Creative Project Challenges Students to Design Clothing Line, Builds Industry Skills
By Mary Giuffrida
When you swipe your card to purchase a new dress or that jacket you couldn’t take your eye off of, chances are you aren’t thinking about the pattern design, the assembly order and methods, or the types of stitches and seams chosen. You don’t give a second thought to concepts like labeling laws, target markets and quality assurance. You don’t have to, because a team of dedicated fashion development professionals have spent months pouring over every detail of that item so that when you try it on all you have to do is think: “Wow, I look good.”
This process is what fashion and textile management (FTM) students in the fashion development and product management concentration are learning about in FTM 415: Fashion Product Development. The capstone course, which brings together all the skills the students have learned, challenges students to create a line of apparel for a specific target market. Each line is made up of six individual pieces, three tops and three bottoms.
Working in groups of three, the students are encouraged to choose a demographic that pushes them outside their comfort zone and challenges them to think in new ways. Together, they research their target market to determine the consumers’ product needs, desires and fit. The idea is to see the world through their audience’s eyes in order to create a line tailored to their wants and needs.
“We went with menswear, but very androgynous, a feminine touch to typical menswear,” explains junior Emery Castor.
The group researched men ages 25 to 35 with increased purchasing power. They looked into what their audience was missing, and how they could appeal to those gaps with their line. This research is what inspired them to push the boundaries of typical menswear and explore the dueling feminine and masculine sides of menswear.
Once they have completed their research and identified the ways they want to serve their audience, the groups are tasked with not only designing and constructing the line, but also building a thorough specification package for their designs.
Their goal is to create a step-by-step guide which would be used by manufacturers producing the finalized pieces. These “specification packages” or “tech packs” are an industry standard containing everything from drawings and materials to prices and detailed construction guides. Every tech pack includes detailed measurements for each size, trims, finishes, yarn types and anything else that a manufacturer needs to know when producing the garment.
“It’s our job to create that from start to finish and develop it in a way that’s understandable,” says Dominic Celemen, a junior enrolled in the course. “It’s really giving us a lot of industry knowledge and experience before we actually do it in the real world.”
The semester-long course challenges them to not just recall the concepts and ideas they’ve learned, but to apply them to a large-scale industry-level project from start to finish.
“Each of us got a taste of everything, every step of the production process and that was one of my favorite parts of this class was that we got to do everything that’s done in industry,” Celemen says.
This includes using many of the labs and technologies the students will eventually encounter when entering the textile industry. They spend time developing the skills needed to use knitting machines, Computer-Aided Design software, 3D scanners and other tools which gives them a competitive edge as they move forward in their careers.
Along with these new skills, the students also leave the course with a renewed awareness of themselves and the industry. They’ve seen how each individual piece of the process comes together and been exposed to the reality of working both with a team and on a timeline.
“The design process takes a lot of time and effort; it’s full of tedious tasks that require attention to detail.” Celemen says. “But now I have all this exposure and all this experience and honestly, it’s made me love the process more.”