Sunday, September 24, 2006
My Famous Suede Evening Gown
This gown, in a very soft lambskin suede, has probably become the greatest highlight of my career: as a creative haute couture design, as an elegant FASHION SOLUTION IN ENGINEERING DESIGN and PRODUCTION, and as a very financially successful fashion business product. As you can see. I am most proud of the engineering design solution, and it has a fascinating story that has helped many young designers in recent years through mentoring them.
It was one piece from my 1971 suede and leather collection, that I had been selling successfully to many top designer stores, e.g. Neiman Marcus, Bonwit Teller, Bloomingdales, Bullocks Wilshire, Saks Fifth Ave,, and many others along with smaller boutiques. The original purpose for designing the gown, was to show my uniqueness as a publicity promotion. No one had done a gown in suede before me, and I never dreamed it would sell. I first showed it to the Bonwit Teller buyer, and she almost bowed, calling me a great artist! It became a great selling success, and was in their Christmas catalog.
It was good that I had someone from the fashion world to advise me. With my background of being poor, and learning by stitching in the moderate price garment factories, I calculated the price by the ACTUAL costs. This woman told me no, I had to up the price to what it should be in the market for this kind of garment.
If you note the way the pieces were cut, in swirling circles with the 3-D body shaping within them, that no production system that had ever been designed could do it. So, I had to CREATE a totally new production system to accommodate the way these pieces were cut. There are some interesting methods I designed for the matching of notches in order to have the suede pieces OVERLAP at the seams, but the most unique creation was how I set it up at the machine for the stitchers, My pattern would have letters and numbers, which the cutters would mark on the wrong side. They would bundle the sections of the gown as you see in the drawing above, and I drew these pictures for the stitchers at their machines. All my stitchers had such great fun, calling it “sew by numbers”. But the greatest accomplishment was that it took them only 15 minutes to sew together the shell of the gown. And because I could not sell it that cheap, I made 60% PROFIT on each one!!
I do hope there will be some young designers who see this blog, and will ask me questions. I want you all to realize that “production systems” and “pattern engineering” can be CREATED as well as the garments themselves. Engineering design is my greatest joy. I hope to help many others through my mentoring.