Fashion Design 101.... [behind the scenes]

Fashion Design 101.... [behind the scenes]

Ever looked at a fashion designers' collection and wonder how did they create that? What inspired them? and does it look exactly as they imagined?

Well, even as a women's fashion designer myself, I still wonder that when I look at other New Zealand clothing ranges. 

"But you're a designer.... so shouldn't you know the process?"

Good question! I know my process and how I do things but for firstly, that changes as I grow and develop as a designer. 

Secondly, which is really important, everyone does things differently. There is kind of a basic process but there is still a lot which can differ.

Why am I telling you this?

I regularly get asked about what inspires me and how the design process works and I can always explain it but because it only happens twice a year, no one else really gets to SEE it. 

So this season, you're going to get to see it. 


I am going to share it with you, as it all happens.


What you need to know before we go any further 
  1.  What you see won't be available in stores for 6 months after the collection is finished! I know that is ages away but that is how things go. (This is because the collection has to be pre-sold to retailers a season in advance so that they know what is coming into their store and I know what and how many of them I need to make and actually have time to make them)

  2. The pieces of clothing and fabrics you see may not be the end result. What I start off totally loving at the beginning of designing may not fit in by the end of it. Sometime I will do a toile (practise run) of an item and it looks great but once I make it in the real fabric it just doesn't work.

  3. You are going to see pictures of the toiles (practise runs) which are very basic and simple. They are just a quick test of the design and patterns so they are made out of a fabric that is either cheap, a left over or otherwise would be thrown out. Hems are not done, stitching is not proper or accurate and loads of imagination is required!

  4. I test the toiles on myself so I can see how they work on a real body and not just a mannequin. I am not going to dress up or put makeup on for these pictures (sorry but I am usually too immersed in the process to bother) and they may not be pretty but they are true behind the scenes pictures.

So where is it at now?

It is the last week of May and in the past couple of weeks I have met with several different fabric wholesalers which signals the start of designing time for me. ( I have heaps of fabric swatches but I can't decide on the final fabrics until I receive all of the swatches)

Occasionally I am really on to it and by the time I view fabrics I already have a few ideas in mind and know what I am looking. That can be great or it can be a waste of time. 

Sometimes what I want isn't on offer or I see the fabrics and love ones which don't fit in with what I have already planned. So this season I went into the viewings with a totally open mind.

Where do the fabrics come from?

It varies from season to season based on what I am looking for but for the sake of transparency (very important part of the Fashion Revolution) the wholesalers I have met with and will potentially be purchasing fabrics from are:
Fern Textiles
Charles Parsons
Cooper Watkins 
Fabric Merchants 

At this point in time I have not decided on a collection theme, sometimes that comes later once I get a feel for the garments I want to include in this collection. Some designers will start with a theme but it doesn't always work that way for me.

Here are a few of the sketches that I have been working on. As you will see, I am a Fashion Designer but definitely not an artist! 

I see sketches some Designers do and I am in awe. For me sketches is just to get the idea on to paper, it doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to get the idea across.


desiree clothing sketchfashion designer sketches

NZ fashion designer sketch


Chances are none of these designs will make it to the final cut or if they do they probably won't even look like this but these are a starting point. I find that when I am designing I can see it in my mind first and then I need to find a way to get it down on paper just so I don't forget it. It never looks as good on paper as in my mind but seeing the sketch reminds me of what I imagined.




Has the colour palette been decided on yet?

I am yet to decide on a colour palette for this season but am leaning towards using an olive green. It has been a long time since using an olive green but when I last did it was really popular. I made a beautiful coats from this olive green wool cashmere fabric. It has also been on my radar that I need to think about colours for different skin tones, thanks to Trudi Bennett from Wardrobe Flair who (after hanging out with her at NZFW) reminded me of the importance on offering warm colours. 


fashion fabric swatches for kiwi designer


Sparkles is something which hasn't featured in our collections much before (gold vegan leather was used in a Summer range) but it has become something I really want to do. I never used to like the sparkly things that could go oh so wrong and look very night life, but these days sparkles are totally suitable for casual day wear and so my view of them has changed a lot. I am now ready to embrace them.


Who else has been involved recently?

This week I ended up having to take my 4 yr old daughter with me to a fabric viewing with Charles Parsons and she loved it! They had lots of sparkles, pinks and shiny fabrics. She went through the whole rack before me and just picked out all the ones she loved and then tried to convince me to get them all. I think some of her love of sparkles has rubbed off on me and my love of fabrics and clothing has rubbed off on her. She might just end up following in my footsteps and becoming a designer. Or she will just continue to love clothes and that her Mum can make them for her in whatever sparkly fabric she likes ;-)


Designer Daughter viewing fashion fabrics


So what do you think so far? Part of sharing is because I would love to see what you think throughout the process rather than just at the end.

Make sure you are signed up to our email newsletter and Facebook page so you don't miss out on the rest of this journey.


Have you checked out our store lately?

Want to know more about the Désirée label? Check out our story here 

Watch the How to Video for the most versatile dress we have on offer


Back to blog