The building blocks of fashion, fabric.

Fashion is a business. So far in this series of discussing fashion we’ve built what we call in the fashion industry, a brief. A brief is a type of assignment using a designer’s brand. The brand being the designer’s style and who they are designing for, their target market. Then when they are designing, what season, and what are inspired by, their creative idea behind that season’s collection, the story, the tone, the mood of their collection that are put together with a collage of images.

And you’d think at this point, yes, we can start designing. You can. But, you’d be missing something very important, the fabric.

The fabric of your clothes are the building blocks of your collection. Different types of clothes need different types of fabric. Fabric comes in different weights and fibers and finishes. Fabrics can be bought with patterns or the designer can create patterns themselves and have them made. Different types of fabric are going to determine what you can do with your designs. Designing without knowing what your fabric is going to be is designing blindly.

A Fabric/Notions/Accessories Mood Board

This is one part that bothers me about Project Runway. Over and over again it was pounded into my head in fashion design classes not to design a brief without buying fabric first. And always on Project Runway, they design first and buy fabric second. And you can see what designers know fabric and what designers don’t by their fabric choices when they finally get to Mood and if their design changes because of their fabric choice.

Having your fabric first lets you know what you have to work with. Fabric choices are going to depend on your budget or what price point your collection is. Fabrics for a high end collection are going to be different than fabrics for a collection for Wal-Mart.

Fabric is what brings your collection to life. No matter what you sketch. No matter what is in your head. What matters is what clothes made out of the fabrics you choose go down that runway. Fabric is the character of your collection. It is, pardon the pun, the material manifestation of your creativity. No matter how inadequate it is, fabric is what you have to work with.

The same can be said of writing and it’s funny, because Mark Twain once said that “Character is the clothes and buttons of a man.” In writing, like fashion, characters and words are what you have to work with. They are the foundational building blocks of your story. Choose them wisely. Different word choices and different character types will change your story in different ways. And clothes give people character.

A girl who wears a button down shirt and a pencil skirt on a regular basis is going to be completely different from the girl who wears tanks and cargos all the time. Of course it doesn’t mean that your tank and cargo girl can’t wear a button down and a pencil skirt, but it not doubt will be different fabrics and styling than the girl who wears that outfit every day. The same can be said of the other way around, your button down and pencil skirt girl could wear a tank and a cargo, but she’s going to be wearing it out of different colors and for different reasons.

Like you have different fabrics for different types of clothes, you’ll have different types of characters to do different types of things. There will be heroes and villains and anti-heroes. There are main characters and secondary characters and characters that are canon fodder. There will be characters that are funny and characters that are solemn and characters who are just pissed off all the time.

Savannah, Spike & Frankie in "Tank Tops"
Savannah, Spike & Frankie in “Tank Tops”

When you put clothes together and you put characters together, they are both called an ensemble. They are different pieces or people working together to be part of a whole. And it is important that the ensemble is full of different fabrics or characters that are go together and are balanced. Or else your outfit or group will feel a little off, whether they are too heavy or too big or there is just too much going on or not enough. Part of designing clothes and part of writing is learning the rules, then bending the rules to fit your style and figuring out when things are just right.

So yes, know your building blocks of your collection and your story, your fabric, your characters before you start designing. At least, in a very vague general way because sometimes, you don’t know how things are going to work until you start using your fabrics/characters.

Onto Part Seven


One thought on “The building blocks of fashion, fabric.

  1. Pingback: What Inspires You? | Ginny O.

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