Having recently launched a collection of new summer shirts I wanted to share a bit about the design process that is undertaken at Henri and how I turn an idea into a shirt.
For me, designing starts with a mood or a feeling; calm, contented, nostalgic, optimistic... This emotion is the start of something that turns into visions that are more tangible – billowing cotton on a hot day, rolled up sleeves, hands in pockets through a scooped side hem. I’m inspired by those who approach style with a feeling of casual elegance and who wear their clothes without fuss and unnecessary noise.
I think ideas come to designers in many different ways but for me it’s a slow, subconscious process. I will often see something I like the look of and let it linger for weeks or months until it either returns in my mind or disappears. The ‘good’ ideas resurface a few times, take form and shift, all the while I don’t put pen to paper.
I recently tried to explain this process to a friend that doesn’t work in the creative industry and it surprised me how interesting she found it. I think this subconscious sifting through ideas is the most valuable part of the creative process for me; it is completely natural and un-constrained by the pressure to turn it into a 2D or 3D form.
Once an idea has lingered for a while I will try to make more sense of it. What does it actually look like, what are the details, how does it sit on the body and what fabric is it made from. Making sense of an idea is such a fun and interesting process and it can also be rather frustrating. A vision for a design never comes fully formed, it needs translating as if it’s sitting behind a sheet of blurred glass and you have to shift your focus to understand it. This is when I put pencil to paper and make sketch after sketch until there is something on the paper that strikes a chord. With a background in pattern cutting I draw the 2D sketch through visualising the 3D garment on the body, the drapes and the movement, all the while planning how this would look in 2D as a flat pattern piece.
The sketching process goes hand in hand with fabric selection. You have to feel the fabric, imagine how it will drape with the design, how it will feel when being worn and what kind of garments will it work well with. The choice of fabric also helps to navigate design details when fine tuning samples. The true beauty of a design only comes through if the materials work together to translate the mood of the garment in an instant. The button selection comes into play at this stage – you can never underestimate how much the humble button can transform a garment!
A love of designing and a strong vision is why I launched Henri and unsurprisingly for me it is the most enjoyable part of running my business. Keeping the collection small allows me to really focus on the essence of what Henri is about and I’m excited about translating the ideas that are currently surfacing into designs for the Autumn collection.
To read more about the craftsmanship at Henri take a look at our blog post on The Art of Pattern Cutting...