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Section 9: Creating a Cohesive Brand Identity in Fashion Design

You'll notice that many well-known fashion designer's work is instantly recognizable (even if you're not particularly a fan): Donna Karan - famous for her wrap dress,  Missoni  - zigzag stripes, and Tommy Hilfiger - red, white, and blue, as examples.

Well, in this post, I'm going to talk about my personal design philosophy/branding here at Manic Pop, and how you can develop your own cohesive identity for your work too!

Manic Pop 2012/13

  • Playing Off a Theme/Inspiration: For Manic Pop - Stripes!
Myth: You don't need to "do it all" - focus on what makes your clothing, YOU and work from that.  The stripes element comes from 2 places for me: one is my mod rainbow rings pictured above. I've had the middle one since I was about 8 years old (1994) and it's a mod lucite 60s reproduction ring. 

I've worn this ring all throughout college and then nearly hyper-ventilated when I found the 2nd one (ring finger) in 2010 at a secondhand shop. I do have some actual 60s ones, but these are the ones with my favorite colors.

 Second: I have a collection of rainbow mugs that I started back in about 2002 when I first started shopping at thrift stores. Why rainbows? I don't know. To me, it represents a full color palette and a tool box for creating anything. For when you mix these colors, you can make any color you want. Hokey a little, maybe, but that's what works for me.

So because of both of these inspirations, my work tends to come out a bit retro/mod/60s. I try not to wholly limit myself to that, but it's become a bit of an identity now. I'm not opposed to changing it up a bit, but these elements almost always exist in my work. It also helps that I spent a majority of my childhood/teen years listening to the 60s/70s oldies stations and loving Peter Max-style art. 60s and 70s album covers are huge with me and design elements on those covers leech into my personal design style.

So, define what theme is you. Is it retro? Eco-friendly? Perhaps you have a love of florals? Think of the shapes in your design work, common silhouettes, and textures you like to use. Make a list of all the things you love, then draw correlations between them.

I also figured out a "theme" because of an artist I went to college with. I noticed that she was basically doing just variations of a design she always does using only black, onto a color, clear, or white surface. She made that her "thing".

Think about what your "thing" is and go straight for it. Don't worry about what anyone else says.
  • Define Your Color Palette.
This one is very important! Color identifies a brand perhaps much more than you would think.

 Orange and teal are HUGE for me!

Now, your color palette can vary a bit from collection to collection, but you should have your "stand-by" color palette. These are all colors that are pleasing to my eye and also complimentary. I can mix any of these colors with each other and still make an eye-catching garment. These overall colors my change over time, but it's important to be consistent. Note: I also include black and white with any palette automatically.

An easy and fun way to create your own color palette is to go to a paint store and pick up color swatches that you like. Cut them apart, and play with combinations. Take note of the hues, the saturation of them, and complimentary colors. What plays off the other? What would you place together? Pantone is a great resource for color.

Also, pull out images from magazines that you like and see what colors appear most often. Play those colors into your stand-by color palette. 

  • Have Your Own Personal "Rules".
It may seem contrary to have rules with something creative, but you need your boundaries. Without parameters, you can easily get lost. It's much easier to design within a small(er) spectrum versus letting you mind go absolutely wild. 

A few rules of mine:
 1.) Design in threes. I'm not entirely sure where I got this from other than the fact that when you design, things usually look good in odd numbers. If you take a look at the photos from the beginning of this post, you will see that many things I do are in threes - 3 fabrics, 3 colors, 3 design lines.

2.) Contrast. I love opposing colors next to each other! This is also why I have always loved and done quite a bit of colorblocking. It's easy to do and it makes a pretty bold impact. Black and white is great and.... bonus! Fits within the mod/theme spectrum.

3.) Bright colors. I love bright colors almost to the point of gaudy but hey! That's my thing!
  • Experiment.
Ok, remember all the rules you just listed for yourself? Now forget about them once in a while. It's still important to always create something outside of your box. Why? Because you never know when you might want to incorporate it into your "brand".  I usually do my experimenting in the form of sketching/throwing it into Photoshop.

Maybe you experiment by draping instead of pattern making. Whatever it is, don't let yourself get stagnant. Branding is all about finding that sweet spot between keeping your identity and preventing yourself from stagnation. Keep it fresh, be bold, and always be true to yourself.

And that's how you'll stand out!


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