Step by Step Fashion Design Development Process

In the fashion industry, every fashion designer should follow fashion design development process to design a new dress. Fashion design mainly influenced by cultural and social attitudes, and it has varied over time, place and religion. Fashion designing knowledge is mainly comes from the theoretical background. Students are learned step by step fashion design development process from their institute. All of these information’s are very important for the beginner. When developing your designs for a new collection involves many components like inspiration, drawing, color, design functionality, technical package, garment patterns and so on.

Fashion designer creates all kinds of garment and accessories. Most of the designers choose to work in men’s, women’s, or children’s wear for their entire careers. But some creative designers are specialize in one type of clothing or accessory such as maternity wear, suits, lingerie, hand bags, or shoes.

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Step by Step Fashion Design Development Process:
Every designer has their own way to develop a fashion design. But now I will discuss some basic knowledge for a fashion designer to designing a fashionable dress. Just follow these steps to get started making fashion designs.

Fashion Design Development Process
Fig: Fashion design development process
1. Analyzing the Brief:
Before starting your work, it is very essential to understand accurately what is required for a client or project. It can make the difference between a success or a failure. To get the right decision, some questions are essential. These are in below:

  • Are there any magazines that you need to refer to?
  • Are there any special considerations, for example, when designing children’s nightwear?
  • Are you free to interpret the market in the way you see fit?
  • Can you impose a timetable of tasks?
  • Can you use inventive presentation and media techniques?
  • Do you have to source the fabric?
  • Do you need to include samples of finishes?
  • Do you need to look at other material such as: historical, cultural, political, social, artistic inspiration?
  • Have you been given a deadline?
  • Have you got a firm idea about the colour story, fabric story, silhouette, details, pattern and texture?
  • How are you expected to do it, in terms of format, presentation and layout?
  • How much work is expected?
  • How will you break down the tasks?
  • Is a shop report necessary to gain a better understanding of the market?
  • Is the shop report going to be directional or comparative?
  • Is there a budget? What is the budget?
  • What are you being asked to do?
  • What style of execution is required?
  • What types of fabric and finish goods are required?
  • What will you use for fashion direction?
  • Which season are you designing for?
Analyzing all of the above questions should start with deconstruction and end with reconstruction. Breaking down a brief allows you to try and determine what the client wants and more importantly, to identify what the client or consumer actually needs.

2. Think your imagination:
Thinking is the first step to imagine a design. So, at first think your design in your mind and solve different questions which are around in mind. Finally draw your design on paper or illustrate it and make a decision for fashion design.

Develop your design ideas with due consideration of suitable drawing media use for fabric representation. Present the different design ideas and photographs for your portfolio.

Different areas of consideration:

  • Silhouette
  • Fabric
  • Colour
  • Pattern
  • Texture
  • Graphics
  • Presentation
  • Fashion direction
Work Requirements:
At least 30 designs are prepared with coloured working drawings and illustrate it, for presenting fashion portfolio.

3. Innovation:
To generate new products, to promote products or services, innovative thinking successfully change the way we do things. After analyzing the brief, designers require different innovative ideas; that may help when developing a whole new range of products.

4. Research:
Research is a journey of questioning, exploring, conceptualizing and visualizing information generated by observation and investigation. Record the all research information’s and creates a rich visual archive which can be used to inspire your designs from theme to final detail. Research is the key direction to good design development. It is actual guideline to start fashion design development process.

Researches are basically done by two ways. They are:

a. Research inspiration (personal inspiration & concepts):
Inspiration can come from anywhere. Sources of inspiration are individual and also related to the designer’s personal experience.

Research material will help you to provide a focus on your ideas and product design. This reference material will provide the theme that will inspire the colour, texture, image and styles of your designs. Inspiration can be taken from natural form, colour and texture and raw materials.

Designers can be influenced by the current trends, architecture, museums and exhibitions, books and magazines, historical influences, art, global styles, cultures and traditional areas of inspiration etc.

b. Research direction (fashion forecasting, comparative & directional retail & trade fair reports, market research):
Research direction is another way to investigate and information collection. Inspiration for design can be derived from many sources like:

  • Intelligence Gathering: Current and forward thinking developments in the fashion marketplace.
  • Trends: Fashion trends are affected by the economic, social, political and cultural changes; researchers provide essential design direction for the designer.
  • Street style: Street style or sub-cultures is a rich inspiration source of contemporary design knowledge.
  • Designers: Select the areas of design. It can be inspirational ready-to-wear, haute couture, menswear, sportswear for example.
  • Retail: All the collections can be viewed and stored on the retail shop for customers.
  • Internet: Information’s are available on Internet. So it is suggested that, this leads to research that is conducted in only one manner.
  • Fashion forecasting: Fashion forecasting can provide much of the direction required to inform the design process.
  • Market research: By the market research process they can know the detail information about latest trends, most usable color, consumer demands, and preferable fabric & price ranges.
Quick research exercise flowchart:
Quick research exercise flowchart
Fig: Quick research exercise flowchart
To continue the designing process, different skills, knowledge, educational experiences are required. Personal judgments, inspiration, concept development and decision making are needed to select and reject ideas. Here I will show quick research exercise flowchart that will help you to research easily. From the following flow chart you may choose one or more elements from each level to start new designing.

5. Draw your design:
Drawing helps to form design solutions. Designers take notes and sketches whilst on trips from television, films, whilst shopping or researching, from books, galleries, etc. Sketching is an important part of understanding the human form and basic form of dress pattern. Sketchbook is a meaning of practicing the skills of drawing. It develops your illustration and fashion awareness. It is a visual diary of places, events, ideas, patterns, textures, form and colour. Drawing is a presentation of both design and illustration.

After collecting your research and swatches of fabric and samples, a suitable figure can be sketched. The pose and attitude of the model figure will have an impact on the designs that you illustrate. Draw your own design structure, possibilities, and anything that your eye cannot see all at once.

a. Theme selection:
Theme selection is the basic part of a designer because that represents their collection. It can be a period in history, a foreign place, a range of colors, a type of fabric and so on.

b. Make inspiration board:
Inspiration board is a references and research framework for your design. Designer collects different inspirational images, words, and objects (fabric, colour, textures,trims, paint chips, packaging, etc.) that are organize and keep at hand as a reference for starting a fashion design. It can be made in the form of a paper poster, a bulletin board, a digital graphic, or a video.

Fashion inspiration board
Fig: Fashion inspiration board
Difference between mood boards and inspiration boards:

Mood Boards = feeling, conceptualized, psychological.
Inspiration Boards = details, colors, textures, specifics.

c. Make a mood board:
A mood board sets the mood like a style, feeling, emotional scenario, ambience, presence, context, clean and modern, soft and romantic, summertime fun, dark or light for whatever the final product will be. A mood board will influence what goes into an inspiration board.

Fashion mood board
Fig: Fashion mood board (Courtesy:
Mood board is the summary of your design collections. Put everything together like fabric, trims and also express emotions and mood on your mood board in a way that’s not just beautiful but fascinating. Remember that, your mood board is a selling tool for your ideas, so make it exciting! Mainly it’s a design tool that will help you to stay focused and consistent as your line develops. Generally it is prepare for the communication purposes and explaining your vision to others like retailers, media etc.. It is also use for creating a range or a collection.

6. Fabric and trim selection:
In this stage fabric properties like its weight, tenacity, and construction are determined. Now-a-days fabrics are becoming smarter. For the textile development there are new terms are used such as, high performances, technical, intelligent and smart fabric. Some designers select these kinds of fabrics to show their creativity and present it on fashion show.

Designer select perfect trims to embellishing fabric in the form of hand work, computerized embroidery, treadle work and other embellishing media are selected to decorate the body fabric with due consideration of costs involved.

7. Color selection:
Colour is a basic consideration in the fashion design process. In most cases color is the first element that is noticed about a design and has a huge impact in how that garment is perceived. Different forecasting companies research and develop new and existing colour palettes from many sources like yarn technologists, international fabric fairs, leather suppliers, trimming merchants etc. some fashion magazine give inspirational colour guideline for fashion design.

Pantone color system
Fig: Pantone color system
The Pantone colour system is an internationally recognized colour referencing system where thousands of shades are numbered. If you want to select your color story, you can use Pantone to develop color standards. Pantone is a color forecasting site. Each color swatch is labeled and categorized with numbers and letters, so you can find your true color easily for designing.

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8. Texture:
To get attractive design, the feel, handle and texture of fabrics is most essential. Fashion is a visual medium; so touch becomes increasingly important to express luxury looks at the fashion market. Textile technologists have made great improvements in the sensual aspects of fabric like how it feels, looking and behaves, in addition to treatments that can affect the look and feel of garments after they are made, for example, washes and abrasions.

9. The design development process (Colour, silhouette, proportion, fabric, print, pattern, texture, detail, sampling, construction):
  • In this stage designer sketch a model with right proportion and express his or her design idea on figure.
  • Experiment with elements of design like shape, form, silhouette, proportion, texture, pattern and colour. In fashion design process the term silhouette refers to express the overall shape and volume of the design. Silhouette is one of the most important design considerations and it is easy to overlook when working on paper in a two-dimensional context. Designer gives the perfect silhouette from the front side and from the back side or side view. It is the meaningful relationship between garment and body like A-line, I-line, V-line, two tiered silhouette etc.
  • Also apply the principle of art like harmony, proportion, balance, rhythm and emphasis on dress design.
  • Maintain the aesthetic considerations on design.
  • They do the surface decoration detail and finish on model figure and also follow the style and dress fittings.
  • Apply the perfect fabrication; handle, drape, structure and linings.
  • Sampling of finish, detail, seams and embellishment.
  • To start designing it is important to understand the construction techniques to create basic skirts, bodices, jackets and coats, sleeves, trousers and collars. It is the key elements that form Western dress. To create a three dimensional shape on the figure and illustrate contemporary fashion design should know basic garment cutting and fitting method. Also follow the two-dimensional planning of construction, fastenings, performance and movement.
When designer developed his or her design, they should follow all the above considerations.

10. Sample making:
After developing the design process, designer makes a sample to check the final getup.

11. Prototyping (Flat pattern cutting, pattern grading, toile modeling, structure embellishment):

a. Toile modeling:
To develop a successful design, balance and fitting garment, three dimensional prototypes are essential. Prototypes are also known as toiles. It is the correct distribution of the waist suppression. This method is used in order to cut or smooth away the excess fabric at the waist. Get a perfect shape of the garment to follow the natural curves of the figure, make darts, side seams and the hollow of the back.

b. Flat pattern cutting and pattern grading:
Flat pattern making involves the use of basic cardboard blocks that provide a well fitting shape, which closely fits the figure but retains the correct balance and waist suppression. Pattern grading must be required here.

c. Structure embellishment:
Finish and detail form is the decorative part of the design. There are many different embellishment processes and design details that are joint with toile for specific styles. Such as: Pleating, frills, flounces, flying panels, pockets, collars, cuffs and fastenings to binding, linings, pipings and the size, colour and gauge of stitching etc.

12. The chosen range or collection (putting the look together, accessories, decision making):

a. Designing collection:
Fashion design collection is a range of garments, accessories or products that are designed and produced for sale to retailers or direct to the customer. It is grouped by theme, colour or fabrication, creating a strong fashion statement. This range of items may be inspired by trends and theme. Cultural and social influences are reflecting on design. Designs are usually done for the special occasion or season. Collection is a grouping of outfits that are present for catwalk, online web pages. For the wholesale market, the collection will be shown at trade shows or in-house events. For the general customer designer give their collections on press or magazine by attractive photographs.

Fashion collection and line both are common terms in the fashion industry. Collections are found within a line. A line may be composed of multiple collections. Every larger apparel companies often have four or five lines that are defined by gender; lifestyle or price point and each line will have a new collection produced for each season. Haute couture, ready-to-wear, menswear, womenswear and childrens wear are considered lines, the clothing shown in each of these categories during fashion runway shows for a particular season makes up the collection.

The professional designer when putting together a collection, they are following some commercial considerations for example, the target market, lifestyle and aspiration of the customer.Other factors include seasonal and climatic considerations of the domestic or export destination and the cost and ease of manufacture.

b. Range planning:
When all of the designs are completed and set out the financial parameters then range planning is required. A range plan is an overview of your total design collection like from how many styles you will have, to what fabrics and colour ways will be used. It is used before you start into large scale production. It is extremely useful for you to follow as a designer. But most importantly it gives buyers a clear conception of your vision.

Range planning for fashion design
Fig: Range planning for fashion design (Courtesy:
Range planning includes the creation of the ratio of garments to be selected in any given collection. For example, a basic range plan may be formed of four skirts, three trousers, six tops, two jackets and two dresses in three colour ways. Every collection needs a breakdown of units (garments) to enable the looks to be worn with enough combinations. If more volume sales come from tops it makes knowledge to supply more of these when editing the collection.

Range plans usually include:

  • Total number of garments
  • Illustrations or flat drawings of every garment
  • Proportion of different garments types (Tops/bottoms/dresses)
  • Specific garment styles
  • Different fabrics and colour ways for each garment
  • Cost price per garment
  • Selling price per garment
  • Order quantities per style
  • Sizes
  • Manufacturer details
c. Decision making:
In this stage only experience person who can help to improve decision making. It is really depends on whether the unfolding of a range or collection fulfils the original need or philosophy. Decisions on research, colour, design development, fabrication, silhouette, proportion, construction, prototyping and embellishment all contribute to a well considered range.

In the fashion industry designers are responsible for designing the range and for providing design direction to the buyer. They would work with the buyer regarding previous best sellers in the range and consider this when producing new styles. Before making any decision designer follow merchandisers or best sellers data, consider about the upto-date trend information, fashion direction, buyer and merchandiser feedback, finally maintain consumer and market demands. Decisions are constantly being made but are always informed.

13. Promotion (product & portfolio promotion/graphics and photographic styling fashion careers):

a. Create a brand name or logo:
In this stage designer create a brand name or logo. The philosophy and identity of a range can be continued into promotional activities such as branding and styling. To promoting and marketing fashion goods it is very important. Normally the branding would be a graphic designer’s job. It is the interesting use of the language or words can produce visual effects, such as, iMac (Internet ready Macintosh computer), O2 (mobile phone provider), FCUK (French Connection United Kingdom).

b. Styling photo shoot:
To promote fashion collections, designer need styling photo shoot with a specific theme and story.

c. Make a portfolio:
Portfolio is book of experience. To promote and present your designing journey, fashion portfolio must be required. Portfolio is the visual presentation for your project. Six steps should follow to make a portfolio these are:

  • Showing the process,
  • Key elements,
  • Illustration,
  • Photographic skills and
  • Editing skills.
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