Fashion Skills 2: Research and its application

Previously, I outlined the steps to produce effective fashion research. However, I return to the topic now because I find that students have difficulties doing research.

Research is the investigation of a certain topic or theme that you want to make a collection about. No topic is off-limits: Christopher Kane, for example, has produced collections inspired by ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘The Flintstones’. Gareth Pugh is usually inspired by dark topics and historical epochs. Alexander McQueen is usually dramatic, has a flair for historical themes, especially 19th century costume, and he is focused on sharp tailoring. Likewise, John Galliano’s collections are historically-driven, but his obsession with the French Revolution has produced a solid vocabulary of shapes and silhouettes that reverberate throughout all of his collections. Topics and themes are as varied as designers: everything is accepted as long as you can produce a coherent and exciting collection.

The latter point is the most important: your works needs cohesiveness in order to be a successful collection. How do you achieve this?

1. Choose what appeals to you: Some are inspired by history, others by art, others by literature or architecture. The best way to begin research is by choosing a topic you are passionate about. Again, there are no limits to your research topic!

2. Gather as much material as possible: The more material you have, the better your design will be. Poor research leads to a poor collection. In academia, you have to painstakingly research every aspect about your topic. Fashion (and other art- and design-related disciplines) is no different. What differs is the end result: in academia you achieve a good research paper; in fashion you achieve a good collection. TIP: Start designing as soon as you start researching. You will make better use of your research if you use it alongside your sketches.

3. Edit: This is the difficult part. You have to choose what exactly appeals to you from your chosen topic. Maybe you researched about circus acts but got more interested in acrobats than in animals, for example. This is also the time to make decisions about choice of fabrics, colors, silhouettes, and embellishments. Now, some people are very inspired by silhouettes and materials rather than topics and prefer to drape and choose their fabrics before designing. This is equally valid; the design process should fit around your thought process and your preferences.

4. Keep designing and design from the inside out: This proves to be so difficult for beginners! Students often forget that fashion requires engineering. You have to design how clothing will function: how the pattern is made, how will it be sewn, how much inches or centimeters will it measure, what embellishments to use and how much you’ll need of each, what type of zippers or other closures you will need. Those are all decisions that designers need to do. Remember: if you don’t know how your clothing will be made, you have not design a thing.

5. Select and polish: Are you happy with what you have designed? Do you know how will it be constructed and presented? Are you already thinking about styling, either for the runway or for a shoot? Now it’s the time to choose the best designs to construct your collection. Choose things that have visual coherence. If your silhouette, colors, fabrics and/or embellishments do not look like they belong in the same group, it is because they don’t.

Now, you can start your research without major worries!


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