This time around FashionIndie features Layla L’obatti Designer range on their Designer Daily series- the Arabesque 2012 collection modeled by the lovely Arden Leigh.
Some new questions came into my formspring account (that were not about susan, surprise!) and it made me think that my first post about wanting to be a lingerie designer shouldn’t stop at getting schooled. I know there are a lot of designers out there who struggle with the decisions of how, when, and if they should take the leap into launching their own collections. So here’s some of my thoughts on the second skill which can give you a huge edge in this cut-throat field of fashion, and more specifically, intimates.
I’ll always stop just short of saying you have to go to school or have to know to sew, if only because the true gauge of success is wanting it badly enough that you’ll get back up and keep going when life knocks you down. I’m also never one to say there is one right way to do things. There are only ways I would do it and ways I personally would not, and for you the same. However, I will come out and say that having some schooling that involves patternmaking and sewing will make your life easier, and if not that wrapping your head around sewing a pre-made pattern will teach you a lot about the steps in the process.
I remember my first big sewing project was sewing my own prom dress and a friends over spring break, we bought fabric and patterns that I was going to fit. In the end they turned out amazing – there were definitely things I would do differently with the years of experience I have under my belt now, but for my first real project it went remarkably smoothly… except for one moment- I sewed the wrong panels of the skirt of my friend’s dress together and then we both suffered through lots of seam ripping on delicate fabric, a total NIGHTMARE.
yes, we even documented the frustrating parts, me having a freak out with the seam ripper in one hand and the chaos of home sewing around me.
I know there are a lot of designers out there on Etsy who sew orders, and even many like myself who make their own samples, and that’s huge! I can’t imagine not sewing my first sample, and in fact this season was one of the first where I outsourced it. I double and triple checked my patterns knowing that any mistakes would cost me more money in their time spent adjusting for them, but usually I catch things in the first proto and by the time I’m sewing samples its smooth sailing.
The point of all of this is to say that if you don’t at least have a rudimentary knowledge of sewing you’re leaving a lot of the decisions in the hands of someone else. Which is all fine and dandy when you’re with a patternmaker or samplemaker who are going to do it all right, but oftentimes what a samplemaker can do in sampling is not doable in production of a larger scale. Knowing what machines your factory has and where you can use those to your advantage on a garment is huge. I make a point of browsing the machines at my factories and if I see one I don’t recognize gathering dust I ASK what it is and what it does. You might think making things in the USA is a dying art based on the number of machines gathering dust, but I have an alternate theory- there are a plethora of designers who do not sew and have no interest in the nuances of manufacturing and production. They don’t go to factories or sewing room floors, so they don’t see the dusty gold (and yes I’m ripping from American Pickers and their rusty gold) and so these machines lay dormant, their possibility lying beneath a thin coating of dust, waiting for someone to brush them off and put them to good use.
Home sewing and home production cannot compare to the efficiency of large scale production, and it in no way supports the economy on the scale that large scale production does in creating jobs. I thought with trepidation about the risks of outsourcing and of making minimums, which to a small designer making product here in the US are astronomically smaller than the minimums you will encounter making product overseas. Still, its always risky. For instance, one season the cutter mistook our fabric because we have an underwear weight and a loungewear weight and cut a whole lot of pants from the wrong fabric. Not only did we have a whole lot of styles where the pant was cut in the wrong material but we had to then have him correct it, but now we’re stuck with a whole bunch of pants which if we sew we can’t send to a retailer. They are still cut, in a bag, in storage waiting for the day when I plan a sample sale and I’ll pay to have them sewn and sell them at a discount just to try to make the cost of that mistake back. How did that happen? Why wasn’t I there? I was there everyday, and I couldn’t hover over the cutters every second. In many rounds of cutting this was one mistake, a fluke. It turns out someone had labeled the roll the wrong fabric code on one end and the right one on the other. I caught it when walking by a pile of stacked goods I could just tell by the way the edges curled that it was the wrong material. As it was I caught it in time to correct the mistake in time to re-cut, sew, and ship.
The above is just an example of how important it is to know materials, know sewing, and to be intimately acquainted with your contractor and their factory floor. I sought out the stacks of cut goods, mentally inventory and just quickly perusing the stacks. There is a wealth of knowledge within your range of sight, you just have to LOOK. There are also many more situations and reasons that the more hands on sewing knowledge you have can benefit you that I can’t possibly cover in one post. Perhaps I’ll revisit it on a future occasion.
I wanted to share this video (which I discovered via The Lingerie Addict on twitter who I believe found it through lingerieblog.co.uk) because I think it gives you just a bit of an idea what goes into the making of clothing, particularly a bra. Now what you don’t see is a timeline for how long this takes, a lot of parts are sped up but I wouldn’t be surprised if this takes one day (it’s a sample, production goes a bit faster).
Overall I think you get an idea of the skills that it takes a sewing contractor and how again, knowing a bit yourself and having a passion and curiosity for what goes one when the design leaves the showroom can a. give you a edge and b. make positive and lasting change in manufacturing trends.
There are a lot of designers finding ways to bring things back, or who are starting here and keeping it here – if you’re a buyer or consumer, support them, nurture the talent, because each designer you support is dusting off their mind and finding a way to make it work, and dusting off a couple of machines means adding a couple of more specialized jobs that can help us rebuild our economy, one panty at a time.