Streetwear, as with any piece of fashion, goes through an elaborate design process. However, modern streetwear has only emerged in the last few decades. It’s important to note that every designer has a specific process. For that reason, there’s no universal route to fashion design.
Some generalities exist, however. Eight simple steps separate the start of the creative process from the result, in which a garment is ready to wear. Daniel Patrick is going to shine a light on every part of the streetwear design sequence.
Sometimes, specific designers will create garments to fill a commercial purpose. When designing custom-made apparel for individuals or pieces to fill a niche in a new collection, this is the case. At times like this, the consultation period for the clothing might take the form of a client meeting or a paper brief for the designer to review.
Whether a consultation is done in person or reviewed as an individual piece, some elements remain the same. Cost, aesthetics, style, and values can all be found in a brief, as well as any other particular requirements. If an independent designer is creating a piece without immediate outside pressures on the product, the consultation may be ignored instead of starting with a concept for the piece.
The notions that guide specific lines are stronger during collaborations: Where multiple groups are involved, it’s likely that detailed plans in clothing lines will be expressed from the outset. Take, for instance, the long-running DP Adidas Basketball collection. Each new addition to the line generally comes with a wide range of shared visual design cues to allow easy matching across the series.
Regardless of how much is set in stone before the concept comes along, the consultation is only the most introductory portion of a long creative process.
Whether one calls it inspiration or muse, the initial impetus one gets to pursue creation is essential for creating a heartfelt product. This can come from design fundamentals, music, existing fashion, landscapes, and just about anything else. In many cases, artists take inspiration from the very things they see around them. Other times, the conceptualization process involves a great deal of research.
In this phase, there’s a tremendous amount to balance. Even when fashion designers have complete autonomy, they are still accountable for what people are willing to buy. The desire to update the old and seek out something aesthetically pleasing is tempered by a need to analyze market trends and figure out how to create an item that will sell.
At this point, it’s important to create a mood board. Moodboards are essentially a collection of miscellany which serve as a jumping-off point for the aesthetics of a project. All the elements we mentioned previously are taken and collated into one specific place.
Moodboards provide the designers themself with a guiding light for a project and make it easy to show others what they are considering. This can be essential when working with collaborators or investors to showcase the strength or general direction.
In Daniel Patrick’s early history, American culture, sports, and fashion were his intertwined passions. These passions still express themselves in our focus on the sportswear side of streetwear. The place is also a keystone, and in the case of Daniel Patrick, Los Angeles offers bountiful inspiration.
Los Angeles is an international cultural hub. There’s more food, culture, music, and fashion being created in the city every single day than any individual could ever hope to experience. No matter what you are looking for, you can probably find it within the city limits.
Once a vague concept for pieces has begun to appear, it’s time to begin the initial designs. These first sketches can take many forms: for some, thumbnail sketches of each garment are the genesis. In the initial sketches, the highest priorities are general silhouette and shape, with specific colors, fabrics, and dimensions coming later.
You don’t have to be an exhibition-worthy visual artist to make suitable sketches for fashion. It’s important to understand light, angle, texture, and figure drawing fundamentals so that your work translates from the page. It’s also important that other collaborators be able to parse your drawings.
When it comes time to present these individual designs, watercolors or other pigments are used to represent the color, depending on the medium used to create the sketches. Designers may also include fabric swatches at this point to give a better idea of the texture and appearance of the completed garment, though entire patterns may not yet be completed.
At this point, the basic design of the garment is approaching finality. Sketches may begin to approach technical documents, with specific instructions for seams, sizing, and multi-angled silhouettes present. Details previously left unspecified are now realized so that the clothing manufacturer will be able to create garments based on the finalized design.
The next phase of the process is to research the exact fabric and color to be used in the piece.
Choosing the Fabric
Few elements immediately impact an individual garment’s use and quality, save perhaps the sewing, as much as fabric. Different fabrics have different qualities, responses to water and sweat, costs, and availability, which affect production on the designer's end. On the consumer end, fabric affects the texture, fashionability, and overall function of an article. It’s no wonder, then, that sourcing a fabric is so important.
There are dozens upon dozens of unique fabrics, though not all of them are used in streetwear. Below are a few primary streetwear fabrics, as well as their benefits.
Cotton: Cotton is a fiber woven into other fibers for luxury apparel, furnishings, and linens alike. High-quality cotton is supreme when it comes to comfort but may retain a higher degree of moisture when compared to synthetic fabrics. Cotton can be woven into a variety of materials, including terry cloth and jersey.
Wool: Wool has a higher saturation point than cotton and has unique thermoregulating properties, making it useful in warm and cool environments.
Polyester: Polyester is a highly durable synthetic fiber that is hydrophobic. This means that liquids such as water and sweat don’t adhere to it well. These qualities make it ideal for sportswear and athletic apparel.
Nylon: Nylon has the same exceptional strength as polyester, and it also offers great elasticity. While it is not hydrophobic to the degree polyester is, nylon is quick drying.
- Suede: More often seen in leather products like footwear, suede is made from the underside of an animal. This gives it a more delicate appearance and texture compared to traditional leather products.
Many brands will use blended fabrics to give a garment the benefits of multiple fabrics at once and create a more individualized article of clothing.
At this point, the designer has completed sketching and selected every element into the final design. The prototype, however, is often not made from the same material as the final product. This is the final design phase before production begins in full swing, and a few things must be taken care of.
First, the designer creates a prototype out of lightweight, affordable muslin fabric. They may do this themselves or send it to a third party for creation. This three-dimensional representation of the garment gives the designer a chance to see anything they may want to revise in their design. If this is the case, they will edit the sketches used for technical documents and follow it up by creating a second prototype.
Prototyping may be an extensive process, and muslin saves costs before wholeheartedly entering the production process. Because creating actual garments is costly, everything must be as close to perfection as possible at this stage. After however many revisions as is needed to satisfy the designer, it is time to source production.
Admittedly, there’s no perfect place to put this phase. Designers who are already actively producing work have likely already sourced their production, while up-and-coming designers may have taken this step out of the way earlier. Choosing where to produce your garment isn’t as simple as choosing a manufacturer.
The location where your clothing is produced affects everything along the chain. A larger manufacturer is able to produce garments faster, in more significant batch quantities. Many luxury streetwear brands produce in small-to-medium batch sizes, making size not as large a concern. Two larger issues a designer has to consider are their proximity to the manufacturer and the labor laws where the manufacturer is located.
In a bid to lower costs, many fast fashion brands source their production to countries where lax labor laws allow cheaper labor at the cost of potentially poor concerns for workers. To ensure you are purchasing from ethical companies, it can be helpful to check that items are produced locally by the designer. Alternatively, sometimes production is taken overseas due to the scarcity of specialty materials like high-grade fabrics and leathers. Figuring out a company’s ethics isn’t a binary state, and it’s important to examine all the factors surrounding production.
Another major benefit of producing a garment locally is that it allows the designers greater oversight in the process. Here, it is easy for the designer to examine the creation of their garments with their own eyes. In some cases, some designers may construct their gear entirely in-house, leading to personalized attention to each piece.
Tests and Revisions
Once production has started, it’s time to judge the garment as it should be in a ready-to-wear manner. As this is the first time seeing the garment actualized, it is possible there may be further issues that crop up at this point. Designers may use formal models to see how their apparel wears or otherwise use testers to examine the practicality of designs. Any concerns that are raised at this point will be edited around.
To examine a real-life example of how a fashion line comes to life, we would like to introduce the Daniel Patrick Basics Collection. The concept behind it is clear: Wardrobe essentials, upgraded to fit luxury streetwear standards. Inspiration is taken from classic athletic apparel and the rugged landscape of Los Angeles. After each garment has gone through a specific design process, we produce each locally in LA to give us easy oversight.
Heavyweight jersey fabric, luxe terry, and high-performing synthetic materials all see usage in the basics collection. Some of the colorways are made from specialty fabrics to improve athletic and aesthetic performance. With regular shirts and sweats represented alongside graphic tees and cloaks, the collection as a whole can be integrated into any wardrobe easily.
Knowing the Process
Once it’s been expanded upon, the process of streetwear design is relatively simple. A massive amount of technical skills, a bundle of creativity, and no small amount of legwork are required to get a fashion line off the ground. Still, knowing that in some small way, you’ve slightly tilted the axis of the fashion world is an incredible feeling.
Keep this all in mind the next time you see photos from a fashion show or hear more about someone dropping a new collaboration. Thanks to the above guide, you’ll have a better idea of what they must have gone through to make it happen. Whether you want to someday be on your way to designing your own gear or simply love fashion, we will continue to offer insightful guides like this.