Every good step in your career starts with an “Ahaaaa” moment as Oprah would say 😀 One of these happened to me as I was planning this post. This post is about what it takes to be a designer, and what factors do designers consider when they’re planning a collection. Reading through my notes made me realize that everything I’m about to write applies to me too as a fashion illustrator. Although my end products are not currently garments or accessories, having a business based on fashion illustrations sold as stationary products makes me go through the same product life-cycle. So, I decided to make this post a practical application of what I learnt from the lessons in this course.
Any collection is made up of products that have a central theme. In fashion design, this theme determines the cuts, fabric choices, colors and other traits combined to create looks. In illustrations, this theme determines the setting, the clothing type, the girl’s character & pose, and the colors of the illustration. We can also have several illustrations as part of a collection. For example, we can have a few illustrations with a beach theme where one girl is reading on the beach, a girl having a coconut drink with a flamingo, and another illustration where it’s a group of friends on the beach. Each illustration would have a mood, different swimwear designs, and a different setting as if you are having a photography session with them.
Although these two worlds might differ in several aspects, a common and extremely important one is understanding your market, in other words, “market research”. In both fields you’re designing for an audience and in order to be successful, you need to understand your customers’ lifestyle, values, attitudes, and what it is they’re aspiring to so that your designs can connect and resonate with them. In the end, what your clients value the most is what they’re going to base their buying decisions on. For example, many of my clients appreciate hand-made goods especially those made locally. For some of them, supporting small local business(es) adds to their sense of giving back to their community and for others, they are being more environmentally friendly as there is less carbon foot-print than if they purchase from abroad and for that I’m grateful 🙂 In this case, the more events and craft shows I attend, the higher the chance I have to engage with this customer base and the better chance for them to get to know the maker behind the products and their manufacturing process.
Understanding your customers also helps you with deciding on themes relevant to their lifestyle for your collection(s). For example, looking through my store, I realize I need to add a section for “Wedding”, “Motherhood”, “Graduation”, “Birthdays” and “Work” inspired illustrations. This understanding also helps you with your economic aspects of your business such as with setting pricing strategies, which are in turn reflected in your choice of materials, suppliers, and level of details within an illustration. For example, I used to go to a local scanning studio to scan my artwork which added extra overhead to the cost per print. I did a lot of research until I purchased a scanner that gives me even better scanning quality from the comforts of my own studio 🙂
Being a designer in the fashion world requires confidence in your visual style, personal taste and your skill as a designer. It requires humility that makes you understand your clients’ needs, and self-awareness of what you’re best at doing and what you better leave to the professionals if you can, such as marketing and photography. It’s a lot of effort, but it’s always magical when you succeed.