Returning to the topic of ethics in clothing design, this is a story of a experience I had. This specifically relates to how you should convey your design choices to others when your source material is inspired by photos or actual samples of existing products. This is something that rankled for a lot of years.
The designer gave me a sketch of a blouse with a two tiered neckline ruffle.
Worth mentioning but extraneous to this discussion, note that this designer described the neckline binding as a “fold over collar”. In this case, the description was fine because the effect was well illustrated. However, if you don’t have a drawing or an actual product sample, a neckline bias bound binding is not what you could justifiably expect if you use the terms this designer did.
So I made a pattern based on the sketch. I didn’t think the prototype looked very good, the ruffles looked lame. I don’t have a photo of the proto which was promptly trashed but Danielle drew a picture of what I described it looking like (below).
When the VP saw my proto, he was mad and attempted to intimate I was incompetent because -get this- it didn’t look like the blouse they had stashed in the office! Oh boy, was I pissed. It is beyond stupid to have a product sample (nothing unique as you can see, clowns have been wearing this outfit for eons) and not show it to the person you expect to make a pattern from it. So, I made them show me the sample garment. The sample looked like Danielle’s sketch (below):
The problem was the sketch. The pattern for a ruffle matching the designer’s sketch, looks like this:
But the product sample had a circular ruffle. A sketch for a circular shaped ruffle is like this (below):
So, as I explained to them, the problem was the sketch; there was a big difference in the design of these two ruffles and that wasn’t reflected.
As far as you’re concerned, this is the perfect example of why you should hire a technical illustrator who is also a pattern maker. Danielle never would have made a mistake like this. She drew the design above based on a photo which I’ll show you at close. This designer wasn’t a pattern maker or a trained illustrator and she did a pretty good job most of the time (she remains a cherished friend). As it happens, the VP told her to sketch it rather than to show me the sample (the VP happened to own a boutique, this was a sales men’s sample from a rep. Never allow your samples to be left with anyone!) Designers rarely have the power to do anything other than what they’re told to do, just like any other employee. A manager over-ruled her. By the way, that VP was such a jerk, doing a wide variety of not-nice things, like firing stitchers if they were injured on the job. He’s still has that boutique, probably the best one in Albuquerque’s Old Town (talk to me if you’re thinking of selling there; he’d be a good customer but you have to keep him on a very short leash). But if you know who he is, you may tell him I still think he’s a jerk. You might think this a contradiction but I’d sell to him. You always know where you stand with your enemies because you know how they can hurt you but you don’t always know that about your friends.
Now, I realize it’s beyond many of you to know the nuances of ruffle design, it just looks like a bunch of fabric all gathered up on a neckline but nothing is ever as simple as you think. This is another example of why I say in my book that your use of the terms “really simple” is the universal cue for pattern makers and contractors to run and hide. If you have a sample or a photo, cough it up. I doubt your pattern maker will think you’re a genius savant for having come up with this chambray clown blouse anyway, so what’s to lose -other than money and time? Besides, why do you care what they think? For the record, allow me to assure you officially: We Don’t Care. Plenty of brilliant people can’t make money, brilliance alone doesn’t pay the bills.
So, once I saw the sample, the issue was easily resolved. Here’s a photo of the actual products made from the pattern I made:
Compare that product shot to the original sketch I was given. In sum: if you have a product you’re using as the basis of your design, show it. A sketch rendered by a non-pattern maker cannot reflect pattern design requirements that are obvious to others. Similarly, a fashion (marketing type) illustration cannot be substituted for a technical sketch. You can draw anything, it doesn’t mean it can be made.
Another mention extraneous to this discussion. Please note (based on the photo above) that although the “same” pattern was used for these two blouses, they have two different style numbers. While they may seemingly use the same pattern, they are not the same style. Therefore they need an entirely different style number. If you’re not sure why, buy my book. Learning the reason why on your own will cost you a lot more than $60.
Oh, and in defense of my previous employer, for ~some~strange~reason~ I could just never manage to copy an existing product well. I mean, run of the mill things that everyone produced came out just fine, no problem. However, even if the item was straight forward pattern wise but it was unique and had unusual design integrity, I just couldn’t get the same effect. The back story is that the VP started copying this new DE who did some pretty cool stuff. I got sufficiently tired of it that I called her and asked her if she’d hire me. My argument was that if I was being paid to make her patterns, she may as well be the one paying me to do it. So she did hire me and I packed it in and moved to Texas. Actually, she’s the reason I started working with DEs. I helped turn that operation around and today her gross is over 75 million a year, dominating her niche ever since.