I often get asked where I find design inspiration + there's a couple of answers depending on what I'm designing. Generally speaking, if you're creating designs for the mass fast fashion market you would look to designer fashion + other successful labels for inspiration (note inspiration - don't copy as it's bad form + you can be charged thousands for copyright infringement!). In this instance, inspiration usually means looking at best selling items from other brands, who have a similar target customer + developing this to include your style + your customer's preferences. For example, you might note that a lot of designers are producing huge ruffle skirts in bold colours. You might not like the size or colour, but you could then develop the idea of ruffle skirts. A good way to work is to update some of your previous bestsellers to add some freshness for the new season. For example, you could redesign your bestselling pencil skirt to include a subtle ruffle hem.
If you're producing designer fashion + want to produce really original designs, the best way to work is not to include any fashion items on your moodboard. Yes that's right, don't include any fashion items at all! This is because viewing other fashion items can often limit your own ideas, if you take clothing out of the inspiration all together, it really pushes your creativity further. You've probably heard top designers speaking about their inspiration as being something random like horses or tribal tattoos, things totally unrelated to fashion + might wonder what they've been smoking (I did too at the beginning!). But truth is, it really works!
So, what do I put on my mood boards if I can't reference fashion items? This really depends on what you're inspired by! For me, inspiration can come in the most unlikely forms + you have to find what inspires you. Maybe it's travel, flowers, art, architecture, it can be whatever you want - I did my graduate collection on rock formations. Yes that sounds weird, but it worked, some of the designs I made in that collection went on to be bestsellers when I started my company.
The other thing I always include on my trend board is a clear colour palette, so that I can make sure everything, from the fabrics to the prints, to the promotional materials tie in together. I also include a 'colour standard', which is what I'll be sending to suppliers to match the colour of the items, this might be a Pantone code, or a swatch of fabric. I like to stay trend relevant + do research prior to each trend board that I create. Trend information can be expensive (+ by expensive I mean tens of thousands), which I realise is tough on small businesses who want to stay on top of the latest looks, so I've started providing a free trend board each month (if you'd like to receive this, you can sign up at the bottom of this post).
To put the trend board together, first of all I do what's called 'primary research', I go out + take photos of something I find inspiring. Then comes secondary research, which is ideas I find in books + online that relate to my theme + also trend research. Often I find that I have one 'iconic' image that sums the collection up nicely. If you follow me on social media, you've probably noticed that my current inspiration is 'Neon Palms' - a bright, modern take on the palm tree look + while I was getting research, the scene above that I took a photo of turned out to be the perfect look. I ended up changing the colours slightly to tie in with the trends, but the overall feel is the same.
I also like to include some of my own designs or sketches on the moodboard, to use as a point of reference. In truth, my inspiration board starts off as kind of a mess, with lots of photos on my desk + as I start doing some painting, sketching or photoshopping, it becomes obvious which are the best ones to use for the board.
After I've had a play with concepts, I put a finished moodboard together which I then constantly refer to, not only through the design process, but also when approving colours, fit samples + creating marketing materials. Inspiration boards are also great to share with anyone you're working with, as it helps to keep everyone on the same page.
There's lot's of different ways to make a moodboard. I use Adobe Photoshop, but don't feel that you have to buy software, the learning process for Photoshop is long as well, so if you don't already have it, I wouldn't worry about getting it. There's lots of free apps that allow you to create your own moodboard (there's even one called 'Moodboard on the go'). There's also the old-school (and much more fun!) option of creating a collage, either on a piece of card, in a sketch book or on a cork board. This is definitely one of the best jobs that you'll do when running a fashion business, so have fun with it + be creative! I'd love to see any boards you create, so please feel free to send them over, or tag me on social media.
If you'd like to sign up for the free moodboard that I mentioned, you can do so below + you'll receive one new trend to your inbox each month, before anyone else sees it! If you want to receive future trend boards, you can sign up to the mailing list below. I hate spam too - if you sign up to the email list, your details won't be sold or leased to anyone else. I will email you from time to time with helpful content and occasional offers, which you can of course unsubscribe from at any time.