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

by | Feb 13, 2019 | Season 1 | 3 comments

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.

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