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My Design Process

I often get asked about my design process and how I go from concept to final product. There are many different stages of the process and of course it depends on the final product. Today I'm going to talk a bit about designing for fabric. This process will look completely different for everyone and is very much a personal journey. Some people may identify with all stages but approach them differently, others may have more or less phases. There is no right or wrong way to do it and what works for me may not be what works for others.

Meadowside by Cassandra Connolly for Lewis and Irene

When I am designing a fabric collection I usually start with a vague concept of the collection theme or sometimes I will just really want to draw something such as cute polar bears or haberdashery. Inspiration can come from anywhere, the colour of a flower, a phrase in a book, a vintage book cover, even the squirrels in our local park. Once I have an idea I explore it thoroughly. I gather as much research as I can and create a visual mood board which can include anything from a colour palette I love, photographs of my subject matter I have taken or images which have elements I would like to include in the collection. Sometimes my mood board will be so big that I create a second one with more refined ideas from the original, but at this stage I just want to get as much visual stimulation as I can on to paper. Often my mood board will be in the form of an Adobe Illustrator document, but I do normally print out my refined boards so that I can have them to hand when I start my drawing stage. I also find having a physical copy does something quite interesting to my brain and it is like reading a paper book, in some form it helps me process and compute the information more easily. As most of my design work is on screen, it is nice to have something which takes me away from my laptop even for a few moments.

Sometimes during the process of making a mood board or just after I write a story or poem to encapsulate the collection. From this I will know exactly what elements I want to include and on which fabrics they will be included on. This story helps me pinpoint the exact elements I will be focussing on and drawing. Once completed I will sketch out a rough idea of what will be included on each fabric, scale and print orientation. Next up is the drawing stage where I sketch everything out. Depending on the design I either draw separate elements and reposition them at the pattern stage or I will draw the design out completely. Different designs call for different approaches and it just depends what the pattern calls for. Sometimes I will draw in the colour palette which will be in my final design, other times I will limit the palette and only decide on colours at the end. Often my subject matter will dictate the colours to be used. Once everything has been drawn out I call this the 'messy middle', I will place all of my drawn elements onto one Adobe Illustrator document and spend hours editing and changing things around. This is also the playful part where I get to have fun and see what works together. When I am happy with everything put into pattern form, I check that lines are thick enough, colours work together and that the pattern flows and there aren’t any anomalies. After I have triple checked everything I create the files ready to send to our art director and make up show cards etc. From here designs will be sent to the mill and strike offs sent back to check and adjust colours. Eventually once everything is perfect you will see our beautiful fabrics in shops all over the world.


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