Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fashion design and making (part 1 of countless to come, no doubt)

I suppose that underlying questions in my research are 'What is fashion design?' and 'What role, if any, does making play in fashion design?' Increasingly, with the moving of clothing production off-shore, a fashion designer draws up a garment on the computer, specifies the dimensions of that garment through a set of measurements and emails these off to a manufacturer. A week or so later a sample garment arrives. After a fitting, any required changes are communicated to the manufacturer, usually again as a series of measurements (e.g. raise underarm 1cm; shorten sleeve 2.5cm, etc.), until a sample garment is approved for production. It is now possible to 'design' and acquire a finished sample garment without any direct contact with a patternmaker, or a cutter, machinist, etc.

A particular book comes to mind, titled 'Couture, the great fashion designers' (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1985). The author, Caroline Rennolds Milbank, covers significant fashion designers from Charles Worth (late ninenteenth century) onwards. I don't have the book with me now, but from memory, the book was in categories suchs as 'The Realists', 'The Architects', 'The Artists' and so forth. I'm not suggesting these categories are necessarily the right ones if one is to categorise different types of fashion designing, but the fact that the author has attempted to categorise these designers at least partly based on the way they work (again, I'm working from memory here) is really interesting. I also recall someone once writing that fashion designers could be divided into 'architects' and 'decorators'; while I don't necessarily agree in such a simplistic dichotomy (why couldn't a designer be both?), the labels are once again suggestive of how the designers work.

How does this relate to my research? To eliminate waste, the designer needs to be aware what the garment looks like when its components are separate and laid flat. I know from personal experience that some designers do not, and don't care. To others, the making of the pattern is absolutely integral to their design process, not because of waste, but... actually, I'm not sure why. For me, patternmaking is important because I know (most of the time) how the two-dimensional shapes will turn out in a three-dimensional garment. Now, of course, pattern is also important for me because it's key to eliminating fabric waste.

I'll get my hands on the Rennolds Milbank book at home, to see what the actual categories are, and which designers are under each.

No comments: