This month there are a lot of holiday countdowns, and on the Emerging Designer Layla L’obatti is one of 24 in their emerging designer countdown! We’re honored for our luxe black label being included next to some other amazing up and coming designers!
FLASHBACK! me in 2006 presenting a garment I made while I was getting my BFA in intimate apparel. It took me 3 days to bead this corset… 3 long days.
Long hours lead to some crazy moments in the sewing lab… I remember days and NIGHTS like these.
I can’t explain the odd combination of excitement and exhaustion that goes along with pursuing a degree in fashion design. I look back on my days at FIT and I miss the many late night hours in the sewing lab, the 4 hour long classes, the aching fingers and back, and the many heavy bags of lace and underwires. Well, maybe not SO much! Those were some tough days, but I think anyone who has moved on from that experience to the corporate fashion world as I did will say that there is a nostalgia there. You don’t remember how rough it was as much as you remember the many delirous laughs and jokes with classmates as you feverishly sewed your term garments, or maybe the field trips to designer studios and showrooms, or the feeling of wonder at being in the center of it all in the middle of New York City, the fashion capital of the USA.
So often as a designer you will get questioned on aesthetic, market, fit, and most frustrating of all price. Trust me, you’ll want those hours in the lab behind you so you can confidently say: It is not easy to make a panty, have you ever sewed a 1/2 wide zig zag stitch within a 5/8″ elastic? That’s a 1/8 inch tolerance, that means you can only waver about 1/4 the width of a pencil, the thickness of a quarter, while an industrial machine is charging ahead… not so easy. Knowing this you can say: It takes highly specialized sewing skills in addition to the patterning and grading and sizing specialties of intimates in order to be able to produce these garments. And just because your thong is “yay” big does not mean it doesn’t require as much sewing work as a t-shirt. Your first taste of this will be during your presentation:
Take whatever you think school costs and DOUBLE it… fabric and supplies are expensive. The costs of learning your craft $$$, your experience as a lingerie design student = priceless!!
The final review is the day when the critic, and a group of professors choose which pieces they feel should be put into the final show. A nerve wracking moment because for a lot of students this is the payoff, because parents will often be sitting in the audience seeing the culmination of your work in a professional setting for the first time.
Just because the garments walking down that runway are smaller does not mean they are any less work. Don’t take my word for it! I discovered that FIT has also taken the amazing step of having students from each class blog about the semester leading up to their final presentations. Including some really great behind the scenes videos of what it takes to be a lingerie design student. Read more about this year’s intimate apparel class through the eyes of Amy, the student chosen to blog their journey: click here
Congrats to the class of 2011! I know we have yet to see what you can do, bright futures in fashion lie ahead.
Specialization… you rule the barnyard if, if you specialize. This little clip (pardon the russian subtitles) is one of my favorite numbers from one of my all-time favorite Marilyn Monroe movies.
And you might be wondering, what it is we are learning today, well my dears the girl’s got a point! Have you ever noticed “that the people in the news, the people that the magazines refer too… they’ve each a trait that seems to state first-raters” which the song goes on to explain is SPECIALIZATION. Indeed you think this would be common sense. It is an well known fact in the performing arts, in the arts and most specifically in fashion that having a specialization gives you a edge and allows you to carve out your niche. Think about how it applies to businesses even as they expand, take one of my favorite haunts Starbucks for example: specialization-coffee yes, yes coffee is an obvious answer, but then why do they carry food?! Oh, because food goes with coffee you say! But not just any food, bite size snacks, breakfast pastries, tiny sweets to be had with coffee and tea seem to do well at this ever growing establishment.
It’s not just the storefront that requires this specialization, it is the supplier and supply chain, the distribution that does not just want but NEEDS this. If they were to attempt to move into say, food made on the spot they’d be expanding their capabilites beyond what their specialization is hot/cold coffee and tea beverages made to order and accompanying pre-made snacks/pastries. It is a very specific and focused deal they offer.
In fashion you might wonder how this applies, well there are categories and many trade schools and fashion oriented colleges such as my alma mater The Fashion Institute of Technology neatly divide up their classes in order to focus students early on in their careers and to give them the specialized skills and knowledge needed to excel in their market. The art of patterning, draping, fitting and selecting fabric to make a skirt is one that is extremely different in the tailoring (suiting/workwear) vs the eveningwear specializations, and again the materials and construction methods of making a knitwear skirt are a specialization with challenges and needs in and of itself! The reason for this breakdown is years of knowledge have been passed down and the tricks and best practices vary greatly within each of these classes. I could write enough to fill a book… so I’ll leave it at this and move on.
In addition to the categories above plus some, which you can see reflected neatly in the way department stores divide up floors and merchandising, you will find there is a pricepoint division. This pricepoint division also inherently divides up the target market, for instance the difference in price between contemporary and designer labels also happens to change the age focus of their markets because the woman who can afford designer merchandise is often times more established financially and seeking a more mature look, whereas the contemporary market can cater to a more fashion forward and youthful clientele with a lower pricepoint. Take a closer look at some of the larger stores and you will see this line is drawn pretty obviously and that it is part of the reason mother and daughter split up when walking the floor together. This all goes back to the fact that fashion companies “specialize”.
Yes there are the crossovers, yes there are the major companies who have many labels and many accessories, but you know what the secret to it all is?! Licensing! I worked for the designer licenses of two major fashion labels, and it was my job to take their RTW trends and translate them into intimates. A tall order when you think about specialization because a print that works in size, scale, and theme for ready to wear does not always translate to the smaller (physically speaking) and more traditional real estate of intimates.
Even in the intimate department there are specializations: sleepwear, daywear, and foundations. Each with a different buyer, who also you guessed it, SPECIALIZES.
So you want to be a designer? To start your own brand? Keep all of this in mind, eye the market carefully and you will see where the lines are drawn and can place yourself in an arena where you can compete and excel. It worked for spanx founder sara blakely who took a look at the “shaping” garments in the foundation department and saw and urgent need for a makeover.
The lesson here is a commonly used adage: If You Try To Be Everything To Everyone, You’ll Be Nothing To No One
So listen to that Marilyn tune again, because that girl is just as smart as she is a bombshell!
Stay tuned for more posts from me about the intimate apparel specialization… and of course for some exciting new collections from Between the Sheets in the upcoming months!