Fashion Design Research #101

Research is the project foundation-2Fashion Design Research is an essential part of your design process. Whether you are designing for a company or putting together your portfolio, research is an important part of the fashion design process. As a student I always had ideas in my head and thought it was the start of something good, but you need to do RESEARCH to make it better.

Fashion Design Research is the studying a designer does before even opening up a sketchbook. It’s the getting to know the client, their business, industry, target market and competitors. If you are looking to land a job it is important to thoroughly research the company with which you are applying, understand their customer, choose a target season, research trends and develop a project with the company’s customer in mind.

To pull all your research together use a mood board. A mood board is a summary of your collections inspiration and theme. It is a design tool that will help you remain focused and consistent as your line develops. It’s also a communication aid when explaining your vision to others.

What should be included in fashion research?

Anything visually stimulating …

  • People
  • Nature
  • Photography
  • Textiles
  • Architecture
  • Fine Art
  • Museums
  • Literature and poetry

But to name a few! Anything you find inspiring. Keep in mind that everyone gets inspired by different imagery.

Include trends, season targeted, colour palette and theme title on your mood board also

Peter Pilotto

Peter Pilot from

Predicting trends is the most difficult task for designers. Predicting styles that will be in style for years to come. To do this you can research past trends and/or purchase high priced trend magazines. Additionally observe what succeeded with customers in the past, read reviews, look at colours to see if any colour ways that resonate with customers.

Combining your inspiration with an appropriate trend is important, you want to know your target customer and use a trend you like and you think they will too. For example if you are targeting woman in their early thirties who like to be active and outdoorsy and the inspiration is drawn from nature look at floral print trends or print trends with birds, water, leaves etc.


Basic Fashion Design Research – Simon Seivewright

If my inspiration is drawn from architecture, I would look at active wear trends and play with construction.

Guidelines from a London College of Fashion tutor taught to include research on something organic, a style of architecture, and an era of fashion in your research. This could be, for example insects, modern architecture, and the fifties. I found that these guidelines, which can obviously be modified to suit your ideas, ensured that people looked in more than one place for their research. If all of your research if from one collection that McQueen did ten years ago – then what is going to inspire you to do something different to that?

Where do I find research?

Go to galleries, exhibitions, libraries, museums, vintage shops, markets, cities etc. Music videos, books or photography are great ways to find inspiration. Latest fashion shows, street fashion, specialty magazines (fashion, architecture, design…). You may just find something you find very inspiring. I like to keep a book where i write down all my ideas when I’m inspired and keep what inspires me for reference. I look back on my ideas whenever I find i am stuck.

The worst place to look for research is Google. If you don’t have a good idea, Google Images probably isn’t going to help you find one. The internet can be a great place to source things, but don’t start there. Go here when you already have been inspired and are looking to research the topic further.

How to present your research?

Once you have gathered your initial ideas choose a theme to represent your research. Once chosen its time to decide the best way to communicate your ideas. A mood board can be created digitally or by hand. It is your own choice. Preferably mood boards should be created digitally or should be a scan of your original mood board.

The presentation must be strongly themed, capturing the mood in a nut shell and should always be accompanied by a title. Cut out pictures that inspire you. Use anything you can find from magazines, your own photographs and collect fabric and paint swatches. Write down a few thematic keywords you want to have in your design. But don’t go overboard and be messy.

When you have the research together on a moodpboard double check it. Is the message clear and sharp? Have you researched the subject from enough angles?  Do all the items in it complement each other? Do you have the particular look the company/target customer is looking for?


Digital Moodboard by Gabri Malhotra an Indian Textile Designer

A picture is worth a thousand words!

Fashion Design Research takes a lot of time. It goes to show how much thought and creativity can be behind a single piece of fabric. It is important to try and infuse greater meaning into our work.

Fashion companies like to see a representation of the whole process of fashion design, meaning every step you took to get to your final designs should be represented in your portfolio. As polished as your final presentation should be, it is helpful to show your train of thought and how you work through a project. This supports your final design work and displays your strengths in process management, personal time management, organization and trend interpretation skills.

It’s important, as the most time taken in the design process is used in the research and development stages.


About Fashion Textile Design Centre

Louise Porter is the blogger for the Fashion & Textile Design Centre. Louise has a degree in Fashion & Textile Design degree and a Masters in Business.
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