In Fashion — Part 1

Today, we’re so incredibly thrilled to bring you the first in a three-part fashion series featuring Nancy Spaulding. Nancy has been a fashionista  since the age of eight when she designed a Hawaiian-inspired luau dress for her teddy bear. She’s been designing, sewing and creating apparel and fashion accessories ever since. She started her career sewing on her great-grandmother’s treadle machine and though she’s graduated to various new machines over the years, she still marvels that she gets to call her childhood hobby her career.

I first met Nancy back in June of 2012. Though she’s based out in Tucson, Arizona, she has a summer place up on the coast of Maine, a lovely 2.5 hour drive away from my home office. I met her for a late breakfast on the third floor roof deck of her seaside home, overlooking the rocky coast of the Atlantic. Sound picturesque? It was — and it was the perfect backdrop to learn more about Nancy and hear about her extensive experience in the fashion world. It was then that we first discussed her project idea for Pellon®. Rather than just presenting a project, we thought it might be fun to share the full process from trend analysis & mood boards, to project planning and finally project creation. With that said, let’s just jump right in!

Nancy, to get us started, could you tell us a bit about your background with the fashion world?
Well, as my designer’s bio states, I started my “career” when I was eight years old (only I didn’t know it back then!) sewing fashions for my teddy bear and Barbie dolls on my great grandmother’s treadle sewing machine. Since I was a child, I have always loved creating my own designs. In my teenage years, embroidery was all the rage, so I learned how to embroider quite well. My aunt designed costumes and my step-cousin was a knitwear designer in NYC, so I guess you could say it is in my blood.

Also, I think growing up in New England in what I call the “cradle of the U.S. Industrial Revolution” during a time when manufacturing was prevalent in the U.S. helped to shape me. I always knew someone who worked at a shoe factory or an apparel manufacturer.

I studied apparel & textiles in college. While in college, I worked for a high-end skiwear manufacturer for a while and learned a lot about sewing on industrial equipment and about the manufacturing process; skills I developed in the factory environment have served me well over the years. I went on to design fashion accessories (handbags primarily), but I have also worked in sportswear, etc. My last official “corporate gig” in the fashion industry was with a hosiery company in San Diego, California where I was responsible for brand management/product development for Victoria’s Secret, Esprit, and other hosiery lines.
Since stepping away from the corporate world in 2008, I’ve been teaching fashion design at a large community college in Tucson, Arizona.  I teach several classes such as patternmaking, draping, fashion drawing, history of fashion, textiles, digital fashion design, etc. I also just finished assisting with a book project for a well-respected designer in L.A. regarding fashion draping (for a large NY fashion publishing house).  I’ve got several more projects in the works (I like to keep my “hand” in industry), and I like to keep up with technology.

What exactly is a trend report and how far out are its projections?
Good question!  A professional trend report (otherwise known as a “predictive service”) is usually prepared by one of several trend research companies such as WGSN, Stylesight, Fashion Snoops, and others.  In simple terms, it’s like having a crystal ball for the fashion industry.

Typically, projected trends for design, color, “mood” and/or inspiration can range up to 18 months out. In a nutshell, a trend service analyzes fashion trends before we see fashions on the racks at our favorite retailers. Right now, I’ve been looking at Spring/Summer 2014 and will look at Fall/Winter 2014 shortly.

In the U.S., I’ve attended trend seminars in L.A. at the CalMart during the textile show. Any major domestic fashion trade event such as MAGIC (Las Vegas) or trade shows at the Javitz in NYC will have trend seminars as part of the show.  Of course, there are lots of international shows as well.

What types of information are you able to pull? Does it focus on pattern, colors and style, or does it go even further beyond?
I am able to pull runway images from around the world and for international designers that I like. I can get information from trade shows, trend reports, color analysis, material reports, flat images (line art for the latest style trends), business info, and lots more.

There is analysis for all categories of apparel from women’s and men’s fashion trends to children, prints, accessories –  a complete picture of what is happening in the world at a given time.  Trend services present a visual feast for the eyes, and the great thing is that you can travel the world from the comfort of your own chair!

What do you do with the information once it’s been pulled?
First of all, I sit down with my “swipe” files; these certain images that I’ve pulled from the trend service and/or images that I find inspiring from magazines.  I also look at bits and pieces of other “elements” that inspire me:  for instance, the colors in a rock, architecture, nature, art, popular culture (street), vintage fashions, various things I’ve collected, a particular fabric or trim.  Inspiration is all around us and it is endless; you just have to look!  And, don’t be a slave to trends.  Start some of your own!

I then sort through everything I’ve collected, lay it out, and try to see if I can see a trend in color, texture, images and then see what “theme” is emerging from it all.  I may look at previous sketches that I’ve done…does anything work with my current design idea?  I sometimes just have an idea and go with it; these times the theme is already set.

Do you use a ‘mood board’ for inspiration on all new projects and is that something you’d recommend for budding fashion designers?
Yes; I would recommend mood boards to budding fashion designers.   I like to organize my inspirational references and ideas to help narrow down my focus for a project.  A mood board helps me to “center” my ideas and not be all over the place with my thoughts.  Ideas are endless, but you don’t want your design projects looking like a mish-mash of themes/colors/concepts; there needs to be some sort of coherent “thread” running through the design(s).
[Sources: full board; top — 1, 2, 3, 4; middle — 1, 2, 3, 4; bottom — 1, 2, 3, 4]

What advice could you offer for new designers who may not have access to a trend forecasting system? Are there key online destinations or print publications that can provide similar information?
To start with, begin collecting images from magazines (called “swipes”) that inspire you. You may be inspired by the way a particular fabric manipulation technique looks, color, texture, shapes, and any myriad of other design influences.  Fashion magazines are great, but also look to other magazines that have photos of land and water creatures, photos of architecture in foreign countries, and landscapes. Walk out the door and look at plants of all shapes and sizes. Notice colors in nature; nature provides us with wonderful color combos!  I love rocks, so am often fascinated with the numerous and oftentimes subtle colorations found in them. Dig through vintage shops and easily find loads of inspiration from the past. Visit museums; lots of inspiration there!

I also think it is good to look at retail.  Even though the trends are current at retail, a number of the silhouettes and fabrications will be updated and recycled for another season (if they are strong sellers).

The great thing about design today is that it can be lots of things, although I personally think design needs to be thoughtful and well-done.  Look at the DIY movement and how it has transformed our creative society!

Color trends: Pantone, Design Seeds
A couple of good resourcesThe Cool Hunter and Startup Fashion
A Nancy favorite: The Textile Blog  (“Like” them on Facebook and you’ll see the coolest images in your updates every day!)
Of course, don’t forget Pinterest, fashion magazines (both domestic and foreign), and Polyvore (a good way to put together designs you find inspiring while having the ability to create a little digital mood board at the same time).

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Thanks so much Nancy! We’ll see you next time for a quick chat about fashion design and construction!


3 thoughts on “In Fashion — Part 1

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