A baby takes approximately 9 months from the time of conception before it is ready to meet the world. A jacket takes longer—3 to 4 months longer!
While some very big or very small companies have the ability to release a new style to shoppers in a matter of weeks, the majority of companies must begin their design process at least a year ahead of the desired season. To clarify, when most of the world is shopping for their Fall 2011 wardrobes, designers are starting their collections for Fall 2012. At the same time, their Spring 2012 Collections are being shown at tradeshows by the companies’ sales agents and orders are being placed by retailers. Add smaller collections like Summer, Holiday, and Resort into the mix and you’ve got yourself a spider’s web of seasons to keep track of.
Many people think that designers spend their days drawing pretty pictures of fanciful clothes, the stuff of eccentric trends to come. Not so much anymore. At one time in Fashion’s history designers set the trends, now more than ever trends trickle up from the street, and are interpreted to fit with a specific target customer’s lifestyle and aesthetic. Forecasting—taking educated guesses at the popular trends of the future—has been expedited enormously by companies who make a living out of searching for and analyzing the pulses and movements of the world, and compiling those findings in pretty packages encompassing all aspects fashion, culture, and business-related. Now designers are able to complete their trend and forecasting research, as well as theme development and colour/fabric possibilities, within days.
Once the theme and trends for a season have been set, designers start to sketch out their ideas following the company’s newest line plan—a document dictating how many tops, bottoms, dresses, etc…they want to produce, and in what kinds of fabrics. In the case of our jacket, the line plan would tell the designer how many jackets are needed, and might be as specific as dictating the silhouettes, sleeve lengths, and collar types. So, with the line plan in hand, our jacket and the rest of the collection would be sketched and designs decided upon. The time frame here varies from company to company, and depends on the size of the collection, but generally this process would not exceed a few weeks. Now that our jacket idea is a plan on paper, it’s off to a left-brained world. 10% down, 90% to go!
It seems a shame, I know, that all that inspirational, artistic, ‘design’ stuff is finished in such a short time, but the reality is that designers do a lot more work than flip through magazines and draw pretty pictures.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of “The Secret Life of a Jacket”, coming soon!