SE1, EP1 – The fundamentals of fashion design – Understanding a brief

SE1, EP1 – The fundamentals of fashion design – Understanding a brief

S1. EP1 – The fundamentals of fashion design – Understanding a brief

Hey guys and welcome to the first episode of our brand new video blog!

In this blog, we aim to shed some light on the process of designing individual garments or collections of garments based on our client’s brief. Designing to a brief is a process that features a number of steps, which is why we’ve broken it up into simple, weekly bite-size pieces that are easy to follow and digest.

It’s a process that has been refined using our experience creating collections for commercial fashion companies. It is a derivative of a technique that’s taught on Fashion Design courses worldwide. Everyone has their own method, of course, but we thought it would be interesting to show you our own process. Either way, we hope it helps you guys get the most out of your own projects and PatternLab.


So who is our new client?

Some of our more devoted followers might recognise Francesca from our PatternLab measurement tutorial  the one featured on our Profiles page). She helped us immeasurably back when we needed a measurement guinea pig, so we thought it would be a great idea to show our appreciation by featuring her in our first ever project. Plus, we already have her measurements saved in our system, so it seemed like the perfect situation!



Like any new project, we need to start somewhere and the first step is the briefing. Ideally, this should be done in person, since we need to see imagery and discuss ideas. You could, however, do this via Skype and share your screens. Amazing things have been accomplished using this technique considering Mike lives in Australia and Ralph lives in London!

To start with, we ask Francesca to do some research that will help define what she wants us to create. We also ask her to provide some basic imagery to inspire us. It turns out she’s a huge fan of kimonos and decadent robes for swanning around the house in… we love it, she’s such a diva!

Normally, we get a lot of imagery from the client which is a great start but from there we need to focus that down to something more specific. So we need to ask some important questions and use the imagery provided to focus the inspiration into solid ideas. You can even present your own ideas and see how the client reacts. Essentially, it should be a discussion combining both of your ideas. You are attempting to realise their dream, but it has to be realistic based on your experience and ability.



Once we have our brief and a good understanding of what the client wants we move onto the research phase. This can be done in a number of ways and depends on what resources you have at your fingertips. Our studio is located in central London which means we have a plethora of museums, exhibitions, shops, boutiques and more to draw our inspiration. Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury, which is where Pinterest and online imagery becomes useful! 



We use the brief, the questions asked, and the imagery provided by the client to expand these concepts with more focused imagery. This can take hours or even days. It really depends on how deep you are willing to delve. The more research you do, and the more refined your ideas become, the easier it will be to create your designs – simply because you have more inspiration to choose from.

You could even play around with design hybrids. This might be an idea for a pocket that you love but want to develop further by combining it with other details. This can take time to work on and might need sampling to see how achievable it is. We want to keep this project relatively straightforward or simple – so we won’t develop design hybrids just yet.

Researching is a continual process that develops over time. Adding, combining, and replacing images will help you refine your ideas until they are strong cohesive concepts.


Design Theory:

We then categorise our imagery into the four main concepts of fashion design. This helps us understand what we will be creating.

1. Mood: Creating a mood is really important! We explain this in terms of the general feeling you want to evoke with your finished garment or collection. Where would it look best? Who would wear it or what type of person would wear it (apart from your client)? Why would they wear it and for what event or situation? Imagine you were holding a photoshoot. Imagine your garment finished in all its glory. Imagination is very important, so take your time, and allow yourself to dream…

2. Silhouette: The silhouette is the outline, shape or base of the finished garment. This can be an established idea with specific images attached to it or a vague idea that we can later work into and develop. Think of your garment as a black and white silhouette. There are no details whatsoever. Think of the length, how full the skirt, upper body or even sleeves might be. This is your silhouette. Keep it vague for now since your design details will no doubt affect it eventually.

3. Design Details: The design details are the elements that will fill your silhouette. They can be necklines, fastenings, embroideries, darts, pockets or even panels. These are the more functional elements of your design, so take your time to experiment.

4. Colour/Print: You might not know exactly what colours, textures or prints you would like to use but it’s important to have some idea. Colour theory is a tricky concept but there are plenty of colour boards out there, especially on Pinterest. Type in pink to Pinterest and see what colour combinations it comes up with. These colours will be predetermined based on their ability to work together (or not in some cases). Again, there’s no need to rush this process. You can even create your own palate. Adding complimentary imagery to your colour palate can also do wonders.



Using these guidelines and answering questions (with the client) will not only help you find the right imagery to inspire your research, but it will also prevent you having to ask the client at a later date. The more you can get from your brief the better. No one likes unanswered questions, especially when it comes to design.

Mood boards:

Mood boards are an incredibly important part of the design process. They are essentially a refined collection of your strong or cohesive ideas/images laid out on a series of boards. They should tell the story of your finished garment. Separate them into the four key categories: mood, silhouette, design details and colour/print. There’s a lot to think about but the more you go through this process the easier it will become and the quicker you will be.

What’s next:

Next time, we’ll be using our mood boards to start our design process. We’ll use design templates to quickly freehand draw our designs. We will then trace these designs into Adobe Illustrator and start to add colour, print and textures. These will then be presented to the client and (fingers crossed) they will pick a design. If not, then we go back to the drawing board.

Video blog teaser

Video blog teaser

Video Blog Teaser

We’ve got some really exciting news for you this week. We have just started our very own video blog! It’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time.
Ok, so what is so exciting about this blog?
Well, each month we’re going to collaborate with a friend, blogger or loved one to create a gorgeous custom fitting garment. They’ll brief us on what they want and we’ll design and create it using PatternLab. We’ll take you through the whole research and design process, blogging an explaining the whole journey from initial idea to finished product. Think of it as a crash course in bespoke or couture design. There’s a lot to get through, so we’ll be releasing each step in our journey as a weekly post each and every Friday.

Week 1

In Week 1, we’ll talk with our client, understand the brief, look at Pinterest to gather inspiration, collate imagery and create mood boards that focus on the four key concepts of fashion design: silhouette, design detail, colour theory & fabric choice This should give us a really good base of inspiration to start our design process.

Week 2

In week 2, we’ll start creating a range of designs based on our research, the clients brief and our fabric choices. I’ll show you, in detail, how we quickly build a range of designs in Adobe Illustrator, using it as a CAD or fashion illustration platform. I’ll also show you how to add colour and fabric scans to bring the designs to life!

Week 3

Next, we’ll focus on the actual pattern itself. We’ll enter our client’s unique measurements into PatternLab, auto-draft the relevant basic blocks and start pattern making our first toile from those blocks. I’ll show you, step by step, how we adapt our initial custom-fitting basic block into a pattern, using Adobe Illustrator as a pattern making platform.

Week 4

After that, we’ll fit the garment to our client and make adjustments to create the Final pattern. We’ll then construct the garment, explaining some of the more difficult construction techniques. And finally, we’ll hold a photoshoot without a client, to really bring the garment to life.
It’s going to be a bit of an undertaking considering we’re still working on our next release, but fun nonetheless. Also, if we overrun then, well, we overrun!
So join us on Friday the 8th of Feb 20, 19 to see the very first ever episode of season 1
We’ll be making two gorgeous Kimonos using just one pattern. The first in gorgeous Japanese Ikat cotton and the second in soft fluid sand washed satin. Two very different garments stemming from one pattern. The concept is to explain the difference that material choice makes
If you want to stay up to date with all future episodes, projects and new releases then please subscribe to our YouTube channel, follow us on Instagram, like us on Facebook and spread the word.
In the meantime, have fun creating, and we’ll see you on Friday the 8th.

PatternLab updates

PatternLab updates

What's new?

We’ve added some important updates to transform how you draft your basic blocks in the Lab. Check out the full list of changes below.


Updates to the Lab

It’s been a few days since we’ve added updates to the Lab and thought we’d give you a bit of a run-down on what has changed. It might not seem like we’ve changed much but there are some very powerful tools and updates that go into improving your drafting experience.

#1 Percentage eases

You can now add ease to your basic blocks as a percentage. Most people add static eases either in centimeters or inches, however, we’ve added this specifically to support our brand new range of ‘Style’ and ‘Design Element’ tutorials. 

Not all styles or garments use the same ease. This is part of the reason why they are classed as different styles. It’s important that our Style tutorials work for a range of sizes and body types, rather than just one size. Using a static ease like 6cm for the bust, 4cm for the waist and 6cm for the hips would only really work for one size – UK10. So what happens when we follow the tutorial for a UK24? Using the same static ease (6cm, 4cm, 6cm) would clearly not produce the same fit and the style would be far too tight. That’s where percentage eases come in. A percentage ease uses your personal measurements and changes the ease accordingly to your bust, waist or hip measurement, much in the same way the Lab’s automatic ease works. 

To add your ease as a percentage when drafting your block, simply select the “%” symbol from the Custom Ease drop-down list on the Fit tab. Or take a look at one of our style tutorials where we explain the process in depth.

Due to the introduction of percentage eases, we’ve had to change some of our minimum and maximum allowed values for a variety of blocks. You can view the new Minimum and Maximum changes on the Fit tab of each block.

#2 Changing your measurements post purchase

Originally, we restricted the number of times you could change your bust, waist and hip measurements for each order. This limited the number of different sizes that could be drafted from the same order. After reviewing this, we realised that mistakes can be made when entering your measurements, especially if you are new to measuring the body. To fix this, we now allow you to change these key measurements a maximum of three times, giving you a lot more flexibility and margin of error when editing your measurements.

Good news! This new functionality applies to all existing orders.

#3 My Library for registered users

We’ve made some subtle yet powerful changes to the existing “My Orders” area. We’ve renamed it “My Library” and added some substantial search features to the system. You can now search your purchased blocks by name, block, profile, order number, ease, or even a specific design element. This makes it far easier to keep track of your purchases, profiles and drafted blocks. Give it a whirl and see what you think!

This functionality only applies to registered user accounts. Basic blocks purchased using a Guest account are not saved in the library, instead, purchases or drafted blocks are sent directly to the email account used at checkout. Becoming a registered user is FREE and gives you access to all your purchases and drafted basic blocks anywhere, anytime. 

#4 Refined ePattern downloads

When we first launched PatternLab, we offered the bodice and matching sleeve block ePatterns as two separate items. Meaning they could be downloaded and previewed separately. We have now consolidated them into one download and preview. This prevents matching blocks such as the sleeve and bodice being lost after download. 

We have also made some small but very important changes to the blocks contained within your ePattern download:


  • We’ve thickened the pattern’s lines, to make them more visible when editing.
  • Removed the blocks fill (white) to make elements within the block easier to select and edit.
  • Reorganised the grouping of key elements within the blocks, making it easier to isolate and move elements when adapting your blocks using our tutorials.

New courses and tutorials

Possibly one of the most obvious additions to the Lab is our new range of tutorials and courses. We’ve spent a considerable time updating our existing tutorials, creating new ones and adding important tools and functionality to create a more fun, informative and understandable experience. Head over to the Courses page to see what’s changed.

#1 Pattern Making course

To start things off, we’ve scrapped the old ‘Pattern Making in Adobe Illustrator’ course. We’ve replaced this with a brand new series of tutorials, providing you with a much more comprehensive insight into pattern making with Adobe Illustrator. Customising your blocks is an important part of the PatternLab experience and we want to make sure you have the right knowledge and tools at your disposal. Why not take a look?

View the course…

#2 Style & Design Element tutorials

As part of our new structure, we’ve added ‘Style’ and ‘Design Element‘ tutorials. But what does this mean? Let’s imagine that a garment is made up of different design elements such as a sleeve, neckline, pocket, or even the body or style of the garment. Changing or swapping these elements will affect the finished look of the garment. We’ve created our tutorials to work in a similar way. A ‘Style Tutorial’ will show you step-by-step, how to transform your basic block to create the body (style) of your garment. A ‘Design Element Tutorial’ will show you how to then add a specific sleeve, neckline or pocket to that style. What’s more, each tutorial is designed to work with one another, allowing you to mix and match the tutorials to create a truly unique design or garment.

View Styles | View Design elements

#3 Star Ratings

To help you find the right tutorial for you, we’ve added star ratings. A tutorial with two or fewer stars will have a slower pace and is designed for people who have only just started using Adobe Illustrator as a pattern making platform. A tutorial with three stars or more will have a much faster pace and is designed for people that have a good knowledge of the tools used to pattern make in Adobe Illustrator. Whilst we haven’t explored 3 star and over tutorials yet, this will come in handy in the future as we release faster and more complicated tutorials. So stay tuned!

    Basic skirt blocks

    Basic skirt blocks

    Basic skirt block

    Start designing your next project with our brand-new basic skirt blocks. Customise the fit, skirt length, front and back dart positions and even add a yoke. Then choose from a range of different basic waistbands to finish the job.


    Basic skirt blocks

    Start designing your next project with our brand-new basic skirt blocks.


    Basic skirt blocks

    Welcome to the shiny new PatternLab site! It’s a few days after the relaunch and thought we’d introduce you to to some of our new blocks. That’s right, we have launched our collection of basic skirt blocks!

    We have created a comprehensive range for you to choose from, to start your next project. Why not head over to the updated Lab and start drafting.

    Oh wait… Have you made a new profile and added your new measurements yet? Now we have a new system, our measurements have changed which means existing measurements might longer be reliable when it comes to drafting your new blocks. Not to worry, you can either choose a size from our standard size charts or create a new profile and add your custom measurements. We’ve also created a brand-new measurement video tutorial to help you get started, which you can find on the profile page.

    What’s new?

    We have produced three new basic skirt blocks, but there are more blocks to follow in the coming months. Once you have selected the type of basic skirt block you need, you can customise the fit, skirt length, front and back dart positioning, add a yoke and choose from a range of different basic waistbands. This gives you the ability to design and draft a large range of different basic skirt blocks within minutes. Not only that but we’ve also added two additional full and semi-circle skirts for you to play with.

    Want to make a full-length dress? Great! You can now draft any of our basic skirt blocks to fit your bodice block, simply by ensuring your Waist Ease is the same for both. You can do this by using the custom fit feature on the Fit tab. 


    Looking for an all in one dress instead? Head over to the Lab, select the basic Torso block and customise the length. You can specify a custom length of choose from one of our pre-defined lengths: Hip, Thigh, Knee or Floor length.

    Visit the Lab and see what else is new?!

    Become a PatternLab Pro & adjust your measurements after purchase

    Become a PatternLab Pro & adjust your measurements after purchase

    Learn how to draft your basic blocks & adjust your measurements after purchase.

    Some of you might be new to PatternLab. You’re possibly wondering how to use the Lab to create a profile, enter your measurements, design your blocks, make a purchase and then what happens after you’ve made your purchase? Yeah, good question. Which is why we have created this handy and informative video tutorial to show you exactly that. The tutorial covers a range of different topics that should teach you how to use the Lab like a seasoned Pro. We’ve listed the points that are covered in the tutorial below.

    Also, please feel free to leave comments and questions about anything that is confusing. We’re here to help you get the very best from the Lab! 


    Creating a Profile & adding your custom measurements

    I take you through all the various elements on the profile page to make the whole process far simpler

    • Create, clone, remove and print a profile
    • Using the measurement sheet in combination with the measurement tutorial, to take your measurements
    • Adding measurements to a profile and fixing an error message
    • Selecting and editing existing profiles
    • How to display specific measurements for certain blocks

    Using a standard size chart

    • Where to find the standard size charts
    • The difference between Young and Mature women
    • How to select a standard size to draft your blocks

    Designing your block

    • How to select a type of basic block and where to find the new dress blocks
    • The difference between waist shaping and no waist shaping
    • The difference between automatic and custom fit, including ease.
    • Using automatic lengths or creating a custom length for your block
    • Designing the front and back of your basic block using darts
    • Understanding the sleeve block, sleeve head ease and how to customise your sleeve.
    • Adding seam allowance to elements of your blockT
    • The difference between an ePattern and a PDF pattern?

    Making your purchase

    • Adding an item to your cart
    • Terms and conditions and your rights, when it comes to using our blocks commercially
    • We use PayPal payments

    Your Personal Library

    • What happens after purchasing a basic block and completing an order
    • What is the personal library and where are orders and basic blocks stored (registered users)
    • How to edit measurements after purchase
    • Adding notes to an order to keep track of measurement adjustments

    Previewing your block and editing your measurements

    • An overview of the preview tool and where to find it
    • Downloading a basic block in a variety of different PDF paper sizes
    • Re-arranging pattern pieces to conserve paper when printing a PDF pattern
    • Downloading an ePattern including where to find our tutorials and how to customise it
    • Editing your measurements for a specific block, order or set of orders
    • Restrictions on the Bust, Waist and Hip measurements after purchase

    Using the troubleshooting guides

    • An overview of our troubleshooting guides and how to use them
    • Using the preview tool, in combination with the troubleshooting guides to spot issues with your basic blocks

    Questions and Answers

    If you have any question about the above topics or video, please feel free to leave a comment below. You can also join us on Reddit to view the community’s questions, comments, and our answers.

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