Sketchbook Sunday - December

I have more ideas than time to make lingerie or design the patterns, so I’m often reaching for my sketch book to either develop ideas , sketch designs or produce new ones. This week with time pressing, I grabbed a coffee and used the balconette template for my bra ideas to sketch designs on.

fashion design templates

It’s great to look back for inspiration or produce technical fashion drawings for clients, or like recently produce the e-book “How to Sketch a bra and brief” which contains tips on How to draw, fashion design templates and technical drawings all using the same shape.

So if you are struggling with your shapes, how to draw or ideas then take a look at the e-book, it has over 12 different shapes including underwire bras.

I try and do sketches every week, so it’s a great opportunity to take time out and let your mind wander to the new things you want to create, as it seems that most of my time is taken up with paper work and emails etc, but time as it is, realistically sketching doesn’t always happen, but here is the only other one I managed in December.

lingerie sketches

Van Journal: Buying Fabrics and your customer

One of my favourite parts of designing - the buying of the fabrics and trims. The easiest part to get carried away, the hardest part of being selective for your customer base, and the easiest part of letting you mind wander and having so many ideas.

buying fabrics for Vanjo

buying fabrics for Vanjo

Sometimes buying fabrics though can be the hardest part, when you realise that in your basket are fabrics that clash (not in a good way) and you know that you won't be able to made a collection out of them. It's liking going food shopping and only buying snacks, great at the time but later you realise you have nothing that goes together.

So with my basket full of pink tulle and yellow cotton jersey with a graffiti print on it, it was a quick look at my Pinterest board to see my defined customer then I could begin to edit.

if you haven't started a Pinterest board I would truly recommend one. I have a private one set up as well as my public ones which I pin images to that represent my brand and my ideal customer. For some of you what you buy will be easy, but for me, since I freelance for other companies as well, I'm not often submerged into my own range for long, so can find myself pulled in different directions. Anyway back to what's on my brand Pinterest board, rarely is it lingerie, I find images of what others have designed a distraction to what I'm trying to design. So it's mainly full of what I think my ideal customer would buy and go in other areas of her life, it's also got fabric ideas on too.

Buying fabric and recording them

Buying fabric and recording them

I find that as you do over the weeks, when you look back even if you hadn't pinned in pattern or with an idea, one starts to emerge.

With my ideas and shapes of lingerie drafted out (but who knows they might all change when I've sampled them up). buying fabric is my next step. 

With Vanjo I'm still aiming to source as much ethical fabric as before, so this means supporting  UK suppliers, and buying reclaimed fabrics and trims. My first haul of fabrics and trims were from Sewing Chest - with a couple emails back and forth to confirm where items had been sourced from my package arrived, and it was great to start designing new shapes. Before anything got made, I noted down codes of the lingerie and prices in case I needed to buy it again and for when I costed it. I would so recommend doing this, otherwise you're looking back and forth for information. In the designs packs there is a sheet for this if you don't want to draft out your own.

Cup of the bra

So since receiving the fabrics and trims, I have been busy sewing, aiming to get everything fitted and signed off soon, so can then plan the full range properly.

 

Do I need to take a contour fashion course to become a lingerie designer?

"Do I need to take a contour fashion course to become a lingerie designer?" Is another question I get asked a lot.

And nope you do not.

That's not to say to give up on going, what a university degree does though is give you structure, a timely manner in which you have to complete your work, it gives to chance to get feedback on your work - although depending on whether you are producing something commercial or experimental the feedback may not be inline with your vision.  I did attend a university to study contour fashion so went the pretty normal route and got a junior job in a design studio in a UK manufacturer, I also did work experience, it all depends on what you are wanting to do with the degree as I remember many people who didn't follow the deign route after the fashion course.

 I was straight out of my 'A' levels when I went and used the time to explore how different fabrics worked in fashion,  I got a really bad mark for hand knotting a body suit whilst a girl just used the patterns available in lace and got a great mark.  I made a pair of trousers which were below hip level and had a pair of pants sewn into them. And also spent one semester making I made a bra out of Copydex glue!  What uni taught me was to explore and give me time to complete my ideas ideas, gave me support and have the chance to pick the tutor's brains and make contacts.  But if going to University is the only thing stopping you following your dreams of becoming a lingerie designer then brush off the idea that you need to go.

What you hold in your playing field is the naivety of the amount of work it takes to complete your brand. Let me digress: when I launch Vanjo, I had been to uni to study contour fashion and I had worked in a UK design studio, yet when I launched my brand because I had seen of how things worked in the industry; I felt at times that my brand wasn't good enough that I had to be bigger than I actually was, I couldn't just sit with where I was or what I was achieving, totally stupid right? Some brands that launched the same time as me were flying along, with no hesitation as they didn't have any previous experience, they just learnt as they went along.

WHAT TYPE OF DESIGNER YOU WANT TO BE?

lingerie sketches

Do you want to design and make everything, or do you just want to design and outsource everything else? Or somewhere in-between? With each choice you will have to have different expertise and different skills to learn. If you're not making everything then you don't need to learn how to sew, but then you need the ability to source manufacture or an in-house studio that will do this for you.

A LINGERIE CONTOUR COURSE

If you can afford to take a course in an area in which you think could benefit then I definitely would do. Whether that is pattern making, grading, business, sewing, that or if it helps employ a freelance designer to support you and push you along further. It can be lonely and slow going doing everything yourself. When returned back to the UK and was in the throes of setting up my own business I went to London College of Fashion for a 3 day course in Illustrator, which not only gave me the confidence to progress, but also gave me direction as I found there are do many ways to do one operation.  Looking online confused me. And not only that, it was was so lovely to meet like minded creative people, even though I had to keep leaving the class to silently puke in the toilets as I was suffering from morning sickness.

YOU GOT THIS

The thing is I could give you a long list of pros and cons of doing courses, what it boils down to is you. Stop saying that you've love to be a lingerie designer and get started. Try on bras, decide what you like or don't like about them, what would you change etc... No ifs and buts, in two years time you will be two years older no matter what you do, wouldn't it be great if you were closer to your dreams?

Accept it will take you longer than you first thought, but don't accept your excuses you give yourself when it becomes hard. Start to read about designers/people behind brands to inspire you.  It took Negative Underwear fours years to launch, they had no experience in the lingerie or fashion industry and had full times jobs. It all can be done.

getting started in lingerie design

So write down something now which you can either research or look at to get you one step closer.

Only you know what path to take, if you're still stuck on getting starting or have started designing but are stuck on technical side then these books may help you.

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How to become a Lingerie Designer : This book is broken into chapters each covering different aspects of becoming a lingerie designer, from sourcing inspiration, approaching buying and sourcing a manufacturer - it also has mini interviews from independent lingerie designers on how they started their label.

The Anatomy of a Bra : This book covers the different type of bra, the components needed to make a bra and a look at international sizing.

How to Spec a Bra and Brief : A technical book about writing a specification sheet, it gives the industry measurements used between bra sizes and gives you step-by-step instructions and diagrams on how to write one. 

How to write a tech pack for a bra and brief : With the same bra and brief examples used in the spec book, this technical book gives you construction terms and examples of what to put on each page of your tech pack so you can present it to a factory and get your lingerie produced.

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Contact me if you have questions about the books or getting started and I will answer you the best I can or point you in the right direction if I don't have the answers. 

 

 

 

 

Helping you design lingerie with Technical design packs

Are you stuck with needing help and support with your lingerie designs?

Launching seven packs to propel your lingerie designing and label forward. Complied together from the most requests received in how I can help designers with their lingerie, that can be printed out and use as templates to transform your lingerie business

The following design packs are designed to save you time and giving  you the confidence and the freedom to set and achieve your goals within the lingerie industry.

The design sheets are self-explanatory, and quick and easy to use.

Design pack one: Fabric & Trim Design Packs

"Keep a track of all fabrics and trims in one place for future use"

This Fabric and trims sheet is a place to note down the cost and fabric supplier of everything you order, keeping it in one place. When you buy a fabric a fabric or trim, noting down where you received it from, what the fabric is made from and how much it cost will save you time in the future.  No more trawling through receipts to find the cost or supplier. It's no rocket science this form, but how many of us has stashed fabrics or trims to use later, and then not been able to find any information about it?

Once all the information is filled in, just file the sheet away to locate later.


Design Pack two: Style progress Pack

"Design and map out your lingerie ideas the technical way"

Note down lingerie designs on a style sheet

The Style progress sheet is designed so you can record your design idea progress, in one handy sheet. Noting down what fabrics are being used, any key construction or special measurements.This sheet is useful if you are an independent designer hand making your entire collection and don’t need the full Technical pack but all the information on one page.

The sheet is also important if you do decide to take your collection to the next stage and wish to get it manufactured by a factory. 


Design Pack Three: Cutting sheet Pack

"Plan, cut and sew you lingerie in order for each season"

cutting out lingerie

The cutting sheet has been created if you are an independent designer sewing your lingerie that you are producing. This is extremely helpful if you have orders coming through, working on orders ahead, or are planning to launch your own label. Work out how long it will take you to make the order, then you can plan for future orders.


Design Pack Four: Time Line Pack

"Track your lingerie progress from design to production"

This time line design pack, is invaluable for when, you want to track your design styles from start to finish. Sometimes when you're starting out it can be hard to know all the steps you may need to take to produce your lingerie so these information on the sheets are what I previously used in the industry. There are two types, one if you're an independent designer, designing and sewing up your own lingerie, and a sheet if you are going down the manufacturing route and outsourcing to a factory.


Design Pack Five: Specification Sheet Pack

"Map out your lingerie sizes the industry way"

These spec sheets are designed so you can write your key measurements from your sample, then work out and record the sizes for the full-size range. Included is an example of the "point of measurement", used in the industry, with an example of a bra, a soft bra and a brief with references to a picture with the corresponding measurements.

For those wanting an in-depth insight into how you spec a bra or brief, then the book "How to spec a bra and brief" is available to buy and will take you through step-by-step on how to complete this.


Design Pack Six: Tech Pack Sheets

"Get you lingerie manufactured the professional way"

The tech pack provides you with separate technical sheets for you to use, depending how detailed you need your tech pack to be. This tech pack provides sheets for either design labels who are outsourcing just the manufacturing, or those who are outsourcing everything including the make-up of the labels and packaging. Each sheet has a prompt for what you should write, and there are over 20+ blank sheets (all different degrees of blankness).

For those wanting an in-depth guide of writing a tech pack, there is the book "How to write a tech pack for a bra and brief" which is available to buy and will take you through step-by-step on how to complete this.


Design Pack Seven: Costing sheet Pack

"Calculate the cost price point for each piece of lingerie designed"

The cost sheet is designed so you can work out how much each piece of lingerie designed costs to make.  It requires you to work out and measure how much elastic is on each piece, and how much fabric is used. Including adding VAT if you're VAT registered.

Then importantly is the percentage that gets added when you want to sell to either wholesale or direct.

*For those wanting more advice on how to cost your lingerie, there is a section in the "How to to become a Lingerie Designer" book



 

 

 

How many designs do you need to start your lingerie label?

Last week I was approached by a new label to provide the technical aspects of all their designs so they could launch their own lingerie label. This included mocking up spec sheets, writing up their tech sheets and support on measuring up their garments and getting them to manufacturing stage.

They had 13 individual designs! 

Having launched my own label previously, I know the amount of work that goes into producing each piece, getting each piece fitted, sourcing the fabric, and then manufacturing each piece with minimums that the factories want (or the amount of sewing you have to do by yourself). Working on the 13 pieces wouldn't have been a problem, but I told them to go back and re-look at each piece, and if possible come back with no more than five designs, (seven totally tops). 

I spoke to them about trying to create signature pieces for their label, and putting those designs into different colour ways for fabrics, for every piece you design, you are creating more work and if you're starting out, chances are it's probably just you doing everything. It's best to start out with five tight pieces, otherwise you are spreading yourself too thinly when problems crop up.

So if you are out there starting your own lingerie brand and have so many designs that you can't pick where to start, or want to produce all twenty!! Go back one step.

Who is your core customer?

Who are you pitching at? Please don't say everyone. Try to design for everyone and you'll end up designing for no-one. Your designs will be so watered down that no-one will glance at them. That's not to say that people out of your demographic you're aiming at won't buy your lingerie, you just need to be pitching at a certain group of people. In the book HTBALD it covers this and gives an example of profile questions that you can use to profile your customer.

It will take you far longer to launch if you have so many designs .If you look at independent designers, you will see that that the same design crops up each season in different colour-ways. Having smaller options of designs, you can see which designs work and sell and which don't. If you are still insistent on wanting to produce all of your designs why not check each season and introduce new designs and get rid of old ones that are not working. 

The same pattern, put in different fabrics for each season for Vanjo.

The same pattern, put in different fabrics for each season for Vanjo.

My first meeting with Topshop I took 2 different style bras, and 2 different options of briefs and one thong, (over four stories) and that was it. The collection was tight, so the buyers didn't get distracted. Remember you only have a certain amount of time to wow them, if you're pulling out design after design then they might wander.

My meeting was in June, and I was showing the Spring/Summer collection for the following year, they wanted to see the collection for Autumn/Winter of that year, did I have one? "Of course I did" (I didn't) I told them that I was I was in London for two days and would be flying back to Ireland and when I got back I could send through images. Truth was I was flying back that night and sat and made a new collection and got it shot and sent through to them within the two days. Because I was only working on the 5 shapes, they had seen them and knew how they work, I offered to leave my samples there as a reference if they wanted so they could have a reference of the shapes, so they could off the images that I sent them. If I had had more designs, I wouldn't have been able to turn around a new collection so quick, and they wouldn't have know how the shapes of the lingerie would have worked.

Building loyalty of a customer By keeping the shapes consistent throughout your collection each season, means that shopping online is made easier for your customer, they can order in confidence knowing that that shape worked for them. Throughout Vanjo (for four years) I had two shapes of bra that I used, whilst I worked on a third.

Remember that one shapes has infinite ways of producing new designs, Below is an example of using the Betsy lingerie brief pattern in different fabrics. 

Lingerie digital pattern betsy
Betsy lingerie pattern

If you think you still need more than ten design of lingerie - then by all means go for it, no-one know your lingerie brand better than you, but try to remember the points above, and if you need  a hand with any of them, then please contact me.

Where it all began... with this soft bra

Where it all began.... I found this beauty amongst a pile of fabric the other day. It was from my first range of my label Vanjo, that was stocked by Topshop. It sold within a week on their website. 

The first ever soft bra to be stocked by them that went up to a FF cup. It was this style of bra that led me to launch my own label. Often labels come from seeing gaps in the market from personal experiences and mine was no different.

Whilst travelling I carried with me a pile of bikinis and two bras, both underwired, one which was padded. I longed for a soft bra, not a sports top, not a beige or white soft bra that was aimed at the older market. I wanted my lingerie to reflect who was, like my clothes did. I wanted to get on an aeroplane and sit in comfort, not to have to undo the bra half way into the flight. I was 30DD/E at the time and didn't really have the option of going braless.

What if I could find amazing printed fabric and make that soft bra I longed for, this was back in 2004 when small backs/bigger boobs didn't have such a market as it does today, and after many trials, I produced this design using Liberty fabric (red with black line drawings of unicorns).

beginning to design lingerie

Your USP of your lingerie brand

I have spent the last few weeks tailoring up new designs to launch into patterns, and looking back at this piece, it evokes memories of what Vanjo stood for. To give women the freedom and choice to have a piece of lingerie which caters for them, for fit and function and for their lingerie to be fun, whether you were a C cup (which Vanjo started at) or a FF cup. It was my USP I suppose.

And sometimes when you get knee deep in patterns, with day to day running of a business you sometimes forget of what you once began and what your business stood for. 

So in full circle I'm bringing back this piece to be able, to buy as a pattern in cup sizes. At present it only goes up to FF cup, so let me know if you are interested for it to be available in bigger sizes. And more importantly if you're struggling with your designs - go back to the beginning. Back to why you wanted to start your lingerie brand. Get reacquainted with your passion and your USP.

Lingerie Pattern Information

For an over view of seeing all the lingerie patterns available in one place, they are as follows:

digital lingerie patterns

The Betsy - is perfect for beginners, and for those who are skilled sewers then this brief is superb for playing around using stretch fabrics and trims. Comprising of just a front, back and gusset pattern the 'Betsy' lingerie pattern will be a treasured staple for you to design and make and sew a treasured lingerie staple, again and again.

The Harriet - This retro high waisted brief is inspired by the 1950s and offers a full coverage smoothing and accentuates curves. The Harriet lingerie pattern is a flattering panelled brief, which allows you to mix bolder and bigger prints of fabric to really make a statement in what lingerie you wear.

The Tippi - This is a classic 'Vanjo' lingerie pattern, for those who bought Vanjo lingerie in the past. This brief sits low and has all the detail in the back. The back lingerie pattern panel is split in two, with a centre bottom panel of the brief, so if you choose to use a contrasting mesh for this panel it creates a 'cheeky' window at the back of the brief. There are unlimited number of fabric options that can be used with this lingerie pattern, whether you are wanting a clean dynamic look, or a pretty delicate feel this brief can incorporate either look.