Tips to Working In the Fashion Industry

2014 was a fun year in the Pattern Observer studio. We added a few new clients, including our first celebrity client, which I can’t wait to tell you about, and continued to work with our core customer base: the outdoor and activewear apparel markets. We do have a few clients who fall outside of this domain, but our business is very tight and focused, which is helpful when it comes to researching trends and getting into the mindset of the end use consumer. Our work was also featured twice in WGSN/Stylesight. This is always fun to see, and it definitely has a tremendous impact on our clients’ businesses.

We have BIG plans for our design business in 2015, which I’ll be sharing with you over the next few weeks. For today, I want to highlight some of our favorite pieces to hit the sales floor in 2014, and give you some tips to help you when you are working with clients in the fashion industry. Out of respect for our clients’ privacy, I am not able to share what we created this year, so these are all prints and patterns that were created in 2013 and prior.

If you are interested in learning the techniques that we use to create the patterns that you see below, then please join us in the Textile Design Lab. For now, here are some helpful tips to help you start 2015 with a plan.

Tips to Working In the Fashion Industry-Moving Comfort

Tip #1: Learn how to index your artwork files, or find a freelancer to help you do this!

Complex, textural prints and patterns are extremely popular in the fashion industry. Don’t get me wrong; clean, simple patterns are used, but I would say that the overwhelming majority of prints that we create, and our clients purchase, are more complicated and require working with indexing, layering, and textural brushes. The tricky part is that most clients want patterns that are more complex, but can’t afford the digital printing process. This is where Photoshop’s indexing tool is handy. We used no more than six colors to achieve all the patterns that you see above, and we couldn’t have done it without the indexing tool. Being able to beautifully index patterns is a marketable skill to have, and allows you to offer more complicated concepts to your clients.

My indexing skills were born out of necessity. I wanted my employers and clients to have the rad prints that they desired, but they were working with a limited amount of colors and it was my job to find a solution. This is what I found: the best way to improve your indexing skills is practice, practice, practice. We also have two indexing tutorials in The Textile Design Lab to help speed up the learning process.


Tips to Working In the Fashion Industry-RYU

Tip #2: Create patterns that flatter and inspire

When designing for the fashion industry, the pattern has to flatter the end user. If it doesn’t look good on the consumer they are never going to purchase the piece. It’s as simple as that. This is why patterns with movement, flow, and a diagonal layout are all popular in the fashion industry. They look amazing on the body!  Scale is also so important to this industry. When double checking the scale of your pattern, print it out and hold it up to yourself in the mirror. Does it flatter and compliment your body, or look distracting and incomplete? Is the repeat obvious? Do the motifs fall on unflattering areas of the body? These are important questions to consider!

As designers, we have to take into account how the end user wants to feel when they are wearing the garment. Do they want to feel feminine or fierce? In the patterns that you see above, we wanted the end user to feel sexy, athletic, and frankly, bad-ass. To achieve this we used patterns with a textural feel, strong sense of diagonal movement, a simplified color palette, and flattering placements.


Tips to Working In the Fashion Industry-Turbine Boardwear

Tip #3: Offer customer appropriate interpretations of the latest trends

Trends are so, so, so important in the fashion industry. If you can’t stand following trends then this is probably not the industry for you. Thankfully, most buyers are looking for a unique spin on trends and not just runway knock-offs. These interpretation should incorporate your own artistic style, but also speak to the end use consumer. Many of my clients want to include patterns that incorporate the latest trends, but because their customer is not as forward as those customers shopping the runway, we have to tone down these trends and make them more appropriate for the average consumer. Over the years, I have found that this is most FRONT COVEReasily done by using a less bold color palette, often with less colors and more tones, and including motifs that the customer is already used to buying, such as plaids or flowers. The patterns that you see above might seem a little wild, but they are actually much more conservative than what many snowboarders are wearing on the slopes!

Do you have any tips to working in the fashion industry? Any questions? Was one of your designs seen on the sales floor this year? Feel free to post links below.

Discover what makes a great pattern, how trends impact the industry, and how you can get your designs noticed in my new book, Designing Textiles for the Fashion Industry. You’ll learn about the production process, how the design calendar impacts projects, and how to create patterns that look great and flatter the end user. Grab your copy for just $7.99.

  1. Great article; but I had a few questions:

    Which courses have the indexing tutorials?

    You mentioned that, “The patterns that you see above might seem a little wild, but they are actually much more conservative than what many snowboarders are wearing on the slopes!”… Why would you tone down your patterns for snowboarders if it seems ‘wilder’ prints are what’s popular, since that’s what’s seen on the slopes??

    1. Hi Patricia! We have two indexing tutorials. One is in The Sellable Sketch and the other is in a Tech Talk tutorial developed by Sherry London.

      The snowboarding market caters to a wide range of customer personalities and price points. Some boarders are the trend setters and wear some pretty wild patterns and colors, but many customers are looking for slightly more conservative patterns and colorways. They want something wilder and more playful than what they would wear on the street, but wouldn’t feel comfortable in the wild styles that the trend setter wears. Great question!

  2. Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for this great article! I was excited to read this today as I love to design for this market! When I took The Sellable Sketch course, one of my biggest issues was thinking about scale and how motifs and patterns look on the body. How often do you think clients purchase a design but either scale up or scale down the design themselves?

    1. All the time Rohini! This is why putting prints into repeat before being sold or approved seems like such a waste of time and money…Thanks for the great question!

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At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and our private design community, The Textile Design Lab.

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