Episode 11: How to use a reference sample to restore joy in your design process.
Reference sample, sustainable, fashion, design details, fabric, construction
Welcome to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you need help navigating the fashion industry sustainably, you have come to the right place. I'm your host Belinda Humphrey and my hope is to simplify the fashion industry so that businesses can make the best decisions for people, planet and product.
Hello, and welcome to Episode 11 of the Fashion Unearthed podcast. Today's episode is more of a practical production tip. But before I get to that, this weekend in Melbourne daylight saving started, which I actually love. It is the longer bright days and holiday season stretched out before us that really picks me up. Which got me thinking about summer and topics for the podcast. I thought to do maybe a series over summer, where each week I answer a question from the audience, you, the listeners. So if you have a question anything on fashion, sustainability, fabrics, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. and I'll try to cover the most popular ones. And I also wanted to mention I send out a monthly newsletter full of inspiring articles or developments within the fashion and sustainability space and you can sign up for that as well at belindahumphrey.com.
So onto today's topic, what is the reference sample and why would you use one. So a reference sample is often a physical sample, but sometimes photos and it could be an example for colour, construction, design details or fabric that you would like in the collection. They are used to shorten the design process basically and fast track the development process. Now where do you get these samples? you can use something you have in your wardrobe, buy something in store, use photographs, use a vintage garment, you might sew up your own little mock up to send to the factory.
But bear in mind this sample will most likely be cut though, so think twice before sending off a beloved item from your wardrobe. You can put a huge sticker or tag on it saying "Do not cut and return with prototype or sample" but it's not guaranteed. And if you're sending something because you like the fabric, they'll want to cut it up basically and weigh it to get an accurate weight.
So what are some of the main reasons you might look to use a reference sample? Well, they're usually about five.
The first is colour. This is a common one, often because it might be a colour you're trying to achieve after a wash and as good as Pantone is sometimes there isn't an exact match. It might be so that you can see a colour in a large piece and even see it up against existing colours that you've got happening in your collection. Or you might want to see it on different skin tones as well.
The next reason is you might want to send a reference sample for fabric. You might think that only people who aren't from the industry do this but it's actually really common. You can see the fibre content and you or the factory or mill can circle cut the back with the machine and see what the weight is. It can also communicate what handfeel you want to the factory or mill. For example, there are different levels of brushing, peaching and sanding of fabric surfaces and sending a swatch is much easier for the mill or factory to match. You can also pick up on any surface textures examine it to get an idea of construction and see how stretchy it is.
The third reason is for a design detail. This is where you might use a photograph or buy a sample to show where you want a neckline or the design lines to sit on the body. You might use a picture to show how much fabric you want in the gathers or how full you want a skirt to be.
Another reason is for construction. This is where you might use a reference sample for seam finishes or seam types. You might even like a thread thickness, the tighter tension on a seam or a way a hem is finished on a garment. Starting with something physical will help the pattern maker understand what you're trying to achieve.
And finally, you might also buy a sample for fit and ease. This is a delicate area too and something you need to be mindful of is that a pattern or shape belongs to a brand. I'm not saying to buy a garment and copy the pattern. What I mean here is that you might be designing a blouse and you like how loose the sleeve is in a shirt in similar fabric. So you'll use that to show the pattern maker how much volume you want in that sleeve. In this instance, it's small elements that help to explain to your pattern maker or factory, not the whole garment. And you certainly don't buy a pattern from an independent pattern maker or even a commercial one for that matter and use it for your garment.
And a final word of caution, the purpose of a reference sample is not to copy the whole garment, but use it as a shortcut to visually explain elements of your original design. You do not want to be using one reference sample for colour, fabric, design, construction and fit. You'll open yourself up to at the very least bad press and brand damage at the worst legal action. Now obviously I'm not a lawyer but if you're listening to this podcast I'm guessing you want to operate ethically and ethical production includes your design process and not copying the work of other people.
I hope you enjoyed today's episode and if you did, I'd love to hear what you got out of it. You can DM me on Instagram @belindahumphrey_ or send me an email at email@example.com and let me know. Again a reminder to submit any questions you might have for the summer series of the podcast, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. and if you're interested in the latest developments in fashion and sustainability, be sure to sign up to my monthly newsletter by heading to belindahumphrey.com. And finally, as always, you'll find the show notes and any links on the website too, in the podcast section. Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change.