HOW WE MAKE A COLLECTION
Have your kids had that amazing classic 1960’s illustrated book ‘What do people do all day?’ by Richard Scarry? (it’s still in publication) My boys, and me, were so enthralled with the little stories that each chapter told of busy people’s lives from the loggers to the fire fighters.
In reality no one really fully understands what goes on in another business. I don’t know about you in your profession but I’d love to be a fly on the wall in another fashion company, see how they do things. If I were younger I would consider blagging work experience somewhere, a bit like a secret shopper without the possible consequence of anyone getting in to trouble. From the outside looking in things always look super-polished. As such I always have to remind Ric, my partner, of something I heard some years back; that what we see of other brands is the ‘showroom model’ and that we mustn’t compare it to our known and well trod ‘back room model’. Wise words.
I’m going to split this post in to 3 parts, ‘cause we do such a lot (ha ha) and you’d likely nod off before the end. But it does actually take some time, about 8 months, from the start to presenting the sample collection to buyers. It’s a fair bit of hard graft - and insomnia.
This first post is a focus on research, the absolute starting point of putting a collection together, and of gathering together the colour and print direction.
Starting a new season is such a daunting and exhilarating experience. Sometimes one has great starter ideas with the comfort of knowing that there are a multitude of possibilities that the direction can go in and other times I can admit to not having a clue. Do you have those frozen moments in your job too?
So, one needs to go and be inspired. I think fashion is infinitely more interesting when it is connected to culture. Of course what the latest trends are, and what designer is doing what, is something we are fastidiously interested in, although we may not always adopt. But to find those connections between fashion and culture and to get a bit lost in the essence of that creativity from all different mavericks adds a depth and a rounded-ness to our often thought of shallow fashion world. BTW - Kids fashion land isn’t like that :)
Our typical path of research looks like this; we look at the catwalks, read books, lose days on the internet, play music, flick through tons of magazines, get out the studio and go look in the stores at the new collections all the while letting little shoots of ideas manifest. I keep a file at all times for ‘next season ideas’, which I chuck things in to along the way. I liken it to buying a birthday gift for a friend; buy when you see the perfect thing, no matter how far away their birthday is.
We soak up people and what they’re wearing, we go see art or visit places that will inspire and generally feed the right brain with lots of nourishment so that it can deliver. It all sounds rather good fun and it is, but the deadline cloud is hanging over which means really focusing one’s direction to move forwards efficiently. It’s a bit like being at the most thrilling party knowing your Dad will be coming to collect you come midnight.
I have to admit that we rarely look at kids fashion and I think that stems from not wanting to be kiddie in our styling. But I do think it’s not a bad thing anyway. Anna Wintour said something about how one should not worry and watch too closely what the competition is doing, be true to yourself. Always good to be on the same page as AW.
THE MOOD BOARD
Once we’ve gathered ideas out come the scissors and Blue Tack to create a mood board. It’s kind of like a big scrapbook stuck on a wall, or a board (we like a wall), masses of images – photography, magazine pages, fabrics, words, anything that will keep the inspiration flowing and remind us of the vision.
Next we make a range plan, this is the number and type of styles that will be in the collection. We look at past season(s) at to what’s sold well, what we should have more of, price points, a new trend or product type that could be added in. Its quite an in-depth job and acts as the Blue Print when sketching. It prevents one getting carried away and designing 25 tops and no bottoms. Pretty important.
PRINT AND COLOUR
We next start sourcing fabrics, calling in swatches from mills, getting excited about beautiful weaves and the handle of a cloth, like you do. We also start bat and balling ideas with our print designers to create our own unique prints. Developing a print is hugely exciting, you can have whatever you heart desires and it also allows control over colour so the collection is super-coordinated. But there is an argument that having a found and loved fabric swatch physically in your hand is a job well done. You can see exactly what you’re getting. Both have merits.
The colour palette, which has been distilling in one’s mind for a little while, grows ever more vivid. I find myself drawn to those thought-of colours in the strangest of places; the exact shade of green on the weed killer bottle or a non-fashion-obsessive passer-by sporting a colour mix I’d been musing over. One’s antenna is firmly UP.
The next job is to select our collection colours from the amazing Pantone colour books. There is every hue you can possibly dream of in there (or mostly). I refuse to open a cover until I have a pretty firm idea of the colours in my mind otherwise its all too easy to go off-piste in an unhelpful way. Opening those books is like going on a little treasure hunt.
The next part is my absolute favourite thing to do - it’s called Colouring Up and it’s allocating which styles will be in which fabrics and prints. Do you have that, a part of your job that you utterly relish? The morning I wake with the day ahead to do just this makes me feel all is well with the world. It’s that inspiring.
The freedom of pulling together colours and prints to create an outfit always makes me think of those paper-cut out dolls with their paper-cut out clothes with little tabs. Not quite sure why but it never fails to come to mind.
It’s a really busy time and we all pull together to make it happen as stress free as possible. We aim to run a merry studio where “problems are overcome from a considered place”…. that’s the mantra anyway. There are always things that don’t go to plan. I call it the ‘beast of manufacturing’. When you’re creating something from nothing the possibilities for things to go AWOL are forever shadowing you like a big scary hairy monster. We’ve met a few of those in our time. However we’ve learnt to be scarier/hairier (i.e obsessively diligent). Thus we can chase them away and make a happy ending. That’s the plan.
Do check back for our Part 2 post on making it all happen.