A LOOK INTO THE WORLD OF FASHION DESIGN
What is fashion design about and what could possibly be its importance?
Fashion design is the art of the application of design and aesthetics or natural beauty to clothing and accessories. Fashion design is influenced by cultural and social latitudes, and has varied over time and place. Fashion designers work in a number of ways in designing clothing and accessories such as bracelets and necklace, because of the time required to bring a garment onto the market, must at times anticipate changing consumer tastes.
Fashion designers attempt to design clothes which are functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. They must consider who is likely to wear a garment and the situations in which it will be worn. They have a wide range and combinations of materials to work with and a wide range of colors, patterns and styles to choose from. Though most clothing worn for everyday wear falls within a narrow range of conventional styles, unusual garments are usually sought for special occasions such as evening wear or party dresses. Some clothes are made specifically for an individual, as in the case of haute couture or bespoke tailoring. Today, most clothing is designed for the mass market, especially casual and every-day wear.
Fashion designers can work in a number of many ways. Fashion designers may work full-time for one fashion as ‘in-house designers’ which owns the designs. They may work alone or as part of a team. Freelance designers work for themselves, selling their designs to fashion houses, directly to shops, or to clothing manufacturers. The garments bear the buyer’s label. Some fashion designers set up their own labels, under which their designs are marketed. Some fashion designers are self-employed and design for individual clients. Other high-fashion designers cater to specialty stores or high-fashion department stores. These designers create original garments, as well as those that follow established fashion trends. Most fashion designers, however, work for apparel manufacturers, creating designs of men’s, women’s, and children’s fashions for the mass market. Large designer brands which have a ‘name’ as their brand such as Abercrombie & Fitch or Juicy are likely to be designed by a team of individual designers under the direction of a designer director.
Fashion designers work in different ways. Some sketch their ideas on paper, while others drape fabric on a dress form. When a designer is completely satisfied with the fit of the toile (or muslin), he or she will consult a professional pattern maker who then makes the finished, working version of the pattern out of card or via a computerized system. The pattern maker’s job is very precise and painstaking. The fit of the finished garment depends on their accuracy. Finally, a sample garment is made up and tested on a model to make sure it is an operational outfit. Fashion design is generally considered to have started in the 19th century with Charles Frederick Worth who was the first designer to have his label sewn into the garments that he created. Before the former draper set up his fashion house in Paris, clothing design and creation was handled by largely anonymous seamstresses, and high fashion descended from that worn at royal courts. Worth’s success was such that he was able to dictate to his customers what they should wear, instead of following their lead as earlier dressmakers had done. The term couturier was in fact first created in order to describe him. While all articles of clothing from any time period are studied by academics as costume design, only clothing created after 1858 are considered as fashion design.
It was during this period that many design houses began to hire artists to sketch or paint designs for garments. The images were shown to clients, which was much cheaper than producing an actual sample garment in the workroom. If the client liked their design, they ordered it and the resulting garment made money for the house. Thus, the tradition of designers sketching out garment designs instead of presenting completed garments on models to customers began as an economy.
Until the 1950s, fashion clothing was predominately designed and manufactured on a made-to-measure or haute couture, with each garment being created for a specific client. A couture garment is made to order for an individual customer, and is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric, sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques. Look and fit take priority over the cost of materials and the time it takes to make. Due to the high cost of each garment, haute couture makes little direct profit for the fashion houses, but is important for prestige and publicity.
Ready-to-wear clothes are a cross between haute couture and mass market. They are not made for individual customers, but great care is taken in the choice and cut of the fabric. Clothes are made in small quantities to guarantee exclusivity, so they are rather expensive. Ready-to-wear collections are usually presented by fashion houses each season during a period known as Fashion Week. This takes place on a city-wide basis and occurs twice a year. The main seasons of Fashion Week include, spring/summer, fall/winter, resort, swim, and bridal. Currently the fashion industry relies more on mass market sales. The mass market caters for a wide range of customers, producing ready-to-wear garments using trends set by the famous names in fashion. They often wait around a season to make sure a style is going to catch on before producing their own versions of the original look. In order to save money and time, they use cheaper fabrics and simpler production techniques which can easily be done by machine. The end product can therefore be sold much more cheaply.
There is a type of design called “kutch” design originated from the German word “kitschig” meaning “ugly” or “not aesthetically pleasing.” Kitsch can also refer to “wearing or displaying something that is therefore no longer in fashion.” Often, high-waisted trousers, associated with the 1980s, are considered a “kitsch” fashion statement.
There are a number of well-known specialized art schools and design schools worldwide that offer degrees in fashion design and fashion design technology. Some colleges also offer Masters of Fashion courses. Though it is not a requirement to have a Masters level degree, it is recommended by those already working in the industry to study at this level. Many universities offer fashion design throughout the United States, usually within the context of a general liberal arts degree. The major concentration incorporating fashion design may have alternative names like Apparel and Textiles or Apparel and Textile Design, and may be housed in departments such as Art and Art History, or Family and Consumer Studies. Some schools, such as Parsons, offer a major in Fashion Management, combining fashion education with business courses.
The only Ivy League University having a Fashion Design undergraduate program is Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, a program offered by the department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design. Cornell also offers a PhD program in apparel design. Also, I have found that Middle Tennessee State University, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, just 30 miles from Nashville, Tennessee offers the Bachelor of Science in Textiles, Merchandising, and Design with concentrations in Apparel Design and Fashion Merchandising. Our academic programs are offered in state-of-the art facilities and our students live and learn in an environment which is aesthetically pleasing, academically stimulating, and culturally enriching. An updated list of fashion design masters and PhD programs can be found at ITAA.org. The programs are intended to address the needs of academia, industry, and research by considering apparel design as an applied science that embraces design, technology, physical sciences, the humanities, and social sciences in order to meet the human needs for clothing.
Fashion design terms that are used in the industry that help us all understand the trade a bit better are: (a) a fashion designer conceives garment combinations of line, proportion, color, and texture. While sewing and pattern-making skills are beneficial, they are not a pre-requisite of successful fashion design. Most fashion designers are formally trained or apprenticed; (b) a technical designer works with the design team and the factories overseas to ensure correct garment construction, appropriate fabric choices and a good fit. The technical designer fits the garment samples on a fit model, and decides which fit and construction changes to make before mass-producing the garment; (c) A pattern maker drafts the shapes and sizes of a garment’s pieces. This may be done manually with paper and measuring tools or by using a CAD computer software program. Another method is to drape fabric directly onto a dress form. The resulting pattern pieces can be constructed to produce the intended design of the garment and required size. Formal training is usually required for working as a pattern marker; (d) a tailor makes custom designed garments made to the client’s measure; especially suits (coat and trousers, jacket and skirt, etc.). Tailors usually undergo an apprenticeship or other formal training; (e) a textile designer designs fabric weaves and prints for clothes and furnishings. Most textile designers are formally trained as apprentices and in school; (f) a stylist co-ordinates the clothes, jewelry, and accessories used in fashion photography and catwalk presentations. A stylist may also work with an individual client to design a coordinated wardrobe of garments. Many stylists are trained in fashion design, the history of fashion, and historical costume, and have a high level of expertise in the current fashion market and future market trends. However, some simply have a strong aesthetic sense for pulling great looks together; (g) a fashion buyer selects and buys the mix of clothing available in retail shops, department stores, and chain stores. Most fashion buyers are trained in business and/or fashion studies; (h) a seamstress sews ready-to-wear or mass-produced clothing by hand or with a sewing machine, either in a garment shop or as a sewing machine operator in a factory. She (or he) may not have the skills to make (design and cut) the garments, or to fit them on a model; (i) A teacher of fashion design teaches the art and craft of fashion design in art or fashion school; (j) A custom clothier makes custom-made garments to order, for a given customer; (k) A dressmaker specializes in custom-made women’s clothes: day, cocktail, and evening dresses, business clothes and suits, trousseaus, sports clothes, and lingerie; (l) An illustrator draws and paints clothing designs for commercial use; (m) A fashion forecaster predicts what colours, styles and shapes will be popular (“on-trend”) before the garments are on sale in stores; (n) A model wears and displays clothes at fashion shows and in photographs; (o) A fit model aids the fashion designer by wearing and commenting on the fit of clothes during their design and pre-manufacture. Fit models need to be a particular size for this purpose; (p) a fashion journalist writes fashion articles describing the garments presented or fashion trends, for magazines or newspapers; (q) An alterations specialist adjusts the fit of completed garments, usually ready-to-wear, and sometimes re-styles them; and (r) An Image Consultant, wardrobe consultant or fashion advisor recommends styles and colors that are flattering to the client.