Founder, Kallen Forster found a gap in accessibility to learning about apparel design in the city of New Orleans. While there is a great program available in Baton Rouge at Louisiana State University, she found this to be insufficient to meet many individuals needs. Apparel design is a key trade skill that should be developed and applied in New Orleans (where a majority of factories and industry are currently flourishing); furthermore, she wanted apparel design to be accessible to those who cannot afford or meet the requirements of the university programs but are apt and eager to learn a new trade skill.
The training program focuses on basic construction techniques that are acquired in most staple undergraduate level construction classes. Trainees are taught to read commercial patterns and to produce completed garments from these patterns. Emphasis is on materials selection and capabilities, construction techniques, and quality standards. Once basic construction techniques are developed, emphasis is on construction and quality standards for more complex apparel items such as jackets, pants, linings, pockets, and key tailoring techniques. A notebook of assembly construction techniques is produced by each trainee.
Trainees are also exposed to basic fabric construction and embellishment techniques. Students study and experiment with weaving (tapestry and four-harness), knotting, knitting, embroidery, quilting, piecework, and coloration. The elements and principles of design are incorporated. These are not focuses, but can be further developed if the trainee shows interest.
Fabric capabilities are studied, including interrelationship of fibers, yarns, fabric structures, and finishes. Product suitability for end use, quality in relation to serviceability, and use and care problems are determined from fiber/fabric information. Textile identification, analysis, and testing procedures are explored.
The study of the theory and application of the flat pattern method is used to create patterns for the design of apparel. The drafted master pattern is used to develop a variety of bodices, skirts, sleeves, collars, and shirts. The trainees apply developed skills in flat patternmaking to create original garments which emphasize design principles, flat sketching, prototype development, fit, and assembly techniques. Draping application principles of apparel design on three dimensional body forms is also part of the learning process. Basic silhouettes and garment style features are draped and fitted in muslin. Trainees use the principles of draping to create original apparel designs in fashion fabric for specified target markets.
Once the trainees have a good understanding of construction and fabric capabilities, the methods of illustration for the Fashion Designer are covered. Basic anatomy and analysis of the idealized fashion female and male figures are emphasized through demonstrations and exercises. Trainees render designs using a variety of mediums including marker, pencil, watercolor, and others to represent apparel details and textiles while understanding the dialog between clothing and the posed figure. Each trainee is encouraged to develop their individual style and build portfolio skills.
CAD Application and Exploration
The study of professional digital and computer illustration techniques are used in the design and product development of apparel at the Design Lab. Course work includes: interpreting and executing digital programs such as Adobe® Illustrator menus, tools, panels, etc. to draw garment flat sketches and fashion illustrations; using digital tools to draw accurate flat sketches for garment specification; and the application and synthesis of computerized illustration techniques to design a line of apparel for a variety of categories and target markets.
The transfer/digitizing and development of drafted patterns, generation of markers, and utilization of plotters to create commercial patterns for production in computer aided design is discussed but not applied. The Design Lab hopes to establish a CAD program to train each student draft patterns digitally, as well as create markers and print to plotters in hopes to provide a fully operational educational environment in which to properly train and expose each recruit to the full production process. Currently the Design Lab is lacking this software intel, but we have every hope to start this arm of our operations and training very soon!
Capsule Collection and Future Potential
During this entire process, the trainees are encouraged to develop and harness their own personal style, and think about how they would like to apply their skills once their training is complete. Each trainee is given the opportunity to display a capsule collection during New Orleans Fashion Week; this capsule collection is viewed as a launch pad for potential career in the apparel industry. Each trainee can choose to stay on board with the Design Lab, or venture off on their own after their training is complete.
The goal is to provide each trainee the opportunity to leave the Design Lab with a valuable source of knowledge and a skill-set to create a sustainable source of income for herself and her family. Training, empowering, and employing a population of under-serveed women in New Orleans is a privilege and a pleasure, and we hope to grow and expand with each new round of recruits.