Surprised to see me? Me too!
As you know I gave up blogging at the end of last year to focus on university, however it has occurred to me that using my blog to document and reflect on my uni work, as well as being able to get feedback from you guys, would be really beneficial to my studies. I did think of starting up a separate blog but I thought if I do it here then it gives my old readers the opportunity to see what I'm up to if they so like. There is still not going to be any outfit posts but is going to be purely about my university work, and my thoughts, things I'm currently interested in, exhibitions I visit etc. and I would really appreciate any feedback, suggestions or opinions you may have.
So I'll start to fill you in by telling you about some of my work I have done over the last few months. I have recently finished my PGCert in Creative Pattern Cutting (and I have now moved onto the fashion masters course) where we experimented with different pattern cutting techniques. I find I work better visually by toiling or draping on the stand which is why I particularly wanted to do this course because I knew it would help develop my designs and open me up to new possibilities. I find it can be hard to design something if I then have no idea how to make it, but now that I've finished that course I feel my knowledge has really expanded and my approach to pattern cutting is much more open minded and I know that anything I make in the future I can easily work out.
(please do not steal images without permission)
We did many set projects over the span of a few months using different pattern cutting techniques, as well as a personal project where we set our own brief and had to incorporate the new skills we had learnt. For my personal project I wanted to use my new pattern cutting skills by applying it to my chosen field of plus size fashion. I had to create a plus size mannequin by padding out a "size 20" mannequin, which was actually more of a size UK14, then I researched actual size UK20 measurements so that I could make it an accurate size and shape.
For my personal project I was particularly inspired by Madame Gres, whose work I have fallen in love with because of her attention to detail and her care for the female form, which is something I wanted to bring into my own work and is needed in plus size fashion in general. I just find it fascinating how modern her designs were for the 1930's-50's etc. and the excruciating amount of pleats she uses, which would be extremely time consuming and difficult to replicate. As you can tell by her designs, she was inspired by sculpture (and was originally a sculptress) and has an amazing eye for shapes and contours of the female body. Shapes, movements and lines wrapping around the body is something I am particularly interested in and drawn too, and possibly my 'designer hand-writing' - so this is something I want to develop and take further into my work. Most recently I was impressed with how the architectural fashion designers Chromat incorporated plus size models (indcluding Denise Bidot) into their collection, and the amazing fit and shapes they created around the body - I think it's great to see something so forward and 'daring' on a larger body and it's a step in a hopefully amazing direction for the industry.
Something I have particularly been thinking about this week is my market level and customer. When I originally did my undergraduate degree, which was also a plus size collection, I was aiming at a very low high-street level because I wanted it to be as accessible as possible. Back then I was hoping to create a collection that would be the same market level as Topshop, so that a young plus size customer would be able to have similar shopping options as her straight size friends. I wanted it to be young, bright, bold, trend-led - all the things I feel the current plus size industry isn't. I feel a lot of plus size companies often make the preconception that bigger women may also be of an older age, not necessarily body confident, and don't have an interest in fashion/trends. (but obviously we know differently) I think the other problem is that individual plus size companies try to cater to too many people and see all the plus size women as one group of people rather than focussing in on age, personality etc. If you are slimmer you have the luxury of being able to shop at any shop that suits your personal taste and budget, whereas someone like me (size UK22/24, age 24, fashion student with little money, likes cutesy/vintage clothes), has to shop at similar places to someone who could be double my age, completely different style and budget.
Whilst researching, and reading about how Target (USA) have relaunched their plus size collection, Ava & Viv, with the help of bloggers (Gabi Gregg, Nicolette Mason, Chastity Garner - all of which are my customer inspiration), I came across this quote from Nicolette about the new line:
''It's not so generic, and it's not going to please everyone. It's definitely
for a specific girl, which is exactly what great design should be. It
shouldn't be something that appeals to every person regardless of their
personal taste or style. This is a true collection.'' (Read article here)
I think she makes a great point, and it's quite comforting to hear as an aspiring designer as I'm inevitably not going to appeal to every single plus size woman out there and I think that's a good thing. As designers we have to pinpoint our target customer within an age gap as well as their spending habits and lifestyle etc. but this does not necessarily isolate other customers. For example Topshop is aimed at roughly 18-25 year olds, but I have known people older than 50 to shop there too and there's nothing wrong with that.
Since doing my undergraduate degree I have aged 2 years and I feel my approach to my market level and target customer has changed. I no longer feel that I want to cater to the low end of high street but instead I want to create a higher standard of design and product, as well as not neccessarily following trends but creating garments that will be worn year after year. I thought I could possibly aim for designer level, or premium high-street, but it occurred to me that my target customer may not be able to afford that price. I still want my customer to be young- originally I was thinking 20-30, but I may extend that to 35 - and I'm aiming at someone who is dedicated to fashion, body confident, and likes to invest most of the money on clothes. (like I said before, my customer inspiration comes from leading plus size bloggers ^) I still want my designs to be young but I also want them to be more sophisticated, and more classic rather than fast fashion, and for that I feel I would have to be maybe mid to high end of the highstreet. So I have spent the week researching both high street brands and plus size designers to try and find where I fit, but it has been hard and I'm still unsure - so any input from you guys would be great!
Looking on the British high-street I've been really unsure who would be of a similar market level - possibly Cos, or Karen Millen, or Whistles, but I wonder if they would be older than my target customer, what do you think? (and obviously not my style aesthetic) I've been researching plus size designers of the same price point, such as Carmakoma, Jibri, Eloquii, who I have all heard before but haven't looked at because they're international and out of my personal price range, but I was happily surprised by all of them. You should take a look at their lookbooks, there's amazing imagery, and I particularly love the shape and style of Jibri! Again, my designs and aesthetic would be different but the standard of design is what I want to aim for. If you know of any similar brands, whether they are plus size or not, please send them my way! All of this is particularly important because I'm thinking about where I will fit in the fashion industry after I leave university - whether I start up my own business or try to get a job within an established plus size brand. I have a lot of thinking to do!
Please let me know any thoughts you may have on any of the points I have mentioned, anything you say may be helpful towards my work.
It's very weird to be blogging again, but also quite nice, so I hope you stick with me on this journey. I should be blogging once or twice a week, depending on how things go, and they'll all be related to my work and inspiration etc.
Until next time,