As a student at Columbia College Chicago, I’d measure the passage of time in essays written, garments constructed, and cups of coffee consumed. As the new 3D technical design assistant at Fireflyline, I still drink lots of coffee, but now I measure the passage of time in skills learned and memories made. In fact, I’ve learned so much and made so many memories that it’s hard to believe that I’ve only been a part of the Fireflyline team for one month. In four short weeks, I’ve toured factories, attended a textile trade show, comp shopped a few retailers, and I’ve even managed to do some 3D technical design (can you believe it)!
At Fireflyline, just like at Columbia, I’ve had the good fortune of having Lacey as my guide. I’m new to 3D design, so it’s been very helpful to have my former instructor as my boss, helping me figure out why the software keeps eating my cuffs. I’m really starting to get the hang of it. Just a few weeks ago, I had never heard of the Optitex shader tool. Now, it saddens me to know that some people will go there entire lives never knowing the sublime bliss of using it. The shader tool allows me to add finishing touches to my 3D virtual samples, like colors, textures, fabrics, and metallic finishes. I could literally play with it for hours and never get bored.
Eventually, school will start again and I’ll return to passing the days with essays, sewing, and Starbucks. This won’t be tragic, because I love my school and I’ll still get to see Lacey on campus. But, I’m not sure if any classroom can ever truly replicate the experience of really learning, hands-on in the field. At Fireflyline, I’m not just working, I’m exploring.
This weeks blog post is for technical designers and pattern-makers. You are challenged to create perfectly fitting garments in minimal time. The garments need to fit various body shapes, not just the fit model. Taking time to strategize how to create a smoother fit process amidst the challenges seems like a luxury. The following are some tips and reminders compiled for you.
Spend more time training
There are many viewpoints on how a garment should fit. Pattern-makers are trained differently around the world. They also grow up in different cultures. Sharing photos of your fit models allows pattern-makers to become familiar with the body shape. Holding fittings via Skype or recording fit sessions can help factory pattern-makers interpret the vision of designers and technical designers. Some companies assemble a manual for suppliers. The manual contains photos of garments that fit well and represent the fit preferences of their customers.
The right tools
Make sure your factories are using the same tools as you. Do the factory pattern-makers all have the same dress forms as your technical designers or pattern-makers? Do your factories have access to your product lifecycle management (PLM) system? Is their internet reliable to access your PLM system? Sharing the same tools allows everyone to meet the same goals.
There is a lot of free, dependable technology. Sometimes, we simply forget to capitalize on what is available. You can text message your overseas vendors for free with Whatsapp. Skype works great for collaboration. You can hold live fittings, share your screen and talk through photos or fit issues, or review samples with the vendor on a dress form before they are shipped to you.
Advanced imaging methods, such as 3D pattern-making and virtual samples allow you to visualize your pattern in the correct fabric before proceeding with physical samples. 3D virtual prototypes can offers numerous ways to improve fit. See the previous Fireflyline post Virtual Samples vs Fit Samples.
Tracking the status of styles in the development process also requires technology. The status of a sample can easily be lost in the shuffle. Virginia Meckley recommends keeping documents to track the status of styles within the fit process. “I use tracking docs that tell me where everything is at a glance. [I] color code categories for quick visual assessment of work flow and keep [the] team engaged with on going training. This gives me the flexibility to expedite and not lose time trying to find something.” Tracking documents can be created in a spreadsheet. Many PLM systems also track development status. Vendors can be given direct access to save time communicating via e-mail or retrieving large files from another location.
Rushing is not always best
Spending more time evaluating an initial prototype or spending the time to create a good pattern block can prevent countless iterations of samples. Waiting on correct sample yardage for the initial fit prototype can save time. Xochil Scheer reminds us “Never use muslin except as a draping tool. Even your first sample should be made in a fabric that is very similar to or exact to your final garment. If you're making a blouse in silk chiffon, muslin will never look, feel or hang the same on the body as silk chiffon.” A few days of patience waiting on information or materials may ultimately save time.
Sometimes, a deep breath and a moment to think is all that is needed to create better product. If you have additional tips, please share in the comments section. Collaboration can make all our lives a little easier.
Print scale can make or break a design. The sophistication, attitude, and mood can change. A floral print coat can look like a high-fashion moment or like your grandmother’s wallpaper depending on the scale.
Every apparel design assistant I know has spent time running back and forth to the copy machine adjusting the scale of photocopied artwork. Then they cut the artwork out and tape it to a garment. This is so a group of people can stand around and debate which size works best and exactly where on the garment the artwork should be placed.
Xerox introduced their photocopy machine in 1959. At the time it was revolutionary, but I think we can do better fifty-seven years later. By using 3D virtual clothing prototypes we can alter the scale immediately and shift the placement on the virtual garment. We can change the ground color of the garment with a click.
Fireflyline can create a 3D virtual prototype of your garment. We can schedule a webinar to review all-over print scale or graphic print scale and placement. Once you have selected several options, we will send 3D image files to you to use for market testing or your internal presentations.