How to Design Clothes
When running an apparel brand, clothing design is the core of your business. Designing your clothing line can be challenging. There are many aspects to think of to make it stand out in a crowded fashion market. You want to create clothes that represent your point of view as a designer, at the same time as the collection sells. To improve your chances of succeeding with your line, go through these 12 steps before designing the clothing for your apparel brand collection.
Before Designing the Clothes
1 The clothing concept
First off, determine and define your clothing concept. It typically starts with an idea based on a gap in the market. Make sure you have a solid concept with your brand values and a clear point of view.
2 The customers
Together with the concept of your clothing brand, you should define who your target customer is. The goal is to know exactly who your customer is, what they do, where they live, how they shop etc. The better you know your customers, the more effectively you’ll be able to reach them and give them what they want. This information will help you in your range planning and when designing the clothes. To learn more about target customers read How to Define Your Customer.
3 Understand your clothing market
When you have determined your concept, and you know who your customer is, you have to understand the clothing market you’ll be in. You already know the market to a certain extent, but now it is time to do even more research in the area your concept fits in, and where your customers shop. Visit shops and trade shows. Read magazines and blogs. Look at the consumer behavior and see how your brand can stand out to the competition. To learn more about creating a unique clothing brand you can read the post How to Differentiate Your Brand From the Competition.
4 Define the clothing collection
When you have worked through your business foundation, you start with the product development and defining your collection. Focus on your brand identity, your vision, and the garments you wish to create. Make sure your collection is clear and has cohesion. Create a product range plan (downloadable in the Members’ Club), which is a detailed written overview of your entire collection. It helps you keep track of clothing parameters such as style numbers and names, number of styles, colors, variations, and features. It also includes financial information and sales forecasting. You can start planning your collection in this document before you even design your styles. It’s a reliable way of structuring the collection and keeping track of styles.
The designer can start sketching when you have structured and defined your collection. Get back to the inspiration and the brand image, and the customer you want to have. The styles should fit in with the vision and identity of your brand. You will have to give the customer the connection between the brand image and the garment. They need to correspond. Paper and pen are ALWAYS a good start in the design phase.
While Designing the Clothes
It’s easy to want to do everything at once, but the best is to narrow the focus to only one or a couple of clothing categories, like just outerwear, or just tops and grow from there. If you start small, you won’t have the budget anyway to do it all.
Have the overall spirit of the collection in mind, to have cohesion, the same color story, and shared materials.
Yes, please do! It’s so easy to get carried away, you have so many ideas you want the world to see, but it will just be confusing. If the garments don’t have “hanger appeal” and are not “strong” enough they won’t sell anyway. If you have trouble editing by yourself, get some people on board who know what they are doing, like stylists for example.
9 Line language
When designing, make sure that the lines in the design tell the same visual story in all clothes. For example, if you use a lot of angular shapes and sharp seams/lines, and have one piece that has all rounded shapes, that piece is going to feel off, it’s not going to be cohesive.
10 Red thread
Think about having a red thread throughout the whole collection or the few styles. Don’t limit your thinking only in the designing, also think about the styling and the merchandising. How is the collection going to be merchandised in the shops and how do you want the pieces to be styled in the lookbook. Whatever you decide to design, or if someone else is designing for you, it’s vital that you find your voice and that the garments speak you, your brand and your vision.
11 Clothing tech packs
When having a clear front, back and details sketch drawn out, move on to the computer and translate that in an Illustrator file, called The Tech Pack. The Tech Pack consists of front, back and side views of the style. Instructions on fabrication, trimmings, stitchings/lamination, inside sketches, sketches of details, logo and branding positioning, and color versions for the style. This is then sent to the factory so they can make you a prototype.
12 Own the design
Stay on top of the design process. Learn to make sketches out of your ideas. If you don’t know how to, practice until you can. Your product is your business, and if you leave it all to someone else, you will be lost without that help. Without design “in-house” you are in a fragile, exposed position.
Usually, the design part is about 10% of the chores in your apparel business. Make sure you really, really enjoy it and that you have fun doing it. If you have no experience in designing or clothing development, we recommend you bring someone on board that understands clothing design, apparel construction, and product development. Clothing design is not a one-off gig but needed all through your apparel business.
To get more information regarding designing the clothes for your apparel brand, you should also read the post about How to Design Without Knowing How to Draw to get some ideas.