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13 Things You Didn’t Know About Designing a Bodywear Collection

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28 June 2023

13 Things You Didn’t Know About Designing a Bodywear Collection

An interview between our founder Nichole and General Manager Tony…

 

Are you thinking of starting your own swimwear, lingerie or activewear brand? Join Nichole and Tony as they discuss the different steps to designing a collection and any tips they may have along the way.

If you would like our team’s support along your journey, make sure to get in touch to see how we can help you and your brand.

 

Q&A WITH BODYWEAR LAB GENERAL MANAGER, TONY KA YIU WANG

NICHOLE: TONY, HOW DID YOU START YOUR JOURNEY IN DESIGN?

TONY: The starting point of fashion and design came from my love of art. I grew up in Hong Kong and came to England when I was 12. I was at an all-boys boarding school and became the first guy to step into fashion.

I went on to study womenswear at The London College of Fashion which is where I developed my passion for pattern cutting.

After graduation I got an internship with London Contour Experts which fortunately evolved into a job as a junior garment technologist, the main focus being technical aspects in design.

Over the years the role has developed and I’m now the general manager of the business. My daily grind is still the technical side of design plus a focus on team and business management.

NICHOLE: TALK US THROUGH THE PRODUCT JOURNEY FROM DESIGN TO PRODUCTION AND HOW WE DO IT DIFFERENTLY AT BWL?

TONY: Designing a collection starts with a concept. Here at BWL, clients come to us with an idea or design and we’ll work closely with them to create a CAD drawing, where fabrics and constructions are signed off before creating patterns.

We then move on to the technical pack which is like a manual book for production, including grade, fit and testers.

One of the things that makes us unique compared to other sampling studios is our design expertise. We look after all aspects of the design process and development journey.

From design, through sampling to production. We have a small production line in our Chelsea studio and also have a very good relationship with overseas factories where we manage bigger productions.

We are not just a sampling or a manufacturing studio. Choosing BWL as your production partner means getting a full 360 service and working with a team of bodywear specialists.

We start by bringing your idea to life by designing your products or doing fit checks and re-designs of your existing patterns to make sure the fit is immaculate. We then sample and sustainably manufacture your collection in either London or Europe.

We also have a team of Marketing, PR and Sales experts on board who specialise in bodywear and help our clients launch to the market, build strong marketing strategies and sell with high-end retailers.

We are a one-stop shop for brands that are serious about succeeding in the world of bodywear.

 

NICHOLE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CREATIVE DESIGN & TECHNICAL DESIGN?

TONY: Compare a creative designer and a technical designer to an architect and an engineer. They need to work hand in hand. Getting an equal balance between the two is very important in order to create a unique product which functions on a body.

For example, we recently received a brief from a client who wanted to create a slick swimwear collection which covered a wide range of cup sizes. Every piece of swimwear has an inner lining that is really fitted to the body, but the slick design meant there was a lot of restriction as to how the two layers of fabric would work together.

Luckily, our clients are always open to suggestions and we overcame that hurdle by putting gatherings on the side seams of the outer layer, not to flatten the cup size.

So, it’s a long journey between what we start with and the finished result. Visualising something on paper, troubleshooting to the point where it performs and finally witnessing the product come to life is so rewarding and what makes a creative and technical designer. It’s extremely important for us to work closely with our clients so they can learn about the product design process.

NICHOLE: WHAT DOES GRADING MEAN & HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO CROSS FIT ON DIFFERENT BODY SHAPES?

TONY: Generally speaking, we would first create a base size which is normally a UK 8 / XS.

Grading is then the process of making up the rest of the size range. Creating the biggest size or the size furthest away from the base size allows us to do a fit test and a grade test.

This magnifies any issues and enables us to see what’s wrong with the product and/or what needs to be adapted.

Grade testing also creates a safety net for our clients before they commit to the making of all product sizes. It’s so important to test the full size range before going into production and finally the market. You want to ensure you’re fulfilling the customer’s needs.

 

NICHOLE: WHAT IS THE BEST FORMULA FOR A WINNING COLLECTION?

TONY: A winning collection will always include a well-fitted product, a strong shape and a unique selling point (USP). The client’s and customer’s first impression is the fit and the shape of a piece.

We’re very confident in getting that right with the team we’ve got. The USP differentiates your brand from any other. It’s about finding that gap in the market and solving a problem.

For example, the Emily May collection is so exciting. The pieces are puzzle-like in the sense that multiple panels have been used to incorporate shaping.

Therefore, there is no interference to design as shaping is part of the design which is a prime example of creative and technical design working hand in hand.

The pieces are also made from ECONYL and Vita, sustainable fabrics made from regenerated ocean plastics, so it’s also very mindful.

 

NICHOLE: HOW IMPORTANT IS SUSTAINABILITY TO OUR CLIENTS?

TONY: As sustainability is becoming more of a trend and a lifestyle, buying brands that have that sustainable edge is really important.

Around 80% of the brands we’re currently working with are sustainable. It’s not just about using biodegradable and recyclable fabrics, it’s about fabric components being sourced and produced locally in the UK in order to reduce carbon emissions.

Being transparent and authentic is crucial in creating a sustainable brand.

 

NICHOLE: WHAT IS PATTERN CUTTING & HOW DO YOU BUILD A PROJECT FROM A DESIGN SHEET?

TONY: Pattern cutting is my favourite stage of design and a crucial product realisation point.

As a pattern cutter we look at the CAD of the 2D drawings and create 2D paper patterns. Through patterns we can create a 3D garment which realises and represents the design.

Using a T-Shirt as an example, we come up with the classic T-Shirt design which has a front, back, sleeves and a collar/neckline.

So pattern cutting is creating each component that makes up a garment. It’s really important to get it right as it affects the final fit.

A well-designed product is likely to bring customers back to the brand. Always avoid cutting corners and really focus on the fit.

 

NICHOLE: WHAT IS SISTER SIZING?

TONY: Sister sizing is an interesting concept that’s related to cup volume. For example, the cup volume of a 34B would be equivalent to a 32C. The volume of a cup size varies with the band size.

The sister sizing technique comes from the lingerie side of things where there’s adjustments in the closure.

Over the past few years we’ve been seeing a lot more sister sizing being used in the swimwear sector to provide a more inclusive selection and bridge the size gap. It means products can work across multiple cup sizes and minimises the total grading sizes which saves on production costs as there’s less sizes to be made.

Tie backs are a great solution because you can focus on the cup size and regulate the ties.

 

NICHOLE: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM THE TEAM AT BWL?

TONY: Being part of an amazing team, where everyone has each other’s backs and we’ve got great vibes. This sort of teamwork doesn’t come about often but create’s such a positive environment.

Also, working in a small business means working in a small team. That means you get to work with everyone and are constantly adapting to changes, enabling you to think and react quickly.

 

NICHOLE: WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT AT BWL & WHY?

TONY: Launching a swimwear brand called Jua June during Covid19. It’s been such a difficult and uncertain time for everyone, but we managed to launch a sustainable brand which is doing extremely well. There are already plans to create orders in different colours which is amazing.

Another brand I’m incredibly proud of is Fiorucci the activewear brand.

NICHOLE: DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AN ENTREPRENEUR BUILDING A NEW COLLECTION?

TONY: Firstly, you can prove your concept and see if there is space for your product in the market by doing thorough competitor analysis.

Secondly, always have an open mind. It’s really important to listen to your friends and family as well as the design studio you’re working with because there’s multiple paths that can be taken to create a product and you want it to be perfect.

The process of designing a product is not a quick and easy journey so don’t cut corners. Stay true to yourself and be as authentic as you can be.

Enjoy the process!

 

NICHOLE: WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT AT WORK? HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR FREE TIME?

TONY: I’m a bit of a foodie, I love going out to new restaurants with my family and friends.

When I’m not eating, I tend to spend my downtime gaming. I got the gaming gene from my mum, she’s really cool. We game online together while she’s at home in Hong Kong.

I’m also currently solving a puzzle given to me by a friend on my birthday. It’s an all-white puzzle which takes a lot of patience and a positive attitude. Everything is possible!

 

NICHOLE: HOW DO YOU MAKE A SIGNATURE PRODUCT THAT’S TIMELESS?

TONY: Understanding your audience and finding that gap in the market. If your idea is unique and you can build a community around your product, then you’ll be recognised as the one who invented that concept.

Choose a material that has a purpose, e.g. being chlorine resistance. Keep innovating!

Speak to your customer and get close to them so you know exactly what they want and require. Develop your brand with them.

Be authentic and true to yourself.

There needs to be an element of sustainability and size inclusivity if you’re in it for the long game.

A combination of a clever product, a strong brand and a visibility strategy creates a strong following.

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What is Brands of Tomorrow?

Brands of Tomorrow is a curated program, designed to support the growth of an exclusive group of creative entrepreneurs embarking on the journey to develop their businesses in the bodywear sector.

Interested? Find out more on our sister company,
London Contour Experts website.

What is Brands of Tomorrow

Brands of Tomorrow is a curated program, designed to support the growth of an exclusive group of creative entrepreneurs embarking on the journey to develop their businesses in the bodywear sector.

Interested? Find out more on our sister company,
London Contour Experts website.