Over the past few seasons, fashion has witnessed a steady but sizeable shift back towards patterns for design containing big prints, designs, and prints.
Largley driven by consumer fashion trends and pop-culture harking back to the 90s and 00s, led largely by Gen-Z 🖼
It’s well known that fashion is cyclical, and non more so than in this case.
In this blog look into these trends and how brands are sourcing these kinds of prints for their day to day designs.
First, a quick summary:
Read on for more in-depth content on the topic
For the most part, fashion brands tend to work with pattern designing studios and freelancers to design and procure new patterns for a collection.
These pattern designing studios and designers can either be in-house or outsourced.
With the larger brands contain whole in-house pattern making teams to create prints for their collections and assortments 👚
A couple of pattern designing studios and surface designers we recommend checking out are:
Full disclosure, they're our textile design community members. Which makes them even more amazing!
Another option, which is becoming more common in the industry these days, is to combine both in-house and outsourced for the design and production of patterns.
This arrangement allows brand’s to maintain control over all aspects of their pattern designing, as well as the production process, ensuring cost, lead-time and fabric quality is at the expected level.
Whilst still taking advantage of one-off artworks and pieces created by freelancers and pattern designing studios.
With the rise of the creator economy, internet virality and the chance for artists to get their work in-front of the biggest brands, this third pattern designing option is a trend that is set to increase into the future 👩
In our 500+ interviews with surface pattern designers, this method was becoming more and more common in the print pattern design industry.
When pattern designing, artists may be asked to use an existing logo or piece of artwork and create a pattern for design or print from it.
Alternatively, they may be given the task of creating new artwork for a client's brand or product line.
This can be done by combining elements of existing logos and patterns for design, or by creating completely original images that reflect the needs of the client.
Print designers in the fashion industry in particular also spend a lot of time watching the latest fashion shows, research what patterns for design are trending, and try design their own version.
For more about the pattern designer process, as well as some insight from a pattern designer at Amanda Kelly we spoke to last year, check-out our blog on the feedback and insights from that interview here.
Then there is also the chance to work with other designers who specialize in different kinds of imagery, for example, graphic designers who specialize in fonts or illustrators who specialize in caricatures.
With the industry trending towards specialization and collaboration, there has never been a greater opportunity for freelancers to collaborate, and feature their work to bigger brands.
The fashion industry is a community that is still very much driven by word of mouth and referrals, and this still holds sway for the majority of pattern designing sourcing for brands 🎙
In-house teams tend to have friends and contacts that specialize is certain prints or patterns for design, and reach out to them for particular projects.
What’s therefore important for freelance pattern designers, is building up a network that can lead to increased work and a reputation within the community.
Online communities are another great resource, as they giving designers access to number of learning resources, as well as exposure to the community.
Some fashion brands also shop in these pattern designing communities, when trying to find print patterns for an upcoming project.
A great resource we'd recommend checking out is Surface Design News.
For a list of our recommended surface pattern resources, checkout the resource hub.
A relatively recent but welcome addition, there are now a number of pattern sourcing marketplaces brands use to browse to buy and licence prints for design and patterns, directly from freelancers.
These marketplaces are a great new addition to the industry as they allow surface pattern designers a simple and easy method to get their designs in front of the largest number of potential buyers as possible.
A word of caution however.
Being essentially a middle man marketplace, they tend to buy finished patterns and prints at below market value.
That being said, the visibility and chance of product purchase, means they should be still worth considering as a viable distribution method.
The final, and some would say most important method, is through building an online presence via social media, websites and e-commerce sites.
Although time consuming at first, these methods give designers the opportunity to cut out the middle men and sell their patterns for design direct 🛍
A community member of ours Feanne, who is a freelance surface pattern designer, gets 80% of her business from this channel.
Pattern designers can also build up their own personal brand, showcase their pattern designing process and influences, and build up brand recognition that a fashion company can buy into.
Design is a story, and social media gives a designer the opportunity to tell it.
A word of caution however, not all surface pattern designers recommend prioritising this channel.
Have a read what our community member Dana, from Peacock and Fig said about it in this blog .
Last summer, we visited all these show's and met loads of designers who had stalls in almost every show in the calendar, given its success in selling their patterns for design.
With stalls at PV as low as $3k, it may be worth the investment as a trial basis at least.
To read more about our insights from those shows, read our blog on our experience of the summer 2022 shows.
Reimagining a print is all about taking an existing design of patterns and using it in a new way. This can mean using the same printed fabric, but in a different size or shape, in a different color, on another type of garment, for example.
For example, fabric might be sold in a variety of sizes and quantities for a specific pattern for design, so you can order exactly what you need (stock houses also offer wholesale pricing).
Stock houses may have an exclusive contract with one pattern designer's work, so you'll find many different prints that look very similar. This makes it easier to match fabrics from multiple sources if necessary.
The selection of stock house prints is huge! You'll find everything from whimsical fantasy illustrations to realistic botanical scenes on fabrics and patterns for design alike—and there are usually plenty of color options per style too.
Printing direct-to-sales is a great solution for brands that want to print small batches of products, or require more flexible quantities.
When you print directly, you have complete control over the entire production and pattern designing process, and can even use multiple printers in order to ensure quality control 👩💼
Direct-to-sales printing is also significantly faster than other methods, since there's no need for samples and revisions like there might be with some other methods.
This means less time waiting around for the product.
Perhaps most importantly, direct-to-sales printing allows you to skip over wasteful practices like excess inventory or leftover materials. Making it much easier on both people and the environment.
A print pattern needs to work with its surrounding fabrics in order to make a cohesive look.
The best way to ensure this is by considering the fabrics' weight, drape, and hang. Each of these characteristics determine how your fabric will hang on your body and look when worn.
By knowing how different materials behave with each other, you can create easily wearable outfits that are also visually interesting.
For example, think about mixing heavy-weight cottons with lightweight silks or wovens for fall into winter looks that will keep you warm but still allow for movement, because they don't stick to each other as much as pure wool fabrics do when layered together.
With the fragmentation and specialization of the industry, the rise of the creator economy and the growth of new tools that enhance a pattern designer's chance of success, a clear brand message is one of the most important factors 🚨
Brands as well as consumers want to purchase products with a clear story that resonates with their core values, and this is also the case in prints and patterns for design.
What are the patterns of design?
What was the inspiration?
What is the story you're trying to tell?
The more successful pattern designers today have all mastered this art, and conveying these messages through their social media channels, artwork and inspiration moodboards.
Fashion is more emotive than it is functional, so those designers with a story to tell and the tools to help tell it, are going to be the ones brands and consumers continue to gravitate towards.
For our other content on patterns for design, check out our other blogs below: