By now you probably know that New York Fashion Week is in full swing. You and I are eagerly anticipating fall so we can finally wear our tall boots and faux fur vests, but fashion designers are already showing their collections for next spring, 2012. Yep, that's how fashion works. And it's not because the industry always wants to be a step ahead of you. It's so spring clothes can get actually into your closet by, well, spring!
Having worked for a few different design houses, I can give you an abbreviated (but by no means complete) overview of how it goes. After a fashion show is over, the designer's sales team holds appointments with buyers of major department stores around the country. Buyers come into the studio, examine the clothes up close, and eventually place their orders based on what their store's demographic is likely to purchase. (Not all the crazy stuff you see on runways is actually purchased, nor is it always meant for purchase.)
By this time, the design team is already working on their next collection. Most designers create four collections in a year: fall/winter, resort, spring/summer, and pre-fall. The main designer (with his/her name on the label) will have an idea of what he wants to explore for next season. He may have a sketch or two in tow. He relays his concepts to the design staff with whom he's collaborating, who then create a moodboard, research the archives, and make illustrations.
Once the entire line is illustrated, it's time to create the patterns. Each drawing is given to a pattern-maker who conceives how to bring the illustration to life. (This is obviously one of the most crucial aspects of design, and pattern-makers regularly make six figure salaries.) The patterns are made with paper and placed on the chosen fabric and cut. Some design studios hire employees whose sole responsibility is cutting fabric—it’s not an easy job!
Once all the pieces are cut, they’re either sewn in house by, yep, you guessed it, sewers, or they’re sent to an outside studio in the garment district. These kind of look like sweat shops and are probably the least glamorous place you could ever imagine going—rows of Asian women with industrial machines sewing for Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, etc.
While the clothes are still being made and several weeks before showtime, the design team casts models for the runway show. They hire a stylist to help with the concept of the fashion show and to put each look together in the most attractive way. Then there are set and lighting designers to be contacted, music production, accessories designers, and the hair and makeup crew.
Meanwhile, the PR team has been scrambling to create the invite list, get the invitations made and sent out, manage the RSVPs, and arrange seating, celebrity appearances, and backstage access. They also man the doors and make sure everything runs smoothly the night of the show.
Then… it’s showtime! And you and I watch as beautiful (or bizarre) clothes float down the runway to pounding music and flashing lights. It seems so glamorous. Oh la la. But in actuality, there’s not as much glamour as there is pure hustle. Fashion is a huge, multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s a ton of work! But so worth it, don’t you agree?