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Starting my own label

Discussion in 'Streetwear and Denim' started by Arethusa, Apr 11, 2006.

  1. hermes

    hermes Senior member

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    alexander mcqueen started out by learning on savile row ......

    i think learning from such a background as what a tailor can show you would give you a breadth of knowledge that is unsurpassed by what a school could likely teach you, whether you just want to make tee shirts and denim or formal attire, as a tailor will show you construction and how to fit something on any body and make it look good which, i think, is the essence of any good piece of clothing, the fit ..... this can be transposed to any type of garment thereafter

    however, the guys at trovata had no formal training and with some luck and understanding of clothing, they've certainly enjoyed some success

    but remember, a label is only 40% design, it's also about 60% business and marketing and promotion as LAguy stated above - many a creative designer has failed due to being a poor businessman .....
     
  2. Joe E Taleo

    Joe E Taleo Senior member

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    Interesting topic. My wife graduated with a MFA from RISD, and she has mixed feelings about how good her education was. Her first year was excellent for her, because she put her nose to the grindstone and had great advisors around her. The second year was much harder, because the staff went through some upheaval, and her mentors were no longer there.

    I will say that like anything, it's the amount of effort you put into it, but for my wife at least it was much easier to make connections coming out of RISD than it would have been otherwise, and getting your foot in the door for this kind of stuff is usually the hardest part, even if you have talent. And, I guess this isn't that shocking, but man, some of her fellow grad students were just not that good. It surprised the heck out of me, because I know getting in is hard as fuck.
     
  3. Brian SD

    Brian SD Senior member

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    That's what they say, but from what I've seen and know from people who are in there, it's not that much of a challenge to get accepted.

    That said RISD is a great school and I'd love to go there for my MFA in Graphic Design. I've heard some teachers tell me an MFA is what you need to get anywhere in the upper tier of the industry, and a few teachers that tell me it means absolutely nothing. So confusing.
     
  4. Get Smart

    Get Smart Senior member

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    in a creative field, an MFA's primary benefit is you can be a community college/college teacher....within the field itself your finished work and talent thereof is going to take you further than a degree since it's one of those tangible industries where one's work is actually physically manifested in front of you. I've thought of getting my MFA but have always decided against it. I dont have regrets about not pursuing it, so far.
     
  5. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    Without formal tradition, you won't know anything.

    One of the few designers who didn't go to school, Vivenne Westwood, has an intense knowledge of traditional methods of cutting and draping, learned from Baroque paintings.
     
  6. Tck13

    Tck13 Senior member

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    I'm fairly unconvinced that art schools are very much worth it. While they provide great technical instruction, technical instruction to the exclusion of basically anything else does not foster art; it creates craftsmen. I'm not really interested in that, and, hell, from what I've heard of FIT, it's too often rather lacking even in technical instruction. And it doesn't really help that, in my experience, most art school students are breathlessly vapid. I am definitely planning on learning this on my own. I don't have family, let alone rich family to pay for school, so that is not viable regardless of my opinion of art school education. I guess community college courses out in California will be the way to go (yes, I like it, the traffic; I also hate it, the Connecticut), but if anyone has any books or websites advisable for an introduction to the subject, I'd appreciate some suggestions. I should note that I have no interest whatsoever in traditional clothing, suits, formalwear, or the like, and while I'm not averse to learning about how it's made, it's definitely not what I want to be involved with, nor, I imagine, where I should start learning about construction. This is really fucking useless. If I were, say, asking for advice on starting a label right now, without any experience or knowledge, then you might have a point. But I'm not, and I'm certainly not about to give up before I've started just because I don't know how to use a sewing machine yet.
    It sounds like what your interested in is being the boss and just telling other people to go and make your clothing?!?! [​IMG] There is plenty of technical instruction at FIT and Parsons and other schools across the country. Some schools are better than others. The schools will teach you how to sew, sketch, make patterns for clothing, market, choose fabrics, design on the computer (illustrator / photoshop) and many other things. A liberal arts education (if you are going to college regardless) might be good as one can minor in fashion and get a small amount of education while pursuing other interests. I am not sure what you mean when you say you aren't interested in "traditional clothing"? Almost everyone has 2 legs, 2 arms, 1 head, 1 ass. Unless you are going to design for handicapped people or people with deformaties (sp?), the basics of clothing construction are the basics, period. If you don't know them, you'll be lost. A guitar solo by someone who can't play the guitar is much different from someone's guitar solo with many years experience. Although, the players can tell you otherwise, the audience can usually can tell. I have a BA in Apparel Merchandising and Design and I realized (a little late) I wasn't into sewing, patternmaking, hours in front of a computer designing shirts/pants and whatnot but there were things I was very good at and really enjoyed. I went to a liberal arts school and was exposed to many different fields and that helped me to get more focused on (and pick) the things I really liked and head in that direction. There are so many areas of specialty in clothing that it's rediculous. There are endless opportunities. There are designers who can't sew, can't make a pattern, can't use a computer and whatnot, but that makes things much more difficult and these designers are the exceptions to the rule. (Yes I know a couple) Learning the basics of clothing construction (pants, shirts, blouses) is imperative if you are going off to create your new, fabulous designs that no one else has seen before. T-shirts may be a different story. The shirts can be bought and the designs put on, ironed on, silk screened, tie died, or however, and then sold. By the way, all of this takes $. (starting your own biz) Why not go to a fabric store and pic up a pattern on how to make a pair of jeans? There are plenty of books about all aspects of the craft on Amazon.com or elsewhere. I am not trying to be negative, just opening up suggestions and options to look at.
     
  7. Max

    Max Senior member

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    Don't be stupid. If you can't sew, you can't make clothes for a living.

    Go out to a fabric store and make yourself an outfit. Cut and sew a pair of jeans, some boxer shorts, a t shirt, and a light jacket for yourself. Then, once you have an idea of what you're getting yourself into, make a decision.
     
  8. whoopee

    whoopee Senior member

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    Don't be stupid. If you can't sew, you can't make clothes for a living.

    Go out to a fabric store and make yourself an outfit. Cut and sew a pair of jeans, some boxer shorts, a t shirt, and a light jacket for yourself. Then, once you have an idea of what you're getting yourself into, make a decision.


    Sure you can. There are quite a few people in the tailoring business who cannot actually construct a garment. Some of them are very well regarded bespoke makers.

    Ideally one should have the know-how but it's not necessary.
     
  9. Arethusa

    Arethusa Senior member

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    If you have no interest in traditional clothing, do you plan to be desigining/making the UN-issue lycra/Coolmax/Smartwool space suits we will all be wearing in the near future? Be more specific about what you see yourself making/doing.
    Yes, in the future, everyone will wear my jumpsuits. Seriously, I wouldn't say I have an easily definable aesthetic, and as I only have sketches and ideas in my head right now, I'm reticent to go into specifics. I suppose, very broadly, a mix of very old designs and ideas (frock coats, justacorps, etc) mixed in with some very modern aesthetics (I can't really think of anything out there that is doing this, but perhaps G Star comes closest, visually). This, of course, sounds bizarre at best and schizophrenic at worst. All I can say it is also incomplete by far, hence my reticence to go into details, for now. I must not have been clear enough, because what I said about my disinterest in traditional clothing has been horribly misunderstood. What I am explicitly not interested in is making suits, or bickering over how wide or perfectly rolled lapels need to be for the perfect traditional suit. I have absolutely no interest in that, and while, as noted, I am not averse to learning about how those are constructed, it's not remotely what I want to do. Moreover, I find a ridiculous degree of hyperspecialization in this area that I do not see carrying over to really any other aspect of clothing, hence my assumption that while there are a number of technical skills I could learn from traditional tailoring and then apply elsewhere, there also are a hell of a lot that I could not.
    but remember, a label is only 40% design, it's also about 60% business and marketing and promotion as LAguy stated above - many a creative designer has failed due to being a poor businessman .....
    That is roughly true for most industries, as far as I know, and, hell, you may be rather generous in your appraisal of the importance of design. But I am not really interested in getting into this for commercial success, and even if I were, i'm pretty sure I'd still be years away from worrying about commercial concerns.
    Without formal tradition, you won't know anything.
    I disagree. Vehemently, in fact.
    It sounds like what your interested in is being the boss and just telling other people to go and make your clothing?!?! [​IMG]
    Heh. Hardly. As I said, I wasn't saying that I have no interest in learning or that I have no interest in learning how clothes are made. I'm only saying that I am not interested in, essentially, traditional men's/formalwear. I don't want to obsess over the perfect, most traditional suit or make a suit that is two sizes two small, add a silent h and e to my name, and declare myself brilliant for it. I am certainly not saying I don't want to know how to cut and sew a pair of pants. Not that I would mind being given a job in design right now and just telling people what to make from sketches, but that isn't ultimately what I have in mind, and it doesn't strike me as terribly realistic anyway (albeit not impossible, as noted). And, yeah, I realize all of this will take money. I don't really have much right now, and what I do have is going to be applied to moving across the country and trying to go to school (for philosophy, so clearly I'm going to make lots of money).
     
  10. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    I disagree. Vehemently, in fact.
    How so? Clothing fit and silhoutte, no matter how avant-garde or crazy you want to get is based on certain traditions. You really can't analyze Heidegger without Kant, can you? And for that matter, the Greeks.
     
  11. ken

    ken Senior member

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    Clothing fit and silhoutte, no matter how avant-garde or crazy you want to get is based on certain traditions.
    Hogwash! Who needs armholes?
     
  12. twin8885

    twin8885 Senior member

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    I think you are getting way ahead of yourself, I have been around and had experience starting labels. You have to keep in mind that the reason there are thousands of small lables because its easy to start.

    If I were you I would not waste your time with a sewing machine or any of that stuff. Start small with t-shirts and hoodies. There are plenty of companies that make decent blanks (American Apparel, Alternative apparel, allstyle apparel) and if you aren't satisfied with them you can mess around with chemical washes to get your desired feel.

    As far as printing, there are hundreds of screen printers in the yellow pages. call around and get prices. You will be fine with a discharge print for this round and if you are lucky you can find a printer that can do water based inks.

    Find a local graphic artist or friend who can draw and do a couple designs and take it from there. Don't worry about trade shows or any of that stuff until further down the line. If you can start hanging out at some retail stores in your area and talk with the employees (or buyer if you can) and talk about what sells and tell them about your idea.

    It's a long road but if you take it one store at a time, it can work out. Hope that helps.
     
  13. j

    j Senior member Admin

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    I think you are getting way ahead of yourself, I have been around and had experience starting labels. You have to keep in mind that the reason there are thousands of small lables because its easy to start.

    If I were you I would not waste your time with a sewing machine or any of that stuff. Start small with t-shirts and hoodies. There are plenty of companies that make decent blanks (American Apparel, Alternative apparel, allstyle apparel) and if you aren't satisfied with them you can mess around with chemical washes to get your desired feel.

    As far as printing, there are hundreds of screen printers in the yellow pages. call around and get prices. You will be fine with a discharge print for this round and if you are lucky you can find a printer that can do water based inks.

    Find a local graphic artist or friend who can draw and do a couple designs and take it from there. Don't worry about trade shows or any of that stuff until further down the line. If you can start hanging out at some retail stores in your area and talk with the employees (or buyer if you can) and talk about what sells and tell them about your idea.

    It's a long road but if you take it one store at a time, it can work out. Hope that helps.

    Glad to have you on the site, it sounds like your input will be really valuable here.

    That said, what you said assumes his design ideas can be translated into (or are limited to) prints on pre-made shirts. If his ideas require new garments based on old garments or based on nothing, he will need to be able to articulate those ideas somehow. He definitely must learn how to sketch. He should also learn who to talk to and what not to tell them - for example, telling Urban Outfitters about a good idea is a BAD IDEA (I've heard this from inside). They will talk to you, make nice and get to know your idea, and then rip it off and give you nothing.

    The ideal scenario I can see for a concept like this is to come up with a coherent theme and some really solid iconic representative pieces, some samples made by yourself or whoever, get some contacts for who's going to make it, and then find a really friendly buyer/backer who's willing to help you launch the line through their store and take over a lot of the production details.
     
  14. twin8885

    twin8885 Senior member

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    I am actually in talks with dealing with urban outfitters right now, so I will let you know how that goes. But if you are referring to the Johnny Cupcakes thing, I think there was more to it then them just ripping it off.

    J, I agree with what you said and its another (more complicated) side to the business. You are going to find that it is a hefty up front investment to get samples made and that even then it will be harder to find someone to do production on the goods at a decent minimum. If you do it this way you are going to have to find a pattern maker, grader, cutter, sewer, dye house, fabric source and so on. So, it gets very difficult unless you have the time to oversee this type of production. Not that I am discouraging it if you have the ability to choose that road.
     
  15. Arethusa

    Arethusa Senior member

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    How so? Clothing fit and silhoutte, no matter how avant-garde or crazy you want to get is based on certain traditions. You really can't analyze Heidegger without Kant, can you? And for that matter, the Greeks.
    I don't really feel my understanding of life or human existence is terribly enriched because I know Thales or Anaximenes. Seriously, I think we're coming at this a bit differently. I am not saying I wish to remain ignorant of traditional clothing styles. Hell, a lot of ideas I have are informed by some very old designs. What I am saying is that I will never hand stitch a collar for 50 hours in order to make the perfect suit, and that sort of tradition is what I do not have interest in.
    Hogwash! Who needs armholes?
    Please see my line of fashionable capes!
    That said, what you said assumes his design ideas can be translated into (or are limited to) prints on pre-made shirts. If his ideas require new garments based on old garments or based on nothing, he will need to be able to articulate those ideas somehow. He definitely must learn how to sketch. He should also learn who to talk to and what not to tell them - for example, telling Urban Outfitters about a good idea is a BAD IDEA (I've heard this from inside). They will talk to you, make nice and get to know your idea, and then rip it off and give you nothing.
    This is part of the problem, really. Not that I don't have tshirt ideas I'd like to work with or hoodies I'd really like to make, but the majority of my designs are not purely graphical. twin may have a point, though, that in terms of business, it may be eventually better if I start initially with ts and hoodies and work on interesting designs and dye work and then work on the other stuff when I have amassed enough capital. I don't know the industry well enough to judge this.
    The ideal scenario I can see for a concept like this is to come up with a coherent theme and some really solid iconic representative pieces, some samples made by yourself or whoever, get some contacts for who's going to make it, and then find a really friendly buyer/backer who's willing to help you launch the line through their store and take over a lot of the production details.
    In all seriousness, past all the stuff about learning about construction and the like, does this seem realistic to you? It certainly seems much simpler than what I had assumed would be necessary (amassing capital, overseeing mass production, etc).
     
  16. j

    j Senior member Admin

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    In all seriousness, past all the stuff about learning about construction and the like, does this seem realistic to you? It certainly seems much simpler than what I had assumed would be necessary (amassing capital, overseeing mass production, etc).

    Unless your stuff is mindblowing and you meet all the right people magically, no, it's not very realistic.

    In terms of a viable path toward running a label, starting out on prints and getting some cred and some loyal buyers and a fanbase sounds like a really good idea. But if your aesthetic doesn't include t-shirts and hoodies, what are you supposed to do?

    I don't have an answer. This is stuff I've (vaguely) thought about a lot, so I am interested in the topic. And my personal aesthetic would be unlikely to include any prints on t-shirts. Even though I've thought up designs I think would look good on t-shirts, I wouldn't want those to represent me at all, since that's not how I am.
     
  17. Arethusa

    Arethusa Senior member

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    I don't have an answer. This is stuff I've (vaguely) thought about a lot, so I am interested in the topic. And my personal aesthetic would be unlikely to include any prints on t-shirts. Even though I've thought up designs I think would look good on t-shirts, I wouldn't want those to represent me at all, since that's not how I am.
    Unfortunately, this is pretty much exactly how I feel as well. I wouldn't mind doing the prints separately, but beyond that, I don't know.
     
  18. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    I don't really feel my understanding of life or human existence is terribly enriched because I know Thales or Anaximenes. Seriously, I think we're coming at this a bit differently. I am not saying I wish to remain ignorant of traditional clothing styles. Hell, a lot of ideas I have are informed by some very old designs. What I am saying is that I will never hand stitch a collar for 50 hours in order to make the perfect suit, and that sort of tradition is what I do not have interest in.
    I didn't mean that you were required to handstich lapels or handsew buttonholes. What your posts imply is that you don't want to learn anything traditional in the sense of construction or style. Do you respect the craft that goes into a handstitched lapel? To articulate, there are certain nuances of fit, even in tee-shirts and casual jackets, that owe themselves to what the couturiers and tailors of the past conceived of. Unless you want to exclusively alter pre-fabricated items as a business venture, then not knowing basics of construction, henceforth formal tradition, is not a particularly good decision. As for Heidegger and friends, I only used them as an example of how to understand something there is needed a foundation.
     
  19. Arethusa

    Arethusa Senior member

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    Absolutely not. I'm not opposed to learning necessary technique, and I realize while I may hate suits and formalwear, there is a lot to be learned there about fit, construction, cut, etc. Obviously, I could really only hope to ignore all of this if I wanted to work exclusively with printing on prefab stuff. My point has really only been that while I find history interesting and informative, tradition does not hold value simply by virtue of establishment.

    And I was jokng about Thales. If anything, mentioning those guys is closer to saying I don't want to learn the intricacies of selvage loincloth construction.
     
  20. whoopee

    whoopee Senior member

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    Whether you like it or not, tradition is there in minds of buyers and, albeit likely subconsciously, the general populace. You may choose to tweak or completely rebel against it and do something different, but you should understand what you are working against. Even Yohji was trained in tradition. His knowledge and respect for the Japanese tradition, specifically, is part of the reason he has been so successful.
     

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