During my time working in the fashion industry, i had the envious job of having to shop for prints to put into the collection/line. This involved going to print shows such as indigo Paris/New York or to shop for T-Shirts in LA. What a bind, shopping with someone else's credit card... Well, Unfortunately those trips were too often viewed as a treat or perk of the job. Not so, these trips are an essential part of the job and one that the print designer should be going on. To understand fully why i believe it should be the textile designer traveling and to hopefully better equip you (when talking to design directors, when it comes to choosing who travels to shop for prints) i'm listing my top 6 reasons!
Why the print designer should be shopping for prints:
1. When it comes so shopping the market/vintage for patterns, the textile designer has an inherent 'eye for print'. Prints and patterns immediately grab the textile designers attention. I have seen this many times on trips where i naturally gravitate to the prints where as the fashion designers gravitate to shape and cut of garments.
2. The textile designer is aware or the production mill's printing capabilities. This is increasingly important as digital prints and photographic looking prints have become more trendy. For most companies, digital printing is still not cost effective, so those "Great Colours" suddenly fall flat when they have to be reduced from 24+ to production ready 8. Those fantastic prints can then loose their initial appeal and can become a issue between the designers desire and the production reality.
A print designer will be able to give quick time estimates, to make the print production ready; is it in a real repeat, how many colors will it need, is it engineered to garment? remember, time is money!
3. Textile designers have the added advantage of knowing the print archive. Is there already a print that already exists that can be quickly recoloured or rescaled to do the same job. This is especially true of hand painted plaids, liberty prints and non-prints and textures. Print cycles so fast these days I have had 3 cycles of paisleys in my career so far!
4. I think we live in a very fortunate time of connectivity. I can easily pull up runway collections as they happen on www.style.com and peruse my favorite boutique Colette in Paris online. However there is nothing like getting out there, stumbling across new designers and techniques and seeing prints up close. It is true that every designer needs to fill their inspiration tank once in a while, this in person trips allows all the visual information to collect in their brain and then flow out of their fingers in there own creative way.
5. I have had the situation of fashion designers returning from print shows, artwork in hand, only to find out that the artwork purchased has been scanned and slightly edited from a dover book. Textile designers know such books like the 'back of their hands'. We can have a good hunch if the print is original. Using such prints for production can put you at a disadvantage as many other companies are also using the same artwork, or even worse in a costly legal battle. One print in particular has followed me around for about 10 years now. Have you seen this before???
6. I am assuming most textile designers have been hired on the strength of their portfolio and there unique drawing style. I know textile designers that are amazing at geometrics, conversational, water coloured roses or even interesting polka dots. If i am seeing that a fashion designer is drawn to a type of print that one of our in house team can achieve I am able to advise this. This frees up $ to purchase what i call "wow prints".
Knowing the talent/capabilities of the print design team, while also knowing what they would be challenged to produce (due to time limitations or skill) can save thousands of dollars on a trip. i am also not encouraging the stealing of designs! it is something that i feel very strongly about, having worked on both sides of the equation (in-house and print studio), it is about identifying trends and making them appropriate for your client/brand.
In an ideal world i advise that the fashion design team always consult/travel with a senor textile designer. Print a valuable and unique way to draw your customer in. Print is too important to get wrong and can be hit or miss. Your textile designer is a highly skilled resource to be taken advantage of and is alway happy to help shop for prints!
This isn't about sending just the textile designer on their own to purchase prints in a vacuum, it's about fashion and textile designer working together, collaborating with the context of the label, the garment shape, color, trend and season plan.
Together we are stronger and we all want better product!