For the second time, I attended the annual design conference Offset in Dublin last weekend. In its twelfth year running Offset is a renowned 3 day design conference that hosts talks by the top visual designers in the design industry, not to mention that it is Dublin born and bred which just adds to its appeal! I must mention now that this piece is slightly biased as I absolutely adore Offset but I haven’t always thought like that.
In college, while I was completing my degree in Fashion Design, I was fortunate enough to share an apartment with 4 very talented graphic design students (one being my best friend). Some people may think of it as a disadvantage and I must agree there were times I wished I lived with other fashion heads who I could talk about seam lines, silhouettes and the cost of fabrics with! While I did feel like I straddled two completely separate worlds never really fitting in either the visual design or fashion design circle completely, I’ve recently come to realise that these years were the beginning of my love of digital design and fashion design. By pure osmosis, I soaked up random knowledge and random graphic design terms like widow and orphans, the all powerful Helvetica, the mysterious power of the Adobe apps or the incredible experience of attending Offset. Offset sounded like the Glastonbury of visual design. Be inspired by day, mingle and drink with design rock stars by night. My housemates repeatedly told me I’d love it but I - like most other fashion people - thought: it’s a lot of money to pay for something that isn’t my field…and it’s not like I’m super passionate about font design (I was also schooled recently in how wrong I am to use the word font it should be typeface!!). It wasn’t until I began teaching myself to use Illustrator for fashion tech drawings that I realised how interested I was in digital design of all types.
I attended Offset ’16 as a sceptic but after 3 days I was converted. Offset is mainly aimed at those studying or working in graphic/visual design, illustration, print etc. But the ethos, passion and inspiration apply to anyone in the creative world. That was more evident than ever this year. Quite ironically I found myself at the main stage for the talk by Bruno Maag of Dalton Maag, the typeface design studio. My God was he inspiring!! As I mentioned before I have no interest in typefaces but his absolute passion for typeface design, science and craftsmanship were contagious. His example of using scientific fact to back up amazing design for an awkward clients pitch really resonated with me. Who in any creative industry has not had a difficult client who almost demands a concrete tangible reason for your design? I had to talk myself down from dropping everything and immediately applying to intern at his studio… The 3 days were filled with moments like this. If I didn’t particularly like an artist’s work or medium, their work process, personal experiences, advice or inspiration was an invaluable resource.
Other highlights for me from the weekend were the illustrator Rod Hunt who creates intricate, illustrated maps on Illustrator - as he showed his work, all I kept thinking was how many layers does each artwork have?!? To the iconic image-maker Jean-Paul Goude, so many of his images have inspired me and yet I didn’t know half of them were his creation. Or the advertising agency Chemistry, I would ordinarily say I have no interest in advertising but frankly if you watch tv, if you’re exposed to ads of any sort, you tend to have an opinion on what is good advertising and Chemistry are masters at it. They were the creative agency behind the ballsy 'I Want Cancer' campaign and the notorious 'Ladyball for women’s GAA/Lidl' campaign, among so many others. Their design and thought process was fascinating to learn about.
These were just a very small example of the highlights of the weekend. I feel like as designers working in the fashion industry, we tend to exist in this self-imposed bubble continuously consumed by the fashion cycle. This is mostly due to the ridiculous pace of the industry and the need for all newness all the time. But for the majority of us the awful commercial soul-destroying aspects of fashion design overshadow the creativity, joy and beauty of fashion design - the reasons we decided to be designers in the first place. Attending Offset reminded me of this. You experience creativity outside of the fashion bubble, sources of inspiration that aren’t the newest celebrity trend or ‘it’ item. We forget that it’s so easy to become stagnant and disheartened in this industry, your creativity needs to be recharged once in a while! Dublin is an amazing inspiring city for its size but we are sorely lacking in big name fashion exhibitions and travelling over to London as often as you would like isn’t always feasible. Which is why I would urge any creatives working or studying in fashion to attend Offset even for a day and see just how beneficial and uplifting it is.
I was recently surprised with a short trip to Amsterdam. As a designer the internet seems to have anything and everything you need for inspiration and research but nothing compares to travel to open up your mind to new experiences, aesthetics, styles and…the list is endless! I’ve always wanted to visit Amsterdam but it was never high on the priority list, when I needed a break and wanted some inspiration I usually booked a trip to London or Paris but I was so so wrong!
We spent a whole day exploring the more boutique shopping in the Nine Streets district. It was incredible for beautiful little boutiques - both formal and casual. As you stroll around the pretty streets and canals, you’ll notice the prevalent style is very casual and with perceived little or no effort. The Dutch remind me of Parisienne women in that they look like they rolled out of bed put on whatever was to hand and still look so beautiful stylish and nonchalant. Trainers or boots, skinny jeans, coats and sunglasses all in neutral colours seem to be the preferred uniform and the boutiques of Nine Streets reflect this. They have beautiful staple pieces that you want to pay a little extra for because it’s not a fashion piece and it’s going to have longevity. Contrast to this was the amazing vintage shops, they are so so good I really wish we have more like it in Dublin! There were the usual vintage type shops you find in the big cities like Episode, the shop floor almost crammed with stock and if you have the time to search you’re guaranteed to find something worthwhile. As well as these there were a few absolute gems definitely worth a visit. Two of my favourite were Bijons Vintage and Zipper. They had more selective quality stock still at really great prices, within two minutes of setting foot in Bijons I found the most amazing 80’s leather Hugo Boss men’s bomber jacket (pictured) and an impressive selection of nearly perfect condition leather over-sized carry-alls and bags. In Bijons you really feel like they took the time to select beautiful vintage pieces that represent the store’s aesthetic while the price tags are so reasonable and not like some vintage stores where the word vintage seems to entitle them to triple the price tag. If you’re looking for more well-know brands and high street shops head to Kalverstraat, it’s Amsterdam’s main street where you can find the likes of H&M and Zara and the beautiful De Bijenkorf department store that stocks designer labels.
Anyone who knows me will know I like my food and I like my gin & tonics. We were told on our arrival not to look for authentic Dutch food restaurants as they don’t exist but we did eat in some lovely places. We were recommended De Italiaan which is in Amsterdam West near where we were staying, it was really authentic with great wine and pizza. We had a great brunch in Bar Spek which literally translates as “Bacon Bar” so you know it’s good! And to top it all off -and it couldn’t be anymore hipster if we tried…- I found a new gin!! It’s a Dutch gin with “Indonesian spirit” named Bobby’s, we tried it in a delightful bar called Het Warenhuis, with a slice of grapefruit, cloves and Russel & Co tonic. The bottle is also of gorgeous design, check it out on their website. If you see it on your travels definitely give it a go!
There are so many galleries, museums and visitor attractions in Amsterdam and embarrassingly I only got to one! But one turned out to be enough, we visited the Stedelijk Gallery on our third day. Absolutely worth the €18 entrance fee, the permanent collection has huge variation from Mondrian to Matisse and a fantastic exhibition on the evolution of product design but the standout for me was their current exhibitions “Dream Out Loud - Designing for Tomorrow’s Demands” and “Jean Tinguely - Machine Spectacle”. I’m going to do a post on each so check back here for more!
Accommodation Real estate in Amsterdam is scarce, whether you’re looking to rent long term or rent a hotel, room prices are pretty expensive. I would recommend what we did which is Air BnB. We rented a charming apartment on the canal from a lovely Dutch girl called Quirine, it was a 15 minute walk (or cycle!) to anywhere we needed to go to, which was perfect.
Getting Around Any tourist website on Amsterdam will say to get the full experience you have to rent a bike and they are completely right. We were hesitant to rent bikes - I think I was considered a bit of cycling liability!! - we did eventually on our last full day and I really regret not doing it sooner! Amsterdam is renowned for how bicycle-friendly and flat it’s streets are and you do really feel like a local when you’re cycling around on your black Dutch bike hair flowing in the breeze…until you have to take your hand off the handlebar to signal right and start wobbling all over the place causing a build up of actual Dutch cyclists behind you… If cycling really isn’t your thing though, their city tram system is extensive, easy to use and very tourist friendly!
A rough draft; a sketch.
Most fashion drawings whether they are quick sketches, detailed sketches or tech drawings begin with a Croquis. With origins in the French verb croqu(er) meaning to make a quick sketch of, rough out or know (a subject) superficially, a good Croquis is vital to a successful drawing. The Croquis has evolved from it’s original definition of a rough sketch to become a template of a body that forms the beginning of a drawing. In the beginning of college the search for a suitable Croquis was long and frustrating, many Croquis rejected for seemingly arbitrary reasons - “She’s too skinny” “She’s too curvy” “She’s too dynamic” but it is worth it if you find a good one that works for you as most designers tend to stick with them for life! There’s thousands of examples available online but remember for a working Croquis - as opposed to an illustration Croquis - you are using it to convey the maximum amount of information about a garment. It shouldn’t be too skinny, stylised or out of proportion as this will distort the garments drawn on it. Although that does sound quite boring it’s beneficial in the long term, any client you have as a designer will always appreciate a beautiful stylised drawing of a garment but if it doesn’t clearly show the garment’s details, proportions etc it can lead to problems.
For the inaugural FashionTechDesign blog post I thought I’d share with you the reason why FTD was created. First let me show you an extremely bad tech drawing…
Now you’re probably wondering why I would begin the very first blog post of a site dedicated to fashion design and mastering fashion design skills with a very poor and somewhat spikey(??) looking tech drawing. Well the story behind this is, this is one of my graduate collection technical drawings and by god was I proud of it! This was the sum of my technical drawing abilities on Adobe Illustrator that I was bringing with me to the working world. It came down to a few reasons, lack of time spent mastering technical drawings, lack of time spent on my graduate collection technical drawings and never been shown a correct or coherent way of creating technical drawings. In college I absolutely hated technical drawing, believing it to be waste of time that could be otherwise spent on making my collection.
When I began working in the fashion industry I quickly realised how important digital tech drawing is. Hand drawn tech drawings are quick and easy and can look beautiful but they tend to create much more work when trying to combine them with print, trims etc. I enrolled in an Adobe Illustrator for fashion design short course in a local college but was pretty disappointed, the tutor was extremely knowledgeable about Illustrator but not at all about fashion design or tech drawings. So I began teaching myself. There is a wealth of information as well as examples of tech drawing online but I found a lot of the ‘how to’ posts and videos weren’t great quality, were on extremely ugly websites or were extremely basic. The same went for books and manuals, I bought and tried a lot of different ones, many were useless but one or two were brilliant. I found after mastering the basics I learned the most on the spot under pressure while working, forcing myself to use Illustrator for every tech drawing I had to do no matter what the time pressure. Anything I couldn’t do I simply Googled, this would usually give results relating to using Illustrator for a more graphic design problem rather than fashion design so I would alter the instructions to solve my tech drawing problem. And so the seed of the idea for FashionTechDesign was born, I wanted to create a beautiful, well designed platform to share fashion design skills. I wanted to build a community where designers can learn new skills, go to for design problem solving and share their own design skills. This is the first step towards creating that platform, if it’s something you’re interested in being a part of sign up for the newsletter here, or drop me a line with your thoughts, questions or ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org