets you like to have these big skirts and big shapes, that is a place where you can cut off. Because if you did that fullness here, whole different feeling and if you did that fullness, which actually is something I prefer, I always like to drop the waist a little bit because then you get the curve of the waist and it looks like it's just a natural extension. And the other thing that I do is I will let the waist dip down a little bit. Actually I'm gonna go a little higher. And I think this is so flattering to create this line, rather than going straight across to have it sort of flatten out a little bit and then go full. And these are the little nuances that make all the difference because to do this all of a sudden you've made her look longer in the torso and you've accentuated her waist because it's coming in a little bit and then you can do anything down here. It can be the same little straight dress, but this curve will create a whole look that's totally different from another variation. Now it isn't the only way. Those are the horizontal places, but this is also where you can explore necklines per say. So the original dress might have a jewel neckline, but you might want to do a plunging V, okay, and you might want to play even with variations on that V. So you might position where you want it to start, but then you can say I want it to be asymmetrical. And you're taking this dress, this simple little shape, you know the little fitted dress on the figure into so many different places and I think that's a really valuable thing to consider, breaking up the dress, yup? It's really fun to see you just start to play around with those. I'm wondering, we've got somebody asking if we're going to be covering men's fashion and can you maybe just talk a little bit about how that's probably its own specialty and what are some of the considerations when you're going into that specialty? Well we're probably not going to be delving into men's fashion. We'll probably be pulling from men's fashion a little bit in how it influences women's wear for this particular class, but I think the world of men's fashion is expanding and including a lot of the processes that we're going through here. But it's a little bit slower to adopt things that are not traditional. I always tell you know my students about sort of in a jacket a woman might wear a jacket that opens on the women's side or the men's side and there's not a big deal, but the minute a man puts on a jacket and it closes on the wrong side he knows there's something wrong and it's just, you know, it's beat into us like this is a guy's jacket, this is how long it should be, this is how the sleeves should hit. So there's a beauty in that I think in the tradition of those kinds of things and I think it's changing and expanding to include a lot more things. You know the first line of defense is always color and texture. You know we'll see some, and pattern, we'll see people exploring, playing with that in sort of ties and shirts and socks and accessories, but the core of most men's wear, it almost needs to remain comfortable and accessible for men until we start to grow a little bit. Thank you, I'm also wondering if you could, I'm very curious to know what is in your kit there. (laughing) That could take two hours I bet, but maybe some highlights that we could actually show people So let's take a look at what's in there. All right, so I have a little, this is sort of combined. I have a little bit of everything here. I have things like the twill so that I can play with designing. I don't know where to start, let's see, there're basic things like pins, thread, measuring, always important, tape measure. Even with marking pencils, one of the things that when we get later on to the draping phase we want to create almost a code for ourselves so having a blue pencil, a red pencil, a black pencil. You know designers will tell you this is the system because it's their system, but every designer kind of has their little formula of what things mean to them so having a set of color. We never want to use a marker when we're putting marks on a dress form because it'll ruin the dress form so just a little side bar there. Let's see, I think you know bobbin cases for the machine, masking tape for pattern work, oh a little note about scissors, I have two pairs of scissors here and I have my fabric shears and my paper scissors. Please have separate ones. It's so, so important. You want to have the dedicated ones for each one and you'll see designers totally freak out if you use their fabric shears for cutting paper. And then also, not quite in the kit, well I have a little one here, little tiny ruler, and I'll talk about some of the other pieces, all manner of measuring tools. So you know the tools that will help us create great curves. The see through ruler is great for adding seam allowance where you can adjust the pattern, metal ruler more of a really great straight edge. And we'll get into more detail and you'll see me use different things. Oh and this is very, very important, the seam ripper. [Woman In Green Shirt] Oh yes. And I think, there are two things I want to say on that that I hadn't planned on saying, but this is really key, when we're sewing and putting things together later on we want to remember to baste things which means a temporary stitch to hold things in place. Most of my students over the years have wanted to avoid that step because it seems like extra. It actually ends up saving time because there's less of a chance of making mistakes, but when you do you want to delicately and diligently be able to take things apart and willing to do it again. Also, just a quick note on that, only cause I just had this flashback from when I was in high school, I remember, you also want to make sure and test if you can do that. If you can actually take something apart and still put it back together again. I had a swimsuit that I had to do for a class assignment and I must have made it, no exaggeration 10, 11, 12 times because when I took it apart the fabric, the holes wouldn't go away. You know they were just completely ruin the fabric. So test your fabrics beforehand so that you can see can I take this apart or does it mean going back to scratch, you know back to square one. All right so style lines and then we have pattern that we need to figure out how intricate or how bold do we want it to be. Polka dots, a couple of different examples, but you can see how they're interpreted and I love, this is a Scaasi dress. I mean I love how the polka dot is really fun, but it's paired with this jacket that kind of anchors it. So pulling a color from the polka dot and making that a part of the design. And florals, we all kind of just say floral as a you know all encompassing term, but there are so many different types. There're representational, abstract, you know really different styles so remember it's an art form in itself when it comes to prints, like what is the style of the floral that you want to work in. Here we have you can use checks, pattern, I mean checks, plaids and a little note on plaids, we want, for those of you who might be familiar with the word tartan we want to remember that all tartans are plaids, but not all plaids are tartans. The key to a tartan, sort of in the Scottish kilt family, is that the pattern goes the same way in every direction. So it's reflective both left to right and top to bottom and that sort of denotes an actual tartan. And here we have a really great combination. This is a designer, Sara Marharmo, who incorporated this little brocade with a floral and with a plaid. As strong as it is with color and impact, it actually just works. It doesn't look theatrical. And then just abstract. A couple people mentioned original fabrics and there are a lot of different ways you can do that today. You can paint your own fabrics and those are definitely one of a kinds. They're like canvases that you're gonna use for the clothes, but there are a lot of services out there now, like Spoonflower that our students use where there's a range of fabrics and you can upload your prints that you create and what's really interesting about their service is that it automatically repeats the pattern in the way that you want it to be in and the scale. That's a key thing with that tartan for instance that we just saw, that could be a very large tartan or it could be scaled down so it's tiny, tiny, tiny and it just becomes sort of a vibrant little pattern, but it's the same premise. So scale is important and the repeat. All right, so here we move into embellishment. I love this dress. This is a former student of mine Eddie Philips and I love how he incorporated a lot of different things, the flowers, the beading, the ribbon and I particularly love just this one little accent because all the real center of interest is down here, but he brings in just a little accent of the color, just one of my favorites. And then this is just a great picture, I think it's from the 40s of beading because that can be an incredible way to transform something with embellishment. And then these are some other different types of embellishment. Here we still have the beads, the bugle beads, creating sort of a little section and it's almost using this whole concept of the style lines because that shape of the shoulder strap is a triangular shape, but then she cut it off, you know cut it into a shape and then built that pattern of bugle beads to create that shape. And here this is actually a zipper that's sown into the spiral as a decoration, as a focal point for a little tent dress. So it's a very simple little dress, but that made it everything. And then here we have sort of a grosgrain ribbon actually crafted into flowers and into a pattern. And that's another way that you can actually make your own fabric by embellishing it in those ways. And here a couple of details that are important. Here most of us think of ties and ribbons and lacing up as more cord and here it's flat so it has a whole different feeling than sort of that cord or ropy feeling. And then here when we think of buttons a lot of times we forget we can do covered buttons to have them become you know a part, an extension of the fabric. So it's just another little shape, but it's still using the same fabric and that can be a really strong detail. And then we have real embellishment and I pick these two, this one just cause wow, I mean that is some glove, but I picked them, the military uniform because a lot of times there are areas that we forget that we can make the focal point. So it's not always about putting everything here, right, so it could be the sleeves, it could be the back of something, it could be just as dramatic to have someone come in wearing a simple gown and then walking away is the aha, right. Talking about different patterns of the same color seem to work but when you mix similar patterns with different sizes that Liberace says any suggestions for mixing patterns? That seems to be popular now. Yeah. Do you see that within sort of the concept of collections as well? I experiment. Okay. I mean there's no way other way around it than to experiment and like we mentioned with the mood boards a great place to start, but getting fabrics and also thinking of where you're gonna put things. Like the sleeve we saw earlier. Let me just run back for one second. The sleeve that we saw earlier with the tartan, it was about scale and where you're hiding. This plaid you only see a little tiny hint of, but that's a special detail for the user as well as when they want to do the reveal, like if they want to show it. But really it's about these two fabrics are primary. So you want to think also in proportion like what's the primary fabric, what's the accent fabric, what is the detail fabric and if you think about it that way then you're not so overwhelmed by seeing like I'm sure when you saw all these fabrics together you couldn't imagine them necessarily in the same outfit. So you want to find how you want to distribute that. Sure, oh and a great designer who does that is Etro. They do menswear that's a real mix of incredible incredible patterns and color. All right so crafting a collection, the other side of this is thinking about other issues besides the surface, you know the color, the pattern, the texture. Body types and body image. One of the things we want to concern ourselves with is the fact that there are different body types, there're different distributions of measurement as well. Like a woman can have the same measurements as another woman, but if she's a little taller or her waistline is higher or lower makes a huge difference. So you want to think how high, I mean what are the proportions between her measurements as well as her measurements going around. Same thing for instance with the bust line. Two women could have the same measurement around the bust but one has a larger cup size and a smaller back versus the opposite. So think about the variations on that and how it plays into your design. Then also there's a strategy behind body image because as a designer you'll come across women who have very specific things that they just feel they need to hide or things that they want to accentuate. And it may not make any sense to you as an objective observer, but we have to realize that people come to the table with that. Okay, lifestyle and role play. So what are you trying to project, you know, a casual feeling, a professional feeling. Styling, customization and DIY, doing it yourself and then costuming for theater and film. So I'm going to show you a couple of examples as we go through. These are examples of bathing suits that would be, I hate to use the word appropriate, but that might be a solution for someone who feels a certain way about her body type. So here with an apple it's usually a shape that's bigger on the top, so sort of stronger shoulders and a narrower hip and this might be a way of accentuating the hip, right, because we have a triangle going on here. So with a pear shape focusing on the top and making that the focal point and letting the suit on the bottom be a minor detail. You know sort of be a base, but the focus is on the torso. And here we have for the ruler, for the girl who's a little, her measurements are a little closer together and not as much of as in in at the waist you can drape fabric so that it's creating emphasis around the rounder parts of her body. So accentuating her hip or her bust line and creating that focus to break it up so that you see more of a division in shapes. And then the hourglass where you know it's nipping in at the waist, the top and bottom are fairly evenly distributed in sense of wide. And by no means do I mean to imply that these are rules cause in fashion it's all subjective. You know someone might want to accentuate rather than camouflage and that's really what I'm trying to emphasize is figure out who you think your customer is. And it doesn't mean you have to cater to everyone, but figure out who you want to cater to. All right so this is about, these are some, I'm really proud of these, these are former launch designers, new designers that we launched during fashion week a few years ago and one of the things I love about sort of the composite of this image is thinking about the attitude and the lifestyle and what role they're playing because each of the designers were so distinctive. So I'm kind of curious, does anyone have any opinions about what says what. Like which one feels strong or sweet or does anybody have any reactions to any of them? I'm super drawn to the two closest to you. These here. Part of it might be it just looks like a power pose that they're walking in. Yeah. (laughing) But yeah like the way the patterns are on the ones closest to you with the peplum like I think what you were saying earlier like people putting padding on the hips it almost makes it look a little more strong and just like. Yeah, even the angles. Military esque, yeah. Yeah, it's just like very bold and defined shapes and I feel like as opposed to when things are like a little more flowy or loose like the opposite end. Right. It just looks a little more like just really soft. Yeah, yeah, think comfortable. Yeah. That last one almost feels cozy because she's all wrapped up you know in the knit. And everyone's going to have a different interpretation, but the key is to think with all your choices what kind of lifestyle or role play can you imagine with those garments you're designing. And then accessorizing. I picked two extremes here, but the idea of asking yourself how you're going to be enhancing it. So is your outfit that you're designing, your ensemble, feel very baroque and pearl like already or is this sort of juxtaposing. Is it just a simple white dress with these pearls, right the coppery and the soft white or is it in the realm of that. Does it feel kind of like with your mood board when we came up with that feeling and we said well what's our theme here and you picked the girl with the crown you know I immediately thought very baroque and very romantic and that kind of stuff. So you want to ask yourself what kind of accessories that will offset what you're designing or punctuate it. DIY, do it yourself. More and more designers are offering that. So if you're working, probably most smaller companies can't do this but if you're doing a larger company, especially footwear is a great example nowadays. Being able to do it yourself and pick the colors you want, still working within the framework of what the product is is a really popular new thing. So ask yourself is that something you want to offer. Like for instance if you're doing corsets offering it, you know can you customize it. Can you say I want this fabric on the sides, I want this fabric on the front, do I want this color trim and almost making it, letting the customer make the choices, but still working with that core item that we know fits and it has high quality, but letting them make it their own. And this is an example of kind of a neutral pair. These are actually ones I had for myself done. So this very neutral pair as opposed to these and they're both the same exact shoe, but again it's a whole different feeling. And then the theater and costume. Like thinking about how that plays a part. This is a particularly ornate selection, but this plays also a big part in figuring out who you are, how you edit down to who you are as a designer. All right so this is my quote, it's important to remember that everything has been done before but it hasn't been done by you. And this is, I can't say this enough because like I mentioned earlier pretty much everything's been done. We have two arms, we have two legs, we have a torso, but it's every choice that we've gone over today is what makes it uniquely yours. So if you all did a white shirt as a project and I said just create a white shirt all of you would interpret that in a different way and each of those white shirts would speak to a different audience because of the choices you made. And that's why you don't want to just design a white shirt. It can't be you know where if you design an ordinary white shirt in your collection why would someone buy it when they can buy it from someone who really put some thought into that white shirt. We have this issue come up a lot with denim. A lot of our students will want to design an outfit and have jeans as the base and great, that's fine. What's special about those jeans? Because if they look like all other jeans why wouldn't you go to someone who specializes in jeans? So we want to remember that it's your choices that make the difference as part of all this.

Class Description

Fashion Design Inspiration: Where to Beginis your roadmap to turning your dream of a career in fashion into a viable reality.

Jay Calderin is the author of three top-selling books on Fashion Design and the founder and executive director of Boston Fashion Week. In this class, he’ll pull back the curtain on the entire design process. 

You’ll learn about:

  • Creating a moodboard for inspiration
  • The nuts and bolts of starting a fashion line
  • Specializing in specific styles
  • Crafting a coherent collection
A career in fashion design is possible. Learn about the essential first steps in Fashion Design Inspiration: Where to Begin

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Andrea Leggett

I think this is a super taster for anyone considering fashion design as a career or hobby. Jay is a great teacher who brings knowledge and experience to the students in a really nice calm manner. I learned a great deal and Jay has expanded my horizons. Involving the students in the studio was helpful and was the questions from the presenter were useful too.