Patterning the collection

All my career I have heard that: designing is really easy, you just move some lines around… So designing is about drawing some lines (sarcastic). One thing is to have the lines drawn on a piece of paper and another is to actually be able to pattern the style and later on sew the thing together. Thats why, it’s ideal if you or the person that designs the styles, has some sort of pattern making knowledge. You will know how to put a garment together, and you will know it will be possible for the factory to produce your styles.

At Parsons School of Design where I went to college, we always started out by draping our ideas. With muslin on a form, working 3D from the beginning. Cutting pieces of muslin, applying them to the form and putting the style together that way. At other colleges the pattern making starts flat, on big pieces of paper, where the “form” is translated in flat pattern pieces, where later, those are applied on fabric, cut out and then sewn together into a 3D shape.

To be honest, it’s really hard to find awesome pattern makers. I have only met a handful in my whole career. This is such a crucial part of your garment/collection, so if you need to spend a lot of money somewhere, it’s here they should go.

Imagine this: You walk into a shop, look around, see something you like, you pick the hanger up, look at it, you touch the fabric, you start to really really like it and then you go to the fitting room. You’re excited and when you put the garment on, it fits horribly. Will you buy that garment, hell no. Or imagine a similar garment, you go to the fitting room, put it on and it fits like a glove. You feel comfortable, you can move really good in it and you feel great. When you walk out the fitting room, you’re gonna think about how many colour ways to buy since the garment was so fantastic. Two very similar situations, with very different outcomes.

The fit and the patterning of a garment is mostly about comfort and freedom of movement. Of course you want for example to be able to stretch your arms when you drive and not feel restricted by the jacket you wear. It is literally impossible to have a good garment, with a shitty pattern.

Today you can either find a pattern maker that works “manually” on paper, or you find a draper and she/he will drape the garment in muslin, or you have a maker that works the pattern in the computer. The two biggest pattern making programs are called Lectra and Gerber. Most of the manufacturers have these programs.

The best way to find a great pattern maker is through personal referrals. Find out who she/he has worked for before, and on what type of garments. You preferably want someone that specialises in your field. Keep in mind that the best ones are almost always “taken” and very busy so be street smart and figure out a way to have them work on your stuff.

There are two ways of getting patterns for your garments: By hiring a pattern maker yourself, have her/him do your patterns and then sending the patterns off to the factory to produce your samples, or you send measurement lists directly to the factory and they make you the patterns. I prefer the first option, by experience, I have realised you can control the patterns better. If you make basic stuff like t-shirts or sweatpants, then it can work to have the factory make your patterns directly.

So this is how I work with a pattern maker:

I draw my design. I have a finished, clear vision of what I want to have. I have full front, back and sometimes side view sketches and some detail sketches as well to communicate easier. To the meeting I also have with me the intended fabric, and some fit references like samples or pictures where the fit is obvious. We go through exactly what the overall idea of the product is, so he/she knows the end consumer, then I explain details. I try to cover as much information as possible, the clearer I am with what I want, the better she/he will understand the product and the details, and the more accurate the first pattern will be.

Make sure you agree on exactly what the work should include. For ex, the first raw draft, or a full detailed pattern, or a full detailed pattern with size grading? Everything should be clear, so no misunderstandings can occur.

If the fit of your garment is bang on the money, you will have a huge advantage in the market, there are so many ill fitting garments out there, you want yours to be amazing.