A Real Fashion Designer: Dirty Little Secrets

When Fashion is portrayed in movies and on TV, inspiration comes from all kinds of places: art, music, history, architecture, and so many other things. In real life, it usually just comes from other clothes. Today, we're going to discuss this one of fashion's dirty little secrets in all its many forms.

1. Internet research.
          A. Blogs:
                    Almost every single fashion designer I know follows a list of her favorite design-, style-, and fashion related blogs every single day. I like to get to work early to catch up on my top blogs. What are my top choices, you ask? Well, here's a list of my top 12: Miss Moss, Design Sponge, RookieMag, Oh Joy!, Design Is Mine, Honestly...WTF, Tomboy Style, The Selby, The Sartorialist (of course), Print and Pattern, and Who What Wear. I spend a little bit each morning just scanning these to see if there's anything new or interesting. Then, if I feel it's necessary, I save it to my desktop or pin it to a pinboard on Pinterest. A lot of designers get their inspiration images from blogs.
          B. Runway Shows:
                    Despite what many of you may think, just because you're a fashion designer, doesn't mean you can always get tickets to a fashion show. In fact, the show I saw this season (Milly), I was only able to attend because my cousin Katie gave me her tickets. What Luck! So, since we designers don't actually go to the shows, during Fashion week, and the weeks after (also London Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, and Milan Fashion Week), we stay abreast of what's being posted on Style.com, taking whatever images we think are appropriate for what we might be doing. At one company where I worked, we even printed out every single look from every single runway show so that an intern could cut them all out and mount them according to trend on what seemed like hundreds of large foam core boards. And we wonder why global warming is happening. I might wager it has a lot to do with the fashion industry.

          C. Online shopping:
                    Now, it may come a s surprise to some of you that this is actually where Fashion designers get their "inspiration." Each company has a list of designers they regularly follow and research, and sometimes they even buy their samples. This gives an idea of what's "out there" in the market. Generally, in the concepting stage, a designer will print out images of what's available that may fit into their particular brand, and pin them all to a board as "inspiration" and "concept."

2. In-Person reserach:
          A. Local Shopping:
                    The design process usually begins around a year in advance of when the actual goods would ship. As such, if a designer is designing for, say, Spring 2014, they will go into stores to do research during sprint 2013. Unfortunately, though, at some companies the time-and-action calendar is so far ahead, there is nothing to reference in stores when the time comes. However, local shopping always happens.
                    Local shopping can happen either just with the design team or with the design and merchandising teams. These people will go out together to a select group of local stores that they see as either "competitive" or "aspirational," and look at what each store has to offer. Most of the time they buy any samples they deem relevant to that season's theme, concept, or the brand at large. These are termed "inspiration samples."

          B. Travel:
                    Sometimes when a company's development calendar is too far in advance of a season, teams will travel to other parts of the world who are currently experiencing that season. For example, if your calendar dictates you design swimwear in the middle of winter, you may travel to a South American country to research swimwear as there is none available stateside.
                    Often, though, travel has nothing to do with seasonality. For most american fashion companies, it is still very important to know what is happening in the european market: namely London, Paris, and Milan. Other cities, though, such as Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Seoul are also frequently shopped for inspiration. From these trips, the travelers return with suitcases and suitcases of inspiration from around the world. But don't get too excited. Most of the time, only the highest level of employee is allowed to travel.

          C. Presentation:
                    Once all the shopping is done, there is a huge presentation (or several different presentations) of all the samples and their important details. From here and all the internet research, not a photo of beautiful architecture or a painting or an ethereal photo of a garden of flowers, the line is designed.

So, there you have it. Fashion's dirty little secrets. Sometimes they even send a while "inspiration sample" overseas to be copied, sent back, and returned to the store. However, I've only seen that happen at one company, and I suppose I won't mention names. At least not today, I won't.

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