When it comes to the creative process of conceptualising a new garment, generally there will be a spark of an idea or sometimes it will be led by finding and interesting fabric. The next step is always the pattern, it’s funny to think that a three dimensional garment starts from a flat pattern. It’s shape coming from curves and measurements. You may recall someone in your family making clothes using a pattern pack from a company like Bernina and using a home sewing machine. Essentially the process is the same, however our patterns are digitised to minimise waist in cutting and ease of creating new styles.
We have a range of blocks, essential shapes that we’ll adapt to create new styles. Some times we will start from a vintage garment, it always works well to start from something existing that you are familiar with.
The person that does all this work is Sue, being that it is such an important part of the process, trust and a good dialogue is essential. Sue has worked on all the patterns for Checks, every garment. She knows what I like and don’t like, designers will often have bug bears, some of mine are over-locking and fusing being exposed. And things they favour like fabrications and certain details.
Sue and I will generally meet at the beginning of working on a new collection to discuss the new styles for the season, how to start, what sort of fit is desired and what details. What type of fabrication will be used plays an important part as this can affect the construction so often we will have an idea for this from the outset. As the patterns are the basis of any of our garments, we benefit from Sue’s wealth of experience.
After some time fine tuning the pattern in a digital form, going through rounds of approvals and editing, a first sample will be made. Generally we will try to make the sample with the same factory that we intend to make the final production run with and in the same fabric that will be used, as the manufacturer and the fabric can have a huge impact on the outcome of the garment and we aim to create a near perfect first sample. As if it could be photographed for our campaign from the first attempt, some times with a more complicated style or if we are venturing in to new territory a second or third sample may be required.
We like to wear test these samples throughout this process so any fit, construction, quality or fabric notes can be included with the pattern approval.
Each round of sampling will include a list of notes for the pattern maker for the style to be amended, essentially through this process we are attempting to get closer to the initial vision or problem solving any production challenges, working through all the details that a garment would feature. It starts with the overall vision of the style, but all the small details are what makes it up.
Once we have a final sample that we are happy with it will be approved for production and the pattern will be graded up and down for all the various sizes, essentially bigger or smaller pattern pieces are created using standardised measurements to make up the different sizes of the garment. At this point the garment is ready for production and the pattern maker will liaise with the factory to prepare the production run.
I get asked a lot about what it takes to start a brand out how to get started with manufacturing, and I thought it would be interesting to outline some of the most important parts of the process. Essentially you need to find one good person within the industry that will work with you and it will follow on from there as they extend there network to you as well. It works in different ways in different countries, if you are making garments in China or other parts of Asia the factory will generally do everything for you. You can send them a picture of what you want, they will make the pattern, find the fabric, make the labels, cut and make the garment and add any embellishments.
Being that the New Zealand manufacturing industry is at such a boutique size, every one of these processes is a separate business and requires management between each of them from the brand/designer. I think this creates a beautiful result with each supplier imparting their knowledge and skill set in to the end result, in short it creates something more tangible. You have to really care to manage and give value to each of these processes.