10 Most Unglamorous Facets of Fashion Design
May 19, 2011 - by Jessica Lapidos
Runway. Red carpet. Vogue editorials. Ad Campaigns. Silk ruffled into clouds. It all looks effortlessly divine. Design gods like Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfeld make designing the most fabulous dresses look like one long cocktail party with Anna Wintour picking up the tab. Well, if you're a designer you know that making it werq is WORK. Hard, annoying, painful and decidedly unglamorous work. Okay, creating clothing as only you can imagine it is incredibly rewarding, but getting those designs into the world on any sort of scale takes a lot of bitch work.
1. Factory Work Working in a factory is probably the pits. Working with a factory is nearly as bad. In the current state of the world, youre probably talking to people that dont speak your language about very precise details.
2. Spec Sheets Because of that factory fact, all of designs must be transferred into numbers and plugged into an excel spreadsheet. Attached to the spreadsheet is a basic outlined drawing of the garment on which you draw arrows, measurements and instructions (ie, the spec ifics). Tedious? Yes. Essential? Absolutely.
3. Pattern Making Many designers sketch out their concepts and send it off to a pattern maker. I, however, believe that patterning is essential to the creation process and a proper designer will do it him/herself. It is mathematical and holds the key to transforming the two dimensional into the third. It is typically the step in between the draping and the sample making. Without exact patterns, it is impossible to replicate.
4. Pins and Needles If youre the slightest bit clumsy, your fingers might end up looking like Swiss cheese from the amount of time you poke yourself with pins and/or hand sewing needles. Also, when you start bleeding from the fingertips, remember priority #1: dont get blood on the fabric.
5. Sourcing fabrics From Project Runway you might think all it takes to get fabric is a solid trip to Mood. Not exactly. Many of the fabrics they carry are limited, like theyve acquired excess fabrics from designers. Thats why theyre fabulous. But youre going to need fabrics that you can order infinitely. Its a catch 22 though, because many textile mills have super high minimums, like 1000 yards per order.
6. Sustainability Designers looking to make beautiful clothing and do right by the world is going to have a tougher time at it. This means following the lifecycle of their garments from the beginning of fiber growth and spinning, through weaving textiles, through screen printing and dyeing, through sewing and assembly, through packaging and shipping; all to ensure that the earth was minimally impacted and people were treated and paid fairly along the way.
7. Private Label Many big companies have in-house labels. AKA they hire outside companies to design and manufacture these lines, and the designer will never get credit. But that might work in said designers favor when theyre designing for Lane Bryant and Chicos. Or as I like to call it, Selling Your Soul.
8. Not Making Money Fashion is a business that has historically relied heavily on slave labor. The slaves of the modern day dont pick cotton thats left to machines but rather are now called interns and are lucky to be there. Also, if youre starting your own business, dont expect to turn a profit for at least a year, if youre any good.
9. Never Sleeping If you have your own label, chances are youre losing sleep. In fact, you should probably stop reading this and get back to work. And the closer it gets to fashion week, the less youll be sleeping. You simply cant attain perfection and get eight hours of sleep a night. You can hardly get five. Make it work with three.
10. Knock It Off Its going to suck when you go into H&M and Forever 21 and see your designs, being sold for a fraction of the price to people who may never know it was yours. But its the game we play.
Work is work is work, but if you love it, those unglamorous moments are worth it. Its the tireless buzz behind the scenes that allows for all the glamour that is fashion.
We know you're fabulous, but tell us about your unglamorous fashionable duties.
Sewing Machine photo from Danielle Pettee