Yesterday, we frantically finished our mini (four-piece) collections - it was like the last few minutes of Masterchef as we frantically dashed about putting finishing touches on our work. Two incidents really stood out for me.
First, the tutor looked at my work and called it "simple and sophisticated". She said it was the sort of thing (as she knew I come from Brighton, and as she knows Brighton herself) which she could see in Appendage or Wickle, two of my very favourite shops and certainly ones we'd target.
Perhaps more importantly, she didn't pour scorn on my plans, or, you know, look serious as she searched for the right words to tell me to perhaps not bother. Instead, she gave me some really valuable advice about costs and methods of printing, stockists, and how to start out.
My final collection (see it big).
Bizarrely, she says that digital printing is much more expensive than screen printing, and she suggests we start off with the latter. She reckons we could find a student at the art school who would set up the screens and do the actual printing for a reasonable cost - and she said my work was more suited towards screen-printing anyway (to which I replied that, well, the stuff I'd done on the course was, but that that was because I'd been using all the techniques she'd taught us, while my 'normal' techniques are much tighter, eg the stir-fry dish).
She also said to wait a while on the marketing front: we don't want to set up a website, get a ton of publicity through blog networks and magazines etc, and then find we can't fulfil orders because we don't have enough stock. Instead, she suggests going to some local shops (she also mentioned LoveFrankie in Kemp Town, who make great lampshades and kids' clothes) and getting them to take just a few at a time to see how they go and what sells best before we commit ourselves to massive runs. She thought the Open Houses were a good idea too.
I just felt so vindicated: it was wonderful to hear a professional actually liked what I had come up with. The course was in fact just what I needed, both for my confidence levels and for telling me the fundamentals like how many prints make up a collection, what that collection would normally contain, and how to present it to a printer or an agent. It's amazing how much easier all this sort of thing is to understand when you hear it rather than reading it.
We also had time to look at my fiendishly complicated stirfry pattern and work out how to make *proper* repeats out of it, which was an education in itself. And I have come away with a ton of inspiration.
That's all great from my end: the hard part is going to be the business logistics, financing and TIME.
Yesterday afternoon was spent telling us how to get an agent, which was interesting even though it obviously doesn't correlate to our plans. To be honest, agency work sounds pretty dire from the tutor's comments throughout the course: churning out patterns based on what the big fashion houses have had success with.
As a freelance, apparently, the going rate per pattern was £300 a few years ago. I just can't imagine selling enough to make a decent living at that rate, and I think I'd feel a bit put out if I saw my design on say, Calvin Klein dresses going for a few hundred each - or even if they were on a Marks and Sparks top that sold in its thousands. So that really surprised me.
Sorry, not great photo. As I had some time left over, I also quickly podged together a border out of my commuters sketches, which I thought might be fun for a blind or a lampshade. I like it - and apparently it'd be reasonable to print as it's only black on white.
We still have so much left to learn, not least what sort of fabric to print onto and what size, etc. But I am really glad I did the course.
Oooh, one more nice moment, if you don't mind me boasting (even more). One of my co-students saw my teatowel design - the one with all the cups on etc - and said "That is NICE".
"Oh, thank you", I said, and she looked surprised. "YOU drew THAT?".
Mind you, the tutor took one look at it and said "Too many colours".