Design Process: Colorways

Traditionally, the fashion and apparel industry ran on a calendar of Spring and Fall collections. These were shown on runways in major fashion centers, available to wholesale customers. The products were eventually released to retail customers six months later or more.

Now, of course, with the internet and global production cycles, fast-fashion and consumerism, the industry on the whole has been sliding away from this traditional design and production calendar.

The interesting thing about running a business is that you get the opportunity to look at the traditional models of how things are done and decide to participate, alter, or invent.

Like most brands, we started with the traditional model: twice yearly collections, offered to wholesale, and produced to meet wholesale demand.

However, we rapidly saw the challenges this presented on the production side. One of our primary ethics is to produce in the USA. Twice yearly collection releases is a model that runs contrary to a healthy domestic manufacturing industry. Stitchers, cutters, quality assurance people- they all prefer jobs that are consistent throughout the year, and avoid the ups and downs of twice yearly collections.

Thus, we moved into the cycle of rolling production: this means that we always have product in all stages of the production cycle. New product releases are staggered throughout the year.

However, as a designer, it is important to see a collection in the gestalt, as a whole and holistic concept. For this reason, we still maintain a twice yearly collection colorways design process.

And thus, for a few days, we sit down surrounded by swatches, trims, pantones, and notebooks. We choose colorways for our perpetual styles: bikini, hipster, thong, triangle bra, pixy bra, alchemy, and silk slips.

What, exactly, are colorways?

Well, they are the combination of all those little bits of fabric and trim that go into making up a finished product.

These four colorways represent a total of 12 different shades.
This colorway, called “Indigo”, has four different shades of blue incorporated- all need to be specified and ordered separately.











And so, the colorway design process starts. We choose some music, set up the pantones, and get to work.

Once it seemed strange to buy these silly color chips called Pantones, made of perfectly dyed cotton.  I tried instead to find swatches from the “real world”. But, with scale and time, I saw the infinite practicality of Pantone color swatches.

When you want a fabric or trim dyed to a spec, it’s best if the sample is already made of fabric. Color looks different on different substances and surfaces. Thus, the most predictable way to plan a fabric color is from a pre-existing swatch of cotton.

Additionally, you might need to send that EXACT same swatch of color to several suppliers- thus having enough of the precise physical object is important.

I’m still very tied to working on paper. At all times my desk is covered with big or little pieces of paper, where I keep ongoing notes about things to do, people to call, items to remember- large or small.

Of course, because colors look different on a computer screen than in real life, there is a necessity and practicality to doing this work with little scraps and tape and scissors.

But where are the sketches of garments? Where are the fashion illustrations? I thought that was what designers did!

Haha. Yes, of course, it’s nice to make sketches.

2017-12-27 14.10.56

Next up: Samples! 

and: an actual Garment Design Process.

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