What goes into the SHUKR garment that you order and receive in the mail? In a series of 5 posts, we'll give you an exclusive, behind the scenes look at how SHUKR works. The first post is from our Head Designer, Tabassum Siddique, who starts the ball rolling with her collections of exclusive designs. She designs SHUKR's 3 seasonal collections: 1) Spring / Summer; 2) Autumn / Winter; 3) and Ramadan / Eid.
Part 1: The Design Process: It's Much More than Making Pretty Drawings Sometimes my collections for SHUKR will start out like this...
...an early morning walk snapping photos of everything that catches my attention. By the way, these aren't pictures of my neighborhood, but believe me, I wish they were. The beachside is an extremely inspiring place. I suppose that it has a lot to do with all of the negative ions in the atmosphere that make you feel more balanced and recharged, with your senses stimulated, and in contact with your creative side. Since I am constantly working on large collections, I have reached a point where I know exactly what I am looking for when I am out scratching for new ideas. Most people think that designers just sit around and wait for inspiration. Or, the opposite-that they are constantly jet-setting to exotic locations and drawing pretty pictures of clothes, but that's not true. To come up with ideas at least several months ahead of a new season takes several factors: discipline, for the most part; a business sense; knowledge of apparel construction, design, and art; and, scratching in the best places to have the best ideas-there is no process of osmosis here. The research part of the design process includes such activities as short trips, attending fabric fairs, style hunting, museum visits, reading books (and the topics vary greatly), watching films, writing, sketching, looking at graphic designs and prints, studying patterns or testing new ones out, collecting samples of everything, and finally, speaking with customers, co-workers, friends, or family. Once I have finished the research, I bring all of these elements together and look for a common thread to create a cohesive idea. I would say that the least glamourous part of this process, if any part of my job could actually be considered glamourous, would be reviewing past sales reports and other more technical aspects of coming up with new collections-a vitally important aspect of the business of an apparel company.
Once I get the parameters for each collection, I have to decide how can I make my ideas work, given my restrictions and within the context of the company's style. At this phase of the process, which gets increasingly more intense (and the part that my husband dreads) is when there are many late nights, no weekends, and rattled nerves. But alhumdulillah, he has been a good sport about it and a great source of inspiration and support as well. Usually about the same time, or in the research phase, I have already thought about the colors and fabrics that will be used. If there are any fabrics that we would have to import, then I sometimes have to call or email these companies to inquire about prices and place orders. Although I may have developed a collection with concrete ideas and everything mapped out, this is not to say that things do not get changed at the last minute. Some common challenges that I encounter could be that the color palette changes, some designs get edited out, the fabrics that I had wanted to use are now not available, or there are designs that can be too time-consuming, too costly, and or too difficult to produce. This can sometimes be very frustrating for a designer. Many times, what I have designed in the beginning can end up being something else by the time it's up online. What is important, regardless of the ever-changing limitations, is to always make the collections work. After all the concepts have been sketched out, they have to be presented, reviewed, and later modified. From these approved sketches, I redraw them and turn them into technical drawings with detailed descriptions on how each garment is made and what details it requires. This will be used by the patternmakers to produce the samples and then the production orders.
This is probably the most time-consuming and arduous part of the design process. Throughout the entire design process, nothing is at a standstill. I still have loads of other things to attend to while I am working on a collection: tons of emails, marketing, other projects, and prepping for the next collection. This is where discipline plays a key role, and being able to zone in on my work and focus despite all of the other responsibilities I have to attend to.
Even though there are long periods of working around the clock, deadlines, and sometimes very tedious tasks, I love what I do. From the inception of a collection and especially at the very end, I always find it very interesting to see how the entire collection has transformed and developed throughout this part of the process. ~Tabassum, Head Designer