The inside scoop on the fashion and design collection creation
The Inside Scoop

Living The Fashion and Design Life

June 23, 2015
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Fashion design collections are a series of overlapping cycles.

Fashion design collection sketch from Charleston bridal designer Edith Élan
This post has been updated as of March 30, 2021.

In fashion design, it’s always “go, go, GO!” There is always something that has to be done. There is always a collection to work on. It’s also very common to work on multiple collections at one time. For example: while presenting the newest collection, we’re also fulfilling orders from previous collections, and sketching for the upcoming collection. Each collection is a cycle that once it starts, it doesn’t stop.

The fashion design lifecycle includes cutting fabrics for samples

The Start of Fashion Design Collection

The lifecycle of a collection starts with an inspiration. With an inspiration chosen, an inspiration board is then made. The board has images and swatches for things like silhouettes, trims, and fabrics. Previous collections, red carpet moments, and current bridal trends are also sources of inspiration.

The next 5-8 weeks are spent sketching. At the end of sketching, there can be upwards of 50+ sketches that must be whittled down into a cohesive collection. To do that, the sketches are spread out on the floor or table, and then each one is looked over. After many yesses, maybes, and lots of hmm-ing, the group of designs that pass move on to the next phase.

The Next Phases: Muslins & First Fittings

Producing muslins of the finalized designs takes on average 8 weeks or so. During this time, there’s a lot of draping, patterning, cutting, and sewing. Muslins are made from inexpensive fabric (usually an unbleached cotton). To cut down on waste, muslins from previous collections are either reused when possible or completely dismantled and cut up. The muslin fitting marks the end of the muslin phase.

During the fitting, the model tries on each muslin. Pinning, unstitching, repinning, and marking the muslins happens until the muslin looks how it should. After the fitting, any patterns that need correction based on the pins and markings of the muslins occurs.  From there, patterns to determine the yield, aka how much of each fabric needs to ordered.

Nearing the Finish: Samples

Once the final fabrics arrive, it’s time to cut and sew the samples!!! This is where things get exciting because the initial ideas are becoming a reality!  About 16-20 weeks from the first fitting, samples are complete. It’s not like there are little elves coming in at night and making these dresses for us. Unless that is, you consider us the “elves” if we work through the night. (Truth be told, though, we’re not in college and can no longer pull “all-nighters” and be functional the next day.)

With the samples complete, it’s time for the fun part. The photoshoot! Around the photoshoot time, it’s also time to prepare for fall market where the new collection will debut. It’s not as fun, but it must be done. Fashion designers choose whether they present their collections 6 months to a year before designs are in stores.  For Edith Élan, the upcoming year’s collection is presented the previous fall. This means that when we go to market in early fall of this year, we will be debuting our collection for the upcoming year!

The Never-Ending Fashion Design Lifecycle

Oh yeah, and shortly after market is over, a whole new cycle starts for the next collection. That’s on top of fulfilling orders, to which there is never an end. There are new orders from market and past orders from trunk shows/boutiques. There’s plenty of things to keep one busy. Needless to say, know where to find some elves? 😂 But no seriously, the studio windows will be left unlocked for them.

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