Thursday, 23 February 2012

Sustainable Project....Day 3


Well the fabrics and trims have arrived...whoopee...time to start creating. I had better give this simple little product a name...going to need a domain name. This is the fun part.

.......later. This is much harder than I anticipated. Trying to find a name that conveys a sustainability message which doesn't sound flavourless and lacking in style with a word which sums up some element of style. I'm finding this to be a difficult marriage, especially when I'm looking for a name which is still free, but I will find something  which conveys the to be watched!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Luxury...What's Special About Couture?

Givenchy Collection Autumn Winter 2011-2012

Haute Couture literally translated means "sewing at a high level" and the centre for haute couture is still Paris. Couture had been in decline for many years with the couture houses being thought of, as exclusively expensive workshops where highly creative ideas could be satisfied. These design houses were subsidised by their fragrances as no-one could afford the extravagantly high prices.

Now, amazingly some couture houses are back in profit. It seems that the super rich have revived this declining sector. Sadly some believe that it's at the expense of great design as the couture designers are designing to their customers tastes and not exploring creative fantasy. I believe that this is fashion going through a natural cycle as talented seamstresses which preceded Couture were designing what their customers craved. Charles Worth (1826-1895) is considered to be the first Couture designer. He was the first to dictate design to his customers with sketches.

Couture, of course uses the finest fabrics with top notch cutting skills, all individually made. What many fashion followers don't realise is that most of the stitching is done by hand by highly skilled seamstresses using very intricate processes.

To my mind, really good quality ready to wear clothes are preferable. I would choose not to pay £50,000 to £100,000 for even the most heart stoppingly beautiful item. In terms of luxury and sustainability I'd like to see some fitting and finishing techniques being borrowed from Haute Couture......please...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Starting a Sustainable Project..Day 1

Well I'm keeping the actual product a secret until I have samples ready but it's going to be a simple start up product (I hope!) to test my ideals on Sustainable Fashion.

Day 1...sourcing materials.
I would normally get hold of fabrics and trims at the right price for the market I'm designing for in a mad time driven panic.

I knew that this brief was slightly different so I began with ethically sourced, luxury cloth (to be revealed) and then I ordered some trims...great, feeling inspired and job done but no whoops where did the trims come from? Were they ethically sourced? I don't really know so cancel those and search for more. This was easier than I thought it might be, so no excuses. Just waiting for all of the materials to arrive now.

Whilst I'm waiting for those to arrive, I'm reading this very well researched article from the Guardian

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sustainable Fashion...more challenges for the Industry

I've blogged a little about consumption and how we could control it more responsibly (very long way to go on this)

....................and I have glimpsed at one top end designer who is remaking and recycling magnificently

........but what else are fashion professionals looking at to make fashion more sustainable? Becky Willan, director of Given, London sums this up for me

Sustainability principles are becoming simply the best way to run a business on any measure.  But this isn’t based on a checklist of things to tick off or do’s and don’ts.  It’s a way of thinking. 

This is a long road to travel, where every decision will need to be questioned:

  • Where are your raw materials coming from?
  • How do your suppliers measure up in the sustainability debate? 
  • How do your suppliers measure up on environmental questions - consider dyeing and finishing.
  • Ethical issues - how is the work force treated; conditions, hours, salary, age?
  • What about your suppliers' suppliers??
  • If you are selling to a retailer, how do they answer your sustainability questions?  
  • If you work in an organisation which is larger than you alone, how will you get colleagues singing from the same sustainable sheet? 
  • What about transparency - can you create a transparent supply chain?
  • How will you market your sustainable business?  
You can use the consultancy services for the Centre for Sustainable Fashion to assist in your quest

Having worked for a number of suppliers where I can't influence decisions in sustainability, I am now going to start a small sustainable fashion business myself, to see how all of the theory works in the real world  ....I'll keep you posted............ 

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Foundations and Fit..a peek at lingerie..

A peek into the ladies lingerie sector

There's a good reason why lingerie was originally called Foundation Wear; it's the vital base helping to form any fashion silhouette. Consider the stark contrast between corseted Victorian women and the emancipated women of the 1920's -30's.

Fit is all in the lingerie market (at least it should be). Body shaping solutions known as 'Control Wear' now saturate the market at all levels.

Body Shape Variations
For anyone who has not studied lingerie theory, fifty women of the same bra size could be compared and no two would be the same and only a tiny percentage would be symmetrical.
Industry experts stress the value of aiming product at a market sector and keeping consistency of fit rather than trying to design a range that would be all things to all customers.
There is also a move towards customers seeking a 'Comfort Fit' which could also be described as a 'general fit' favoured by larger retailers such as M & S and the supermarkets. Brands usually favour a more specific tailored shape which their customers identify with and repeat purchase.
Core sizes (32-38 A-D) 

The average bra size in the 1960's was 34B compared to the average size now which is 36D.
Many companies, particularly brands stock only core sizes in most of their ranges.

Plus sizes (DD upwards) -This is a rapidly growing market as UK ladies have become larger but research and fit are not as well established. Each company is using a different fit dependent on how they want the profile of their bra to appear.


I believe that any designer would benefit from studying lingerie as it is an excellent design discipline which would help a designer understand good fit. There are many specialised contour courses at De Montfort University in Leicester.

Last year I studied on a short, professional course which I would definitely recommend to you if you want to have a closer look at this product area.

There's much more to say about lingerie...I believe that it's a very interesting and challenging product area given that our body shapes are so varied and changing...


Friday, 17 February 2012

Designer or Technologist???!!

As I look at available jobs in the fashion press in the UK, it's clear to see that you should either be a designer or a technologist. After working with many different companies, the misconception from directors, managers and even designers and technologists is that you are either a truly creative being, bringing colour, texture, great design and artwork or you're practical, good at pattern drafting/draping, grading, fit and construction. These two different people may communicate well with each other but one person couldn't possibly be good at both.

I'm sorry folks but I really don't understand this attitude. Would we expect an architect to create images of buildings, select some materials and then pass the rest to technical?

I'm not saying that having technical and design roles divided doesn't ever work but come on fashion industry, surely the best designers have a flare for the innovative and technical aspects of bringing fashion ideas to life? When we sketch a beautiful silhouette, shouldn't we be thinking how the pattern will be cut, how the fabric will drape and plan a construction method and finishing details that breathe something awesome into a garment?

My ramblings will change nothing as far as employers are concerned but please, for those of you working in or studying design, please don't neglect the technical side of your craft...your designs will be so much better with solid technical knowledge and expertise.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Make Fashion Sustainable by Recycling.....?

If you think that clothes made of recycled materials need to look like hippy patchworks (I kind of did ...shame on me) then think again. Check out the wonderful work of Christopher Raeburn

He makes luxury (with a capital L) coats and jackets from parachute fabrics and end of line military textiles into fabulous military inspired clothes.

Not only are the designs and quality awe inspiring, the recycling process flows naturally to Raeburn as it makes sense to him to stop good quality materials from finishing their days in landfill. Food for thought me thinks....

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Why Sustainable Fashion?

One of the most exciting documents I have read in recent years is 'Fashioning the Future' from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (London College of Fashion)  There are many thoughts and ideas contained within this document from several eminent speakers, which are all worth reading. Their continuous work and research questions current practices and behaviour which are not in line with forward thinking in terms of sustainability....the big one being in consumption.

In the UK, there is a huge demand for throw away fashion bought cheaply at the beginning of a season; so cheap that you can add to it with more bargain items mid season, and so inexpensive that it can all be thrown out to start more buying/consuming next time around. Needless to say these garments are of poor quality in terms of fabrics used, sewing quality and fit.

One suggestion to make fashion more sustainable is to re-educate; and design and produce less clothes of a higher quality; luxury. Almost a complete U-turn and a step back in time. What is exciting for me as a designer is that it would allow designers the resources and maybe even the time to produce exciting, well balanced, well fitted ranges in beautiful durable fabrics. Designers are at the beginning of the manufacturing process so it's up to us to help fashion a more sustainable future for the industry. What do you think?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

What is Fashion?

What is fashion? Is it total frivolity or is there more to it than that?
"Fashion design as a discipline is  away of satisfying the yearning to create, to bring excitement to a situation; it heralds a desire to provoke and reflect contemporary society needs. Design is everywhere."
The London College of Fashion - Centre for Sustainable Fashion 

When we think of reflecting society, consider the short straight styling of the 1940's brought about because fabrics were in short supply during World War II, and compare this styling to the 1950's ...full, full skirts to celebrate a return to peace.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Start by Drafting a Basic Bodice Block

Get started with some basic pattern cutting by creating a basic bodice block. From this you can create  endless upper body garments.
  1.  If you are creating this block for yourself or a model, then make it in paper first, add seam allowances (1/4",1cm is usual) Tip: if you don't have pattern cutting paper, old rolls of wrapping paper or brown paper are fine. Use a pencil with hard lead 1H or 2H
  2. Cut the bodice out in basic woven fabric and stitch up, leaving some simple opening so that it can be tried on.  Tip: This garment is called a toile and is usually made in calico but you could use almost any woven fabric.
  3. Have the garment tried on and work on the fit with pins or pens, then redraw the block with any alterations from the fitting. Tip: Make the final block in card so that you can keep re-using it.   
Happy pattern drafting!