My 10 Step Fashion Design Process : Part 1

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’ve been working on this Summer’s collection for months now, and I’m sure some of ya’ll thought “Months? What could she have been doing for months?” So I wanted to give you guys a look into my fashion design process.

Every designer has their own way of doing things. It’s kinda like how some sewers only buy fabric with a project in mind, and some of us just hoard anything we think is pretty. But in the end a designer needs to cover all the following steps if we hope to create a successful product.

Stitch & Pink's 10 step Fashion design process

Step 1: Research

Ugh. That sounds totally boring.
But honestly, I find this part really fun.
You get to scour the internet, social media, and the world around you in an attempt to find the “next big thing!” That might sound like “Oo, I get to go shopping!” but that’s exactly what you DON’T want to do. The stuff in stores is the CURRENT trend. Everyone and their brother sees it, thinks it’s amazing, and then goes off to recreate it themselves. You need to find or create the NEXT trend before it happens.

Kitschy Collector
Now I hear some of you saying to yourselves “But Toni, I’ve seen you knock off plenty of things before!” And you’re right. Everybody knocks off somebody else at one time or another. I made this JP Gaultier dress, this Lily Pulitzer one, the sequin bow shirt recently, and even the sprinkle shoes I posted last week. All knock-offs.

The thing is, not a single one of those was still available to purchase when I made them, and I also wasn’t trying to sell them. Those were just things that appealed to my personal taste, and I wanted them. If you’re designing something to sell, it’s more important what your buyers want.

Most stores design/ buy for the coming season months ahead of time, this means they’ve got to start working on next summer’s outfits right now! Fortunately, if you’re a small business working for yourself, the time frames are drastically shortened.


Luckily, you don’t need a crystal ball to help you see what’s coming. Try searching for forecasting tools for the next season instead.

I personally like these…

Emily Kiddy
Pattern Curator
We Connect Fashion

You don’t even have to buy anything. Just look through the pictures until you get the overall “feel” for that season.

Step 2: Inspiration

Once you’ve really got a good grasp of that feeling. NOW it’s time to go shopping…on the internet. Come up with words that help you describe that feeling and start googling, pinterest-ing, tumblr-ing, whatever. Just collect as many images that give you that feeling as you can.

Summer Collection Inspiration Board - Stitch & Pink

I like to make a secret Pinterest board, and start cramming it with every pretty picture I come across. Not just clothes – shapes, colors, furniture, anything! This is your chance to interpret the forecasting information into your own personal style.  Just because they tell you fish are going to be big, doesn’t mean you have to slap a fish on a t-shirt and call it a day. What about fish makes you happy? Scales? Shiny colors? Seaweed? Mermaids? Make it yours. Own those darn fish!

Step 3: Design

Now that you’ve got all these amazing pictures, you can start pulling out the ideas that work well together and lend themselves to outfit ideas. The shape of that chair might be an awesome sleeve. Sketch it out & see if there’s a way you can turn it into a pattern.

Sketches for Stitch & Pink's Summer '16 collection

Don’t think you have to create everything from scratch though. You may already have patterns in your arsenal that can be tweaked or styled to fit your inspiration. You could make the same exact pair of pants 6 seasons in a row, and no one would notice because you changed the fabric each time. Think about it – Most of the stores you shop at probably have “basics” that they remake every year, and we love them for it. Including 2 or 3 of these styles in your collection will definitely shorten the processing time each season.

Also start to decide how many and what kind of pieces you want to make. It’s a total pain to realize later that you have 15 gorgeous dresses, but not one pair of shorts – or all tops and no bottoms.

Step 4: Fabric Selection

Yay! We finally get to go shopping!
If you haven’t already created a color palette yet, now’s the time. Just keep in mind that things may need to be adjusted. Just because you really want that pair of jeans to be electric orange, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to find and/or afford the proper fabric. Keep track of possible alternatives during your search and don’t forget that you can dye, screen print, paint, etc. if necessary.

fabric Collage

I love to sit down with my design sketches and colored pencils, and just start coming up with different combinations. Then after my first round of shopping, I’ll do it again and keep making changes until I’ve finally found all the perfect fabrics.

Step 5: Samples

Now that you’ve got both designs and fabric, it’s time to make your samples. Draft patterns if necessary and keep testing them in cheap fabric until you’ve got it right. Then make one really nice garment out of your final fabric that you can use for photo shoots and promotions.

Stitch & Pink's Summer '16 sample making

This is a great time to test things like durability and fit. If something doesn’t seem right, give a sample to a friend and have them “real world” test it at their house. Parents especially will be sure to let you know if a garment isn’t going to stand up to their kids shenanigans or their washing machine!

Woo, that’s a lot of information. Congrats if you made it all the way down here without getting board. You must really be serious about starting a collection! Go ahead and get started on your research, and we’ll finish the rest of the list up on Wednesday. Good Luck!

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