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Section 3: Collection Planning/Concepting

Hi everyone!

Now that we know how to sketch and put our designs in the computer, let's go ahead and talk about collection planning!

In fashion design school, planning a collection is discussed throughout your time there, but it is perhaps the most important during your Senior Collection where in the first class you do the sketching, concepting, and planning of your sewing patterns. I'll be getting into sewing/patternmaking shortly after this post.

For my own personal process, I start out with images - inspiration photos, seam line ideas, photos of a particular place, etc.

Here is an inspiration board I did in 2009.

I personally like to do digital collages as I can edit them as I see fit, but you may want to use a corkboard with images. Some people cut images out and make collages in blank books, others even make Pinterest boards. This board (or whatever method you choose) should be what inspires you! It can be about anything.

Some really good visual resources that designers use (and ones I was taught to use in school) are trend forecasting books like Promostyl and Collezzioni.We had thick binders of these in the library at school which are arguably way better than the free content out there, but it's a reference point. I also at times like to look at collections on to see how other designers put together collections.

I want to go off on a tangent here about looking at other designer's collections - it's about Inspiration VS Knockoffs. 

In my school, it was totally a popular "thing" to look at other designer's collections and then pretty much do a rehash of what a specific designer's collection looked like. This is an absolute NO in the industry. No one wants to see the exact same thing as another designer's previous collection and no one wants to slight another designer by ripping off their work.

That being said, there are only a few combinations in silhouette, garment construction, and things that look good on a body -- very little is absolute original. I don't believe in copyrighting designs as it stifles creativity, but you should more often than not as a designer be putting out your ideas from your own inspiration.

Inspiration isn't pulling directly - while my own work borrows heavily from retro styles of the 60s and 70s, rarely is it an absolutely direct knockoff. If it is, I say so. Inspiration comes from imagery - it can be a shape, a place, a general silhouette, but you should be able to take these ideas and mash them up into something new. I tend to like lots of colorblocking, flowing lines, and 60s silhouettes.  

Please disregard this information if you are someone who just sews for fun. However, if you get inspiration from someone else's work, give credit where credit is due! Currently, I am knocking off nearly exactly a Chloe dress from 2013 and I will be giving credit to the original designer as it is not my original work. This copy is for my own use and I will not be selling any reproductions of this design even though I did entirely my own pattern work for it.

Back on track ---

Key Questions to Ask Yourself During Collection Planning:

  • What is my theme? For this collection I was working on, I went with a theme of the Carnival. I was actually inspired by Wicker Park's long defunct Earwax Cafe in Chicago during this one, but I also made it a bit more broad. Broad is good! It gives you something to work with and allows you freedom in what you might design. 
 Exterior image of Earwax Cafe, Wicker Park, Chicago, IL.

 Earwax Inside.

 When coming up with a theme, I tend to think of places, types of people, or musical genres at times. This brings me to a few more key points.

  • Who is wearing your garments? It very well could be just you if you're a home sewist, but if you're planning a mini collection for say, Etsy or to shop to local boutiques, you are going to need to figure out your target market.  To figure out your target market, you need to ask questions like,
  • What age group am I looking to capture the attention of? For this collection, my target market was from 20-35 in the age demographics. They are young, hip, love music, are artistic professionals, and probably frequent Wicker Park if they're in Chicago or Brooklyn if in NYC.
  • Where is this person going? Are they going out for a night on the town or is this casual every-day wear? Is it over-the-top stylish or more subtle? Will this collection be suitable for work or for off-time? For this collection, my aim was casual-wear that customers could wear at a hip workplace or every day. If you're sewing at home, does the garment need pockets for where you're going? Are you taking into account the weather of where you live?
  • What season is this? In the industry, there are two big seasons - Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. It wouldn't make sense to have a giant, heavy sweater in the midst of a bunch of summer styles. If you're a home sewist, think about upcoming seasons when you're sewing/designing and prepare for the upcoming season. There are also Resort collections that designers put out usually in time for people to buy before a nice warm getaway during winter. As an example, the Carnival collection presented here was a Spring/Summer collection based on the lightweight jacket, short sleeves, and sleeveless garments.

  • Where is my collection being sold? Think about where your garments might feel at home. Is your product high-end? Is it for a special type of consumer, ie.) clothes for skaters? Does it feel best at a local boutique or a mass-retailer? This Carnival collection was an excercise in collection planning, but my ideal retailer was a fun boutique-style national retailer like Brooklyn Industries. It could also feel at home with Urban Outfitters or H&M. Asking these questions will also lead you to your price point.
  • What is my price point? Obviously keeping in mind production costs, how much is your customer willing to spend on a garment? For instance, my customer for this particular collection would not want to spend $400 on the lightweight jacket. The jacket would more likely retail between $120-$150. Home sewists, how much money are you willing to spend on one garment?
  • Keeps your looks consistent. For consistency on the Carnival collection, I kept a few ideas in mind - the little bits of frills on the garments in this collection, some geometric seam lines and collars, and shapes. The clover-like shape on the t-shirt also makes an appearance as a print on the vest. This helps create a cohesive look and also helps your customers mix and match. 
  • How will my customers mix and match pieces? You typically want to sell multiple pieces versus just one special piece (duh, more money!) so think about how a customer might mix and match your designs. As a home sewist, ask yourself how the garment you're working on mixes into your wardrobe. If you're working on a special piece, disregard this.

  • Diversify your product line. Make sure your customer has options! As a general rule of thumb, when I do a collection for fun and of the size of my examples here, I plan for at least 1 pant, 1-2 jackets depending upon season, 1-2 sweaters (lightweight or heavy), at least 2-3 tops, 2-3 dresses, and 1-2 skirts. Also think about basic layering pieces. As a home sewist, what pieces are you missing from your wardrobe? Play with mixing and matching the pieces you designed and come up with different styling combinations! 
  • Keep within a color story. You should be using similar color fabrics and keeping within a color story. Re-use perhaps different colorways of the same print. You can see on the side of my croquis illustrations, I pulled out colors with the eyedropper tool from the boards and stuck to those colors. This helps create a cohesive look and again helps your customers mix and match. Home sewists, what colors do you love to wear and look best on you? You don't need to have a rainbow of clothing, just know what you like!
Pantone is also a really great resource on color trends. I wait impatiently each year for their "color of the year"! Another site to play with colors is COLOURlovers. This site is perfect for putting together a palette. The link is for my own account so you can see what I have done.

In closing, always have fun with creating a collection! Make sure you tell a story and in general, stick to some type of theme to create something cohesive.

I hope both home sewists and more selling-oriented independent designers got some good ideas from this post.

As always, feel free to leave me some questions and comments about this!


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