Designing apparel is an exciting and demanding profession that requires special skills and abilities. The successful designer is usually a skilled sketcher and sometimes a qualified patternmaker and sewer. Leading a team and interpreting fashion trends from the many sources of fashion information for a specific customer are other necessary skills. Above all, the successful designer must create a garment that will sell. To sell, the garment must appeal to a group of customers and be producible at a price competitive with a particular market.
When I wrote the first edition of Inside Fashion Design, there were no other books that dealt with the business, art, and craft of fashion design. Three decades later, the scene has changed. There are more textbooks available today on the basic skills necessary to be a successful designer. Sketching and illustration are covered in my own Complete Book of Fashion Illustration, Third Edition, and The Snap Fashion Sketch Book. An excellent text on patternmaking, Patternmaking for Fashion Design, Fourth Edition, by Helen Armstrong and published by Prentice Hall, is a very complete text on patternmaking.
The industry has changed profoundly during the last 30 years because of the increasing use of the computer. In previous editions, computerization could be separated from the process and described as an aid to pre-production. In this edition, the role of computer systems has been integrated into descriptions of every phase of the design and production of a garment. Computer systems and software have gradually become more affordable and easier to use. Technology exists to manage information, design, and control almost every facet of the design and production processes. Manufacturers and contractors vary widely in how they use these systems. Contractors often build businesses around a computer application, like grading or marking or relaying sales information between the retailer and the manufacturer. Clearly, the race to organize the vast amounts of information and change required to manage a large apparel company will be increasingly dependent on computer systems. The increasing sophistication of computer applications cannot substitute for the core talent of a designer who can create a garment that will sell, however. The computer is merely a tool that speeds up the information-gathering process, sketches and images garments, makes patterns and grades them efficiently, and streamlines the manufacturing process. The idea for a garment and the synthesis of fabric, details, and trim must still originate with the designer.
To use a computer successfully, patternmakers must understand the traditional skills of draping the fabric on a dress form, creating the pattern pieces, correcting the fit of the garment, and applying grade rules to a pattern. Computerized sewing machines still require a skilled operator to manipulate the fabric and construct the garment. This powerful tool will continue to change the way apparel is designed and manufactured. Body scanning and mass customization will appeal to many customers. Fashion change can be accelerated. Inevitably, a certain customer will continue to value unique and individualized handcrafted garments. The future of apparel design and manufacturing is inevitably linked to increasing use of computer systems, and the only certainty is that change will continue to accelerate.
The fifth edition of Inside Fashion Design provides an understanding of how all categories of apparel are created and manufactured. Vocabulary basic to all fashion careers has been linked to illustrations and photographs. The specific talents and skills of the fashion designer and how to develop them are the core of this edition. Many important areas that should be studied in greater depth—such as textiles, fashion sketching, patternmaking, and draping—are put into perspective so that the aspiring designer will understand the importance of this additional knowledge as an integral part of the designer's responsibilities. I have tried to explain the business of design, and I hope that the practical the fashion book inside skills, resources, and aesthetics described will demystify the design process.
Designing apparel is a career in which both men and women can excel. Creativity and skill-not the gender of the designer or craftsperson-are the ingredients of success. Men and women have equal abilities to function in most occupations in an apparel factory; even the traditional male dominance in the cutting room is disappearing. Thus I have used she and he pronouns interchangeably in the book, with the understanding that both genders can build careers in all areas of manufacturing, designing, and promoting fashion.
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