24 Aug 2011

Producing Samples of Your Clothing Line.

It was time to send in my designs, together with the specifications for each piece to be made, the measurements for each size spec, fabrics and notions to go with it. I went shopping for all that I needed to make each design that I had created.

Four things I learnt that I would like to share. Four very obvious things, which were somehow always lurking in the back of my mind. Unsolved. To heck with it, I had thought to myself. I'll solve it when I come to it. Which I did. Indeed I did and I am still facing it.

Number uno.
Since this was my first collection ever I was still undecided on which exact fabric would do well with each design. I was uncertain if the notions and trimmings I had chosen would have been perfect or not. And I had no one to ask for feedback. My husband was nonchalant, almost uninterested. Surprise! Surprise! Otherwise I would have asked my sister or mom for feedback, but since I am an expat far from home, this was not an option either.

So off I went to buy whatever fabric caught my fancy, without taking a second look back. This was not a good thing. It resulted in a mish mash looking collection. Ideally I think, one should begin collection research by picking up fabrics to inspire. And design according to the fabric you have in mind. This would be a good way of going about it if you have a good relationship with the supplier, and are pretty certain of the amount you would need and the deadline you are working with.

But since I am not at any of those points in my fashion designing life, a good compromise would have been to shop for fabrics that had the same colour scheme, story, prints etc. So that everything is pretty much cohesive.

Number duo.
The quantities I am producing is minuscule. I mean minuscule. I am lucky that my garment manufacturer is willing to go with it. Of course it comes at a higher price but I am realistic. In time, as the business grows (and I am confident with God's will it will happen), I will be able to enjoy economies of scale. For the moment, what I am looking at is me undergoing a steep learning curve that will get me to where I want to be.

The lesson here is that because I am unsure of my final fabrics, and unsure of when I would need them, unsure of how much of them I need to produce the amount of clothing I am going to, I couldn't....absolutely could not buy them in large quantities. This meant that a trip to my supplier in the following weeks ended up in almost tears, because almost every fabric I had used in making my samples were finished. Kaput. Finito. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

But that was alright, because I learnt a lot about fabrics by trying fabric of different weights, thickness, weave and prints. Read on.

What I can take from this is that I have to be flexible when it comes to what my final design would look like. Once the sample has been produced, tweaked, then I will have to source for fabrics and prints that would best show off my designs.

Number tre.
I bought whatever caught my fancy. Yup you read right. And what a fanciful notion it was, to buy whatever attracted the eye. This meant that I ended up with a collection that did not contain a common theme or story. Which is a complete disaster. I did this knowingly and deliberately. I wanted to see how some designs would look in certain prints and colours. Did they measure up to my imagination, or fall short? Was I right that they would look good? Or not?

Fortunately, I am only producing samples. Which means that once the samples are produced, I am able to scrutinise each design and learn which fabrics drape best, what prints turned out well with what design etc. But the best thing about this is that, just before production I will have to make another round of supplier visits, pick and choose the fabrics I am going to use, and ensure that I make full use of this opportunity to use fabrics/colours/prints that tell a cohesive and complete story for my collection. Ahhhh I was very pleased with myself.

Number quattro.
This one got me a bit sad for a few minutes, until I realised that it does not apply to the production of my first line. After making a quick jaunt to suppliers, I decided to have a bit of a break and stumbled into a little stall selling designer samples for a song. Every piece was produced on plain coloured fabrics. Which left me to conclude that no designer in their right mind would produce samples on expensive printed fabrics. This would be left to when production occurred. I had just spent an exhorbitant sum producing mine in what I thought was going to be the final fabric. I trotted off to my sewing teacher and asked her directly if this was the case. She confirmed that indeed yes, designers did not produce samples in the final fabric. Oh lord!

But after mulling over it for a split second, I have to admit that I did the right thing as an amateur designer. There was so much I didn't know about fabrics, trims, and how they would look. That producing them in the real fabrics was the only way to go and to learn as much as I have. But the next collection will be made in cheap plain fabrics.


I just had to share and jot it down with you. So you too could learn some of the things I did. Well it's time to say goodnight.


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