Beneath the glossy pages of Vogue and Elle is the fashion underbelly. The underbelly is what I like to call the nitty gritty involved in taking a design from a sketch to an actual garment. One of my favorite parts of being a designer, and the reason I love to manufacture in the USA, is taking part in this process. Living in New York is extra special, because this is where a lot of the fashion magic happens.
A lot of people ask me about the process of design. They are curious to know what goes into getting sketches to the point where they are hanging on the floor. I would like to share this process with you. For me, it begins with a drawing. I am a maniacal sketcher, but a very informal one. I usually end of drafting my designs on cocktail napkins or the back of a train ticket, because inspiration hits me at all moments. If I am lucky enough to be at home, I will of course use my trusty notebook.
Once I have a few sketches together, I move onto the patternmaking stage. Because I am so particular about fit, as it is essential to making a perfect swimsuit, I choose to make my first patterns. The angle of every line and curve is so important, and drafting the initial piece myself allows me to get it just right! Below you will see a pic of a first pattern.
Once I finish the first pattern, I sew up a sample and fit it on my fit model. I also like to fit them on myself because then I can sit and stand and swim in them and see how they hold up. I can make sure nothing is pinching or tugging where it shouldn't be. If there is anything to change, I change it on the paper pattern, and then it is ready to go off to the factory to get a counter sample made.
New York has tons of small factories. If you walk through the Garment District, you could find any number of beautiful garments being made. However, most of these places are top secret, and shared very discreetly by word of mouth. You can ask a designer almost anything but who her factory is! New York manufacturing is sort of a secret club. However, websites like Makers Row are making that notion more and more obsolete.
While I wait for my factory made sample, I scour New York for the other supplies I need. This means thread, labels, bags, elastics, cups, etc. It is a game of searching the storefronts, databases, and showrooms of different vendors. I love to work with family owned businesses, like that of Leader Thread. Sustainable fashion is important to me. Fashion in New York employs nearly 200,000 people earning more than $10 billion in wages (http://www.nycedc.com/industry/fashion)! Let's support one another!
I also love to peruse the streets for inspiration. People watching in New York offers so much to see. While waiting for my labels to print, I may walk over to Bryant Park to watch the fashion set eat lunch and catch some sun. Or I might walk over to Kinokuniya to check out some cool art and design books.
New York is filled with so much amazing opportunity. I feel so lucky to have been born and raised here. If you have never been to New York, please come and visit. If you already live here, I hope you are really enjoying yourself!