Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Let's Talk About: How to Design a Fashion Group or Small Collections

Fashion Groups

How to put a fashion group together is critical in knowing how to design. This post will look at how fashion designers organize their groups of fashion items. It will list the most common types of fashion groups produced in the US.

Seasons and Market week

Most successful garment labels produce their fashions in specific ways. Each year they release new designs at specific times, along with other companies producing similar products. These are called ‘seasons’ and they do relate to the seasons of the year, however they precede the seasons in nature by many months. This early presentation event is called ‘market week’ and it allows store buyers to see what is available and place their orders with the company. The company in turn will need time to produce the garments that were ordered and ship them out to the store. All of this must occur before a specific deadline date when the store will put these garments out for shoppers to buy.


When new fashions arrive and go on display in the store, many times they are grouped by brand name, price, target customer and type of clothing. This is called ‘merchandising’ the store. Because the brand knows that their products will be displayed together, they try to create garments that look good on the racks together and help to give the store a well coordinated look in that area. This is often done by selecting a color and fabric theme and even a style concept for the entire group.

Coordinate lines

Coordinate lines appeal to shoppers who see the pleasing colors and garments in the area, and want to try on more than one piece. Ideally they will select several pieces from the brand that they can wear together, such as a few tops that work well with a few bottoms. These are called ‘coordinate groups’ and they present the customer with pieces that mix-and-match together easily. Brands who do this are popular with store buyers because they know that customers will want to buy entire outfits, especially when the colors and fabrics look good together.

The illustration above shows a Simplicity pattern from the 1950's that contains a summer play group. Every element was carefully designed to work together. The fabric color and pattern, the silhouette and even the "Sari" theme helps to make the look sophisticated. Because each piece can be worn with the other pieces, this is an example of a small coordinate group.


Lines have carefully selected colors, prints and trims in a limited range. This includes fashions that are not coordinates, such as dresses, coats and other apparel. Ideally all of the items relate and will merchandise well together in the stores. Additionally, the designer will produce several versions of their product, so that a wider range of customers will find what fits them best.

This illustration from a McCall's pattern during the late 1940's show two gowns made from the same fabric, with the same style theme, but having small changes. It is shifts in design like this that can make up a line.

Item lines

Some designers create single garments, or a group of styles that aren’t intended to be worn together. If a single style will be sold alone, it is called an item line. This might be a group of tops that have different styles and fabrics.


A collection may pull together several lines, so it is a larger concept. It will be made up of many designs that have well planned set of colors, prints, trims and textiles. There is usually an overall style theme as well. Within the collection are smaller groups of styles called lines.

Sometimes brands will create unique lines for bigger stores who are willing to pay for the privilege of selling exclusive lines to their customers. The stores may even set up displays and racks dedicated to this exclusive group. The brand may want to assist by training the sales force so that they understand the fit, sizing and style that the brand is known for. Doing this means that the customer will be assisted in each store by a sales person who knows how to sell the product well.

The fashion illustration at the top of the page are two suits from 1944 designed by the American designer, Vera Maxwell. Although these suits differ, they clearly have the same fabric, color and trims. There is also a strong design sense that ties them together. This is what a collection should have when it is carefully assembled from lines that work together well.

This Fashion Design article about designing fashion groups is part 8 of a series of original tutorials on how to become a fashion designer that are posted HERE at Pintucks. The contents of this article are the intellectual property of this blog. Please do not copy any content to another blog or digital media without contacting me first. I will ask that you link back to this article and give reference to this source within your feature. If you are using content for a research paper or project, please link back to this page in the traditional academic format, thank you!

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