Safe protection/safe inspiration: IP law for fashion designs – Lexology

This is one of the better overviews I have read of the current state of the art with fashion IP protection.

Given how cannibalistic design can be, it is increasingly important that designers remain as au courant with forms of intellectual protection of their work and how to best protect it.

I found the section on trade dress particularly well-written, especially in light of the recent court decisions about Christian Louboutin’s ‘red-soled shoe’ marks.  Louboutin’s legal issues with his shoes to me highlights why designers should find a lawyer they feel comfortable with and ake sure their work is adequately protected.

Safe protection/safe inspiration: IP law for fashion designs – Lexology.


Interesting New Material: Pearlflex

This interesting new material from TCI Tang Chen in the Philippines has some interesting possibilities. Pearlflex is made from mother of pearl and Paua shell and combines the iridescence of these materials into a flat sheet suitable for use as tiles for home decor, or in fashion as a button or trim material or it would be ideally suited to make small evening bags.

Pearlflex is a nonwoven, with a flexible  base matrix that includes a water-based coating. The natural iridescence from the matrix changes hue as the material is moved and different parts of the matrix reflects light at varying wavelengths (this is a natural property of shell and mother of pearl.)

Pearlflex is light, sturdy, flexible and it able to withstand low or extreme temperatures. The material is tested on water absorbency and UV exposure to ensure quality.

You can check out its technical specifications at the Materia database.

New Directions and Stuff – Musing on Couture

Spent the weekend working on what I now affectionately term the ‘shirt from hell’. It was definitely a learning experience; I learned that couture skills do not do well when left to moulder for a few years and picking them up again is not like riding a bicycle.

It seemed like such a simple idea: I’m have a new business, and I wanted to make myself a shirt to wear when I went to talk to people about it. After all, when people say ‘what do you do, it’s far better to be able to finger your sleeve and say ‘I design stuff like this’ then to hand-wave. One of the real take-away lessons I learned from developing digital content for virtual worlds is 99% of the world still doesn’t get it, the success of World of Warcraft not withstanding.

So with this in mind, I pulled some yardage of one of my favorite prints, Thoroughly Thoroughbreds in Cream from our new Faster collection and set out to make make myself a shirt. This may sound intimidating to some, but I spent thirty years doing couture and have a couple of degrees and certificates from FIT where they make you make tons of stuff in order to graduate. At the height of my couture practice, I could crank out a shirt in an afternoon and it would be done with a fully couture pattern that fit me perfectly. With this as my background, I perhaps had overly high expectations of myself starting my recent ‘make a shirt’ project.

I was too rushed to draft a pattern for myself. In hindsight, this was a callow decision. I have CAD pattern drafting software on my computer. I could easily have created a half-couture pattern that would have taken about the same flat adjustments as the commercial pattern I used. It would have fit far better at the end. But the commercial patterns were on sale, and yada yada. Armed with my commercial pattern I made my couple of simple pattern adjustments that worked in the past and proceeded with my fabulous textile print.

An aside here about the material itself – I bought the 100% basic cotton textile and once it was washed to remove the sizing and other chemicals it was a dream to work with. It has a wonderfully soft hand and I am really going to enjoy wearing this shirt.

Cutting out was no big deal. I adjusted on the fly as I went and while it took a little longer it wasn’t horrid. Even the pre-sewing stuff went pretty quickly.

But then it was time to sew, and even all of my time saving techniques (which I thankfully remembered) were not enough to save me from the fact that I had lost muscle memory. Somewhere in the past 7 years, my fingers had forgotten how to pat-press and gather to ease the fabric under the sewing machine foot, and I had lost the finer nuances of a good couteriere.

There are some things on this shirt that let’s just say I’m grateful that most people won’t understand if they see them. I made the decision to use a man-style closure (right over left instead of left over right) so that I could hide the less-than-perfect collar stand on the left side. And the thing that really offended me the most was that it took me 6 hours to make this shirt, including buttonholes and buttons. In the past, that would have been more like 2 1/2 hours. However, by the end, I was remembering some of my hard won muscle memory, so I have hopes I haven’t lost all of my couture skills.

I learned some good lessons here – I need to make more stuff so I don’t lose my exceptional body of skills. And I need to not have overly high expectations as I get back into the process of ‘making stuff’. Also, at the end of the day, I have a super cute, fitted shirt made from my very own textile design.

And that, dear reader, is priceless.

The shirt from hell, unpressed:

Design Thinking, What a Concept?

It’s sort of funny, we’ve been legitimized by higher ed and the business process folks out there.  It turns out that all this time, while we’ve been busily working away at our collections and getting our work done, what we have really been doing is engaging in ‘design thinking’.

Oddly, we’ve been doing it all this time, but we just didn’t have a fancy term for the way we approach our work other than ‘design’. But ‘design’ isn’t worth $35,000 a month for a consultant, so now we have ‘design thinking’.

Design thinking (as opposed to plain old design) is the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, apply creativity to generating solutions, and analyzing and choosing solutions within context.  In design speak, that means we understand our marketplace, we understand our assignment (design little girl’s mittens), we go out and start thumbnailing design ideas, and then we work with our design director to choose designs we think most likely to sell and that our factories can be produce. We’ve been doing ‘design thinking’ the time.

The premise behind design thinking is that by knowing about the process and the methods that we as designers use to ideate (e.g., come up with our ideas), and by understanding how we approach problems to try to solve them, other individuals and businesses will be better able to connect with and invigorate their ideation processes in order to take innovation to a higher level. Which is kind of cool, that people have caught on to the fact designers think about the world differently.

The hope amongst the business people is to create a competitive advantage in today’s global economy.

So now educators are trying to teach non-practitioners to think like we do.

Perhaps the suits are going about it all wrong, and instead of trying to teach their accountants to think like we do, maybe, just maybe, they should go to the source, and convene groups of designers from all the disciplines to brainstorming weekends. We’re used to designing on cycles, and we’re used to designing to challenges. Most of our ideas would be unworkable (just like they are now) but I would bet that one or a few compelling and applicable answers would be produced.

But I’d argue that Design Thinking would be better applied to things that are globally significant to all of us. Things like climate change, pollution, child labor, slavery, human rights abuses, and even, dare I say it, war? I bet we could come up to some really creative solutions to some of these issues facing us. After all, we already understand that our design decisions have consequences. When we call for hand beading on a sweater, we know that little tiny fingers will be called in to put those beads in place.

I have to wonder if as Design Thinking is being taught, if consequences are taught along with the process methodology?