In creating new designs, fashion designers follow a fairly standard process to plan, design, and construct a garment or costume. In general, they:
- Research fabric and styling trends
- Identify the needs and preferences of their target market (customers)
- Choose fabric swatches and make rough sketches
- Transfer directly to a flat pattern or drape the fabric over a dressmaking form
- Produce a flat pattern on paper or digitally to make a sample garment from a test fabric (such as muslin)
- Cut the cotton muslin to the shape of the pattern
- Make alterations on the sample and pattern after live models try it on
- Create a final sample from the actual fabric
A designer may need to make several samples before a design is finalized. If the garment is being produced for wholesale or retail, the designer:
- Creates a technical specification sheet with seam allowances, notions, fabric swatches, and special instructions
- Cuts the pattern and grades it to standard sizes
- Makes the product in house or contracts out the cutting, sewing, and finishing
Designers oversee all phases and details of pattern preparation: cutting, fitting, and garment production. They also choose fabric and trim.
Marketing their goods is a big part of a designer’s business. This often includes:
- Determining price points for styles
- Duplicating their collections for agents and sales representatives who travel to other garment centres
- Promoting their collections through fashion shows, social media, trade shows, and personal appearances
- Travelling often to trade shows to buy materials
- Expanding their exposure through online sales
Designers often develop a full line of co-ordinating garments and accessories. Such “lifestyle brands” have a common colour scheme, fabric, and similar styling with different looks. Many recognized designers market their goods in their own boutiques, online, or through mail-order catalogues.
Fashion designers must keep up with fashion trends so their clothes are fashion forward. Designers may also produce classic fashion lines for any time or season. Designers must also keep up on other trends that influence design. For example, environmental trends may encourage the use of sustainable fabrics. These fabrics may be made from recycled materials or organically grown plants. The production process may reduce environmental impact or produce zero waste.
Independent designers prefer to create original goods rather than imitations of someone else’s look. Designers and product developers who work for manufacturers may do less original work. They may adapt other designers’ ideas for mass markets.
Haute couture is a specialized area of fashion design that caters to individual clients. These are original designs, usually one-of-a-kind. They represent the top end of the fashion industry in both style and price. Couturiers produce a much smaller volume of clothing, with usually only one sample of each design.