Fashion design is the art of applying design, aesthetics and natural beauty to clothing and its accessories. It is influenced by cultural and social attitudes, and has varied over time and place. Fashion designers work in a number of ways in designing clothing and accessories such as bracelets and necklaces. Because of the time required to bring a garment onto the market, designers must at times anticipate changes to consumer tastes.
Designers conduct research on fashion trends and interpret them for their audience. Their specific designs are used by manufacturers. This is the essence of a designer’s role; however, there is variation within this that is determined by the buying and merchandising approach, and product quality; for example, budget retailers will use inexpensive fabrics to interpret trends, but high-end retailers will ensure that the best available fabrics are used.
Fashion designers attempt to design clothes which are functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. They consider who is likely to wear a garment and the situations in which it will be worn, they have a wide range and combinations of materials to work with and a wide range of colors, patterns and styles to choose from. Though most clothing worn for everyday wear falls within a narrow range of conventional styles, unusual garments are usually sought for special occasions such as evening wear or party dresses.
Some clothes are made specifically for an individual, as in the case of haute couture or bespoke tailoring. Today, most clothing is designed for the mass market, especially casual and every-day wear are called ready to wear.
Fashion designers may work full-time for one fashion house, as 'in-house designers', which owns the designs, or they work alone or as part of a team. Freelance designers work for themselves, selling their designs to fashion houses, directly to shops, or to clothing manufacturers. The garments bear the buyer's label. Some fashion designers set up their own labels, under which their designs are marketed. Some fashion designers are self-employed and design for individual clients. Other high-end fashion designers cater to specialty stores or high-end fashion department stores. These designers create original garments, as well as those that follow established fashion trends. Most fashion designers, however, work for apparel manufacturers, creating designs of men's, women's, and children's fashions for the mass market. Large designer brands which have a 'name' as their brand such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Justice, or Juicy are likely to be designed by a team of individual designers under the direction of a design director.
Designing a garment
Fashion designers work in different ways. Some sketch their ideas on paper, while others drape fabric on a dress form. When a designer is completely satisfied with the fit of the toile (or muslin), he or she will consult a professional pattern maker who then makes the finished, working version of the pattern out of card or via a computerized system. Finally, a sample garment is made up and tested on a model to make sure it is an operational outfit.
Fashion design is generally considered to have started in the 19th century with Charles Frederick Worth who was the first designer to have his label sewn into the garments that he created. Before the former draper set up his maison couture (fashion house) in Paris, clothing design and creation was handled by largely anonymous seamstresses, and high fashion descended from that worn at royal courts. Worth's success was such that he was able to dictate to his customers what they should wear, instead of following their lead as earlier dressmakers had done. The term couturier was in fact first created in order to describe him. While all articles of clothing from any time period are studied by academics as costume design, only clothing created after 1858 is considered as fashion design.
It was during this period that many design houses began to hire artists to sketch or paint designs for garments. The images were shown to clients, which was much cheaper than producing an actual sample garment in the workroom. If the client liked their design, they ordered it and the resulting garment made money for the house. Thus, the tradition of designers sketching out garment designs instead of presenting completed garments on models to customers began as an economy.
Types of fashion
The garments produced by clothing manufacturers fall into three main categories, although these may be split up into additional, more specific categories
Until the 1950s, fashion clothing was predominately designed and manufactured on a made-to-measure or haute couture basis (French for high-sewing), with each garment being created for a specific client. A couture garment is made to order for an individual customer, and is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric, sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques. Look and fit take priority over the cost of materials and the time it takes to make. Due to the high cost of each garment, haute couture makes little direct profit for the fashion houses, but is important for prestige and publicity.
Ready-to-wear, or prêt-à-porter, clothes are a cross between haute couture and mass market. They are not made for individual customers, but great care is taken in the choice and cut of the fabric. Clothes are made in small quantities to guarantee exclusivity, so they are rather expensive. Ready-to-wear collections are usually presented by fashion houses each season during a period known as Fashion Week. This takes place on a citywide basis and occurs twice a year. The main seasons of Fashion Week include, spring/summer, fall/winter, resort, swim, and bridal.
Currently the fashion industry relies more on mass market sales. The mass market caters for a wide range of customers, producing ready-to-wear garments using trends set by the famous names in fashion. They often wait around a season to make sure a style is going to catch on before producing their own versions of the original look. To save money and time, they use cheaper fabrics and simpler production techniques which can easily be done by machine. The end product can therefore be sold much more cheaply.
There is a type of design called "kutch" design originated from the German word "kitschig" meaning "ugly" or "not aesthetically pleasing." Kitsch can also refer to "wearing or displaying something that is therefore no longer in fashion."
Median annual wages for salaried fashion designers were $61,160 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $42,150 and $87,120. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $124,780. Median annual earnings were $52,860 (£28,340) in apparel, piece goods, and notions - the industry employing the largest numbers of fashion designers.
|Women's day wear||Practical, comfortable, fashionable||Haute couture, ready-to wear, mass market|
|Women's evening wear||Glamorous, sophisticated, suited for the occasion||Haute couture, ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Women's lingerie||Glamorous, comfortable, washable||Haute couture, ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Men's day wear||Casual, practical, comfortable||Tailoring, ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Men's evening wear||Smart, elegant, formal, apt for the occasion||Tailoring, ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Kids' wear||Trendy or classy, practical, washable, functional||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Girls' wear||Pretty, colorful, practical, washable, inexpensive||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Teenager girl wear||Colorful, comfortable, glamorous, pretty, cute||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Jeans wear||Unisex, democratic, comfortable, practical, functional||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Swimwear||Trendy, stylish, practical, functional, colorful||Haute couture, ready to-wear, mass market|
|Sports wear||Comfortable, practical, well-ventilated, washable, functional||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Knitwear||Right weight and color for the season||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Outerwear||Stylish, warm, right weight and color for the season||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Bridal wear||Sumptuous, glamorous, classic||Haute couture, ready-to-wear, mass market|
|Accessories||Striking, fashionable||Haute couture, ready to-wear, mass market|
|Performance wear||Sporty, dependent on the sport||Ready-to-wear, mass market|
World fashion industry
Fashion today is a global industry, and most major countries have a fashion industry. China , Bangladesh and India are the biggest manufacturers of clothing, and other notable clothing manufacturing countries are Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Philippines, South Korea, Spain, and Brazil.
The "big four" centers of the fashion industry are Paris, Milan, New York City and London. Seven countries have established an international reputation in fashion: France, Italy, United Kingdom, United States, Japan, Germany and Belgium.
American fashion design
Most American fashion houses are based in New York City, with a high concentration centered in the Garment District neighborhood. On the west coast, there are also a significant number of fashion houses in Los Angeles, where a substantial percentage of high fashion clothing manufactured in the United States is actually made. Beverly Hills, particularly on Rodeo Drive, is globally renowned for its fashion design and prestigious shopping. Burgeoning industries in Miami, Chicago, Dallas, and especially San Francisco have developed as well. A semi-annual event held every February and September, New York Fashion Week is one of four major fashion weeks held throughout the world. Parsons The New School for Design, located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan in New York City, is considered as one of the top fashion schools in the world.
American fashion design is dominated by a clean-cut, urban, casual style; reflecting the athletic, health-conscious lifestyles of urban city-dwellers. A designer who helped to set the trend in the United States for sport-influenced day wear throughout the 1940s and 50s was Claire McCardell. Many of her designs have been revived in recent decades. Famous American brands and designers include Kate Spade, Vera Wang, Bill Blass, Joseph Abboud, Calvin Klein, Bob Mackie, Anna Sui, Derek Lam, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, Geoffrey Beene, Oleg Cassini, Perry Ellis, Kenneth Cole, James Galanos, Todd Oldham, Donna Karan, Liz Claiborne, and Nolan Miller.
Belgian fashion design
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Belgian fashion designers brought a new fashion image that mixed East and West, and brought a highly individualised, personal vision on fashion. Well known Belgian Designers are the Antwerp Six : Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, Dirk Van Saene, Walter Van Beirendonck and Marina Yee, as well as Maison Martin Margiela, Raf Simons, Kris Van Assche, Bruno Pieters, Anthony Vaccarello.
British fashion design
London has long been the capital of the United Kingdom fashion industry and has a wide range of foreign designs which have integrated with modern British styles. Typical, British design is smart but innovative yet recently has become more and more unconventional, fusing traditional styles with modern techniques. Vintage styles play an important role in the British fashion and styling industry. Stylists regularly 'mix and match' the old with the new, which gives British style that unique, bohemian aesthetic that many of the other fashion capitals try to imitate. Irish fashion (both design and styling) is also heavily influenced by fashion trends from Britain. Famous British brands and designers include Burberry, Paul Smith, Alfred Dunhill, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, John Richmond, Neil Barrett, Matthew Williamson, Hussein Chalayan, Gareth Pugh, Stella McCartney, Mulberry, Thomas Pink and Vivienne Westwood.
French fashion design
Most French fashion houses are in Paris, which is the capital of French fashion. Traditionally, French fashion is chic and stylish, defined by its sophistication, cut, and smart accessories. French fashion is internationally acclaimed.
Famous brands and designers from France include Chanel, Louis Vuitton, L'Oreal, Christian Louboutin, Balmain, Lancôme, Givenchy, Le Coq Sportif, Cartier, Guerlain, Sonia Rykiel, Longchamp, Pierre Cardin, Kenzo, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Clarins, A.P.C., Jean Paul Gaultier, Lacoste, Hermès, Thierry Mugler, Lanvin, Inès de La Fressange, Quechua, Chloé, Lolita Lempicka, Nina Ricci, Rochas, Cerruti, Oxbow and Céline.
German fashion design
Berlin is the centre of fashion in Germany (prominently displayed at Berlin Fashion Week), while Düsseldorf holds Europe's largest fashion trade fairs with Igedo. Other important centres of the scene are Munich, Hamburg, and Cologne. German fashion is famed for its elegant lines as well as unconventional young designs and the great variety of styles.
Globally renowned fashion designers from Germany are Karl Lagerfeld, Hugo Boss, Wolfgang Joop, Jil Sander, Michael Michalsky, Etienne Aigner, Rudolph Moshammer, Torsten Amft, Willy Bogner, and Philipp Plein.
Famous fashion brands include Hugo Boss, adidas, PUMA, Escada, JOOP!, MCM, Bruno Banani, Jil Sander, Triumph International, Schiesser, Closed GmbH, Reusch, Valisere, Jack Wolfskin, Ulla Popken, Buffalo, Rohde Shoes, Zalando, Dr. Martens, P&C, Marc O'Polo, Tom Tailor, s.Oliver, Esprit, Falke and Wunderkind.
Italian fashion design
Milan is Italy's fashion capital. Most of the older Italian couturiers are in Rome. However, Milan and Florence are the Italian fashion capitals, and it is the exhibition venue for their collections. Italian fashion features casual and glamorous elegance.
Japanese fashion design
Most Japanese fashion houses are in Tokyo. The Japanese look is loose and unstructured (often resulting from complicated cutting), colours tend to the sombre and subtle, and richly textured fabrics. Famous Japanese designers include Kenzo Takada, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo.
Chinese fashion design
Hong Kong clothing brand Shanghai Tang's design concept is inspired by Chinese clothing and set out to rejuvenate Chinese fashion of the 1920s and 30s, with a modern twist of the 21st century and its usage of bright colours. As of today, there are many fashion designers in the region of China, Hong Kong and Macau.
Soviet fashion design
Fashion in the Soviet Union largely followed general trends of the Western world. However, the state's socialist ideology consistently moderated and influenced these trends. In addition, shortages of consumer goods meant that the general public did not have ready access to pre-made fashion.
Swiss fashion design
Most of the Swiss fashion houses are in Zürich. The Swiss look is casual elegant and luxurious with a slight touch of quirkiness. Additionally, it has been greatly influenced by the dance club scene.
Fashion design services
Fashion design services provide services like trend and color forecasting, market analysis, design concepts and design documentation for manufacturers. This way the manufacturer can contract out the design requirements rather than maintaining an in-house design team. Fashion design services providers can either sell the designs outright or license them out on a royalty basis.
If someone is interested in launching a line in footwear, handbags, bedding etc. and are looking to outsource the design work, then a fashion design services provider can help. When initially launching the business, it might be expensive to launch with many new designs, and thus a licensing option from such a company might save startup cost.
Fashion design terms
- A fashion designer conceives garment combinations of line, proportion, color, and texture. While sewing and pattern-making skills are beneficial, they are not a pre-requisite of successful fashion design. Most fashion designers are formally trained or apprenticed.
- A technical designer works with the design team and the factories overseas to ensure correct garment construction, appropriate fabric choices and a good fit. The technical designer fits the garment samples on a fit model, and decides which fit and construction changes to make before mass-producing the garment.
- A pattern maker (or pattern cutter) drafts the shapes and sizes of a garment's pieces. This may be done manually with paper and measuring tools or by using a CAD computer software program. Another method is to drape fabric directly onto a dress form. The resulting pattern pieces can be constructed to produce the intended design of the garment and required size. Formal training is usually required for working as a pattern marker.
- A tailor makes custom designed garments made to the client's measure; especially suits (coat and trousers, jacket and skirt, et cetera). Tailors usually undergo an apprenticeship or other formal training.
- A textile designer designs fabric weaves and prints for clothes and furnishings. Most textile designers are formally trained as apprentices and in school.
- A stylist co-ordinates the clothes, jewelry, and accessories used in fashion photography and catwalk presentations. A stylist may also work with an individual client to design a coordinated wardrobe of garments. Many stylists are trained in fashion design, the history of fashion, and historical costume, and have a high level of expertise in the current fashion market and future market trends. However, some simply have a strong aesthetic sense for pulling great looks together.
- A fashion buyer selects and buys the mix of clothing available in retail shops, department stores, and chain stores. Most fashion buyers are trained in business and/or fashion studies.
- A seamstress sews ready-to-wear or mass-produced clothing by hand or with a sewing machine, either in a garment shop or as a sewing machine operator in a factory. She (or he) may not have the skills to make (design and cut) the garments, or to fit them on a model.
- A teacher of fashion design teaches the art and craft of fashion design in art or fashion school.
- A custom clothier makes custom-made garments to order, for a given customer.
- A dressmaker specializes in custom-made women's clothes: day, cocktail, and evening dresses, business clothes and suits, trousseaus, sports clothes, and lingerie.
- An illustrator draws and paints clothing designs for commercial use.
- A fashion forecaster predicts what colours, styles and shapes will be popular ("on-trend") before the garments are on sale in stores.
- A model wears and displays clothes at fashion shows and in photographs.
- A fit model aids the fashion designer by wearing and commenting on the fit of clothes during their design and pre-manufacture. Fit models need to be a particular size for this purpose.
- A fashion journalist writes fashion articles describing the garments presented or fashion trends, for magazines or newspapers.
- An alterations specialist (alterationist) adjusts the fit of completed garments, usually ready-to-wear, and sometimes re-styles them. NOTE: despite tailors altering garments to fit the client, not all alterationists are tailors.
- An image consultant, wardrobe consultant or fashion advisor recommends styles and colors that are flattering to the client.
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