Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Success for Design Entrepreneurs (DEs) in 21st C. Boston

Boston’s Jewish tailors started the apparel industry at the turn of the 20th century by creating production patterns, teaching apprentices, setting up manufacturing shops, and copying creative designs. By mid-century dressmakers in New York and Boston fashion schools began producing creative designers. From the different learning backgrounds, a “wall” arose between creative design rooms and efficient manufacturing and pattern designers – with high costs from poor design management. As manufacturing went offshore in the 1980s, retailers began their own product development, adding CAD systems – and sameness took over.

Young designers who dream of creating “a collection” have presently no path, nor the knowledge, to materialize quality design ideas that can be produced efficiently to make an income. If they could find a pattern maker and a contract shop, the costs would be prohibitive. Boston Design Lab (BDL) evolved to creatively solve these problems through the Stylometrics system (developed in National Science Foundation grants), and by innovating business structures. DEs must be willing to collaborate, working together to create these new systems in Boston. The aim is to eliminate many middling costs from designer to consumer, without losing quality and uniqueness, and to set up IT (Information Technologies) to solve product lifecycle problems at POD (Point of design).

Pattern Templates are part of the Stylometrics system, upon which DEs develop creative design ideas (by draping or flat work), to result in a pattern that is ready for efficient production. Sameness in product and processes give speed, efficiency and low-cost in production. The Templates are a foundation of sameness for creative 2-D art or 3-D fashion sculpture, and works to eliminate many costly repetitions

Some innovative business structures in BDL are:
“Boutique Production”
; a
“Timeshare Factory”
; training fashion consultants to work with DEs for selling direct to consumers in trunk shows, expos, etc.; software, such as “Self AWear™” for collecting consumer preferences in databases; critiques for saleability to myriad market demographics; linking with a sewing professionals association, for making custom or small lots.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The purpose for Boston Design Laboratory™ (BDL) is to redesign the fashion industry in Bos-ton through creative research of new production technologies and new business structures – in order that fashion design entrepreneurs and dressmakers can make a good income – increasingly more difficult in today’s markets. Our approach encompasses all aspects of the industry, collaborations in the ways the self-employed work together in creating solutions to problems. There are four divisions, determined by Shirley Willett, the founder, in a 2004 paper prepared for a Massachusetts Institute of Technology workshop to explain the future design of the fashion apparel industry. Information is collected in databases and other technologies for designer quality and efficiency at the Point of Design (POD-IT)

1) Creativity, Research & Resources.
Problem: Much creativity in the fashion apparel industry has been lost with the mechanization of CAD/CAM technology, which has opened up extensive copying and repetitions.
Future:. All BDL designers and dressmakers start with the Stylometrics Pattern Templates, researched by Shirley Willett in a series of National Science Foundation grants, for achieving more beautiful, creative shaping, quality fitting, and efficient production of one-of-a-kinds, small or big production lots. The system is highly efficient for development of creative ideas and can reduce necessity of copying and sameness.

2) Pattern Design & Engineering.

Problem: Commodity apparel is completely mechanized in CAD pattern systems for low-costs in design and production – while high fashion is too random and expensive, poor time management from design to market. Unfortunately, there is nothing in between.
Future: The Stylometrics system is structured so that while designing and making the first sample (prototype), the pattern is also ready for production. The Templates are ideal for easy manipulation of flat 2-D work, or for creative draping as on an armature in sculpture.

3) Production Engineering.
Problem: Sameness in product and processes give speed, efficiency and low-cost, but results in boring styles. Manufacturing in America of high fashion design is extremely limited and costly and non-existent for very unique ideas, small lots, one-of-a-kinds, or custom.
Future: It is integral to BDL’s mission to solve these problems through technical innovations linked to the Stylometrics system, which has a foundation of sameness upon which to build great creativity. BDL is working with the Professional Association of Custom Clothiers (PAAC) on “mass-produced custom”, and is proposing a “Boutique Production” concept.

4) Marketing, Selling & Customers.
Problem: Too many middling costs, and distortion of consumer desires from the distance between designers and consumers.
Future: Trunk shows, direct sales, and creative, collaborative marketing are integral parts of our research. Our dream is to make the customers an active part of the fashion industry, with a software program, “Self A-wear™” which will collect consumer desires, and a “Willett Design Room” (WDR) that can maintain the unique selling relationship.

Emma left a comment on the last post:
what are the styleometrics pattern templates? I am designing and making a modern wedding dress and was needing some help with how to make a pattern

Some of your question is answered above, but I realize not in any detail. If you live in the New England area, please contact me, and I can suggest some ways to help you with patterns. You can also read my website at http://www.shirleywillett.com You can also join the Boston Fashion Industry Meetup. Click http://fashion.meetup.com/1/

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Draping a Dress from Stylometrics Pattern Template

The blue and white silk crepe dress is on me when I received a "Boston Fashion Week Ladder Award" sponsored by the Fashion Group International in September. It was for all my work to help young fashion entrepreneurs up the "ladder". The photo was tajen when I received a unique bouquet of roses from my fashion protégés at our Boston Design Lab fashion show.

In a post on 12.26.2006, "Drape Dress" I showed the design for this dress, and the AB-1 Empire Template on which the dress was draped. I added the big bow. All the darts and the empire line was transformed into draping, which is something I love to do. By draping from a Template the dress maintains a "standard" of sizing and shaping,the lack of which is a significant problem that consumers face, especially with haute couture from around the world.

I love comments and questions. If you have any about this process I will reply.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Boston Design Lab Fashion Show

First, I apologize for such a long time since my last post. But I am now going to be doing many posts, lots of photos from my fashion show, "Boston Design Lab" at the Hotel Commonwealth during Boston Fashion Week in September. These are two photos by Ron Ranere, Positive Image. You can see many more on his web site,http://www.positiveimage-boston.com/bdlweb/index.htm
There are also more photos on BostonFashion.com at http://www.bostonfashion.com/directory/bostondesignlab.html

I will be getting up more this week, and will work out the problem of leaving comments. Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sketch Pattern Shapes That Will Make This Volley Ball

The volley ball is pictured with two views. Try “sketching” the shapes of the pattern pieces - the FEWEST PATTERN PIECES - that it takes to cut the fabric pieces for sewing together to make the ball. The 2D “shape” is what is important, and the relationship of shape to each other pattern pieces.

So many have requested my “Fashion/Pattern Design for Beginners” online, that I decided to try this first step of a class I teach at the Brookline Adult & Community Education (Boston area). This first step is a test for whether my pattern making system can be taught online.
This is a very different approach from any other pattern making book, class, online, etc. It is a non-mathematical pattern making system called Stylometrics, that I developed through National Science Foundation research grants on engineering design for the fashion industry. The purpose of my system is "to build the ability to SEE inside the mind, and for designers to CREATE solutions to their pattern problems”. Most pattern makers use math & rules, set up in books, and answer the same problems over and over again – which is OK for mass production of commodity styles, and competition between designers and pattern makers, and CAD systems – but not for creative high fashion designers. It’s what Frank Gehry, the world-famous architect, said when he began designing jewelry for Tiffiny’s: “Beauty Without Rules”. My dream is to set up STANDARDS in “Primitive & Generic Patterns” so that designers can evolve "creative high fashion styles easily" and also mass produce them easily. From what I have learned from others, I believe I had the only “mass-produced high fashion clothing manufacturing in the world” in the 60s, 70s & early 80s. Eventually those standards will involve consumers and dressmakers, so consumers will be responsible for their own "fit" (variation from the standard) with their dressmakers. It's a whole new fashion industry.

The Pattern Shapes for Cutting and Making the Volley Ball

Here’s the pattern shapes. How did you do? Go back and forth between the pictures of the ball and the pattern pieces. The “fewest pattern pieces” are 2. First note that there are six sections of 3 cut pieces that are alike. Then note that there is one center piece of that 3-pc. section. That is the one pattern piece pictured that says “Cut 6”. With further study you will see that the pattern pieces on either side of the center one are alike in shape, but, like our hands, are left and right. Just as we call a PAIR of gloves for the hands, we can use the same pattern piece for the left and right, by cutting a PAIR. There are 6 pair of this piece for the ball. So, the conclusion is that the “fewest pattern pieces are 2.” Please comment or email me about how you did, and what you think of this exercise.

Judging from some responses to an earlier post, and the difficulty in what must be expressed in words for online, I cannot set up any kind of online teaching of my unique pattern making process, Stylometrics. I will be continuing to answer the many wonderful questions I get from these posts. So, keep your questions and comments coming.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Cathy Horne, NYT & Creative Technological Solutions

Cathy Horne, the fashion editor of the New York Times, has started a blog. Her articles are excellent, especially about the Haute Couture. I was so impressed by her blog post today, that I made a comment. Please go to the blog and be sure to click on the Digital Flipbook at the end of her blog, and you will see an entire collection of steps that Alber Elbaz, the designer at Lanvin, went through to create a technological solution to a problem. The two photos here are from that Flipbook. You can see the post at http://runway.blogs.nytimes.com/?th&emc=th

The title of her blog today, is HOWJADOTHAT? She starts: "From time to time on this blog, I’d like to show you how something is done, in the hopes of better explaining the creative process. Not long ago in New York, over lunch with the now-pinned Alber Elbaz, we got to talking about the trouble with futurism. At the spring 07 shows in Milan and Paris, futurism was suddenly the buzz word. But, as Elbaz pointed out, tomorrow is actually a difficult place to reach. ... He asked an Italian mill to produce a fabric that was 100 percent polyester. Yet, as modern as the fabric looked, the seamstresses at Lanvin had trouble sewing it. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing — a fabric that rejects pins,’.” Elbaz said. “Some fabrics are very stubborn. They don’t want to be told what to do.” Nothing worked at first. “We tried using elastic. Too Adidas. We tried using jewels. Too cheap-looking. You start questioning yourself.” Eventually Elbaz found that if he basted silk organza underneath the polyester, he could get the voluptuous shape he wanted. “It really challenged me,” he said. “You want to give up and you want to win.”

MY COMMENT (They printed it on the NYT blog)
Thank you, Cathy Horne. I have always loved your articles because you are not afraid to "shoot from the hip" when necessary about the haute couture. Your blog, again, shows what is necessary to be said. To reveal what "technological" work some designers go through in their research and experimentation is so needed by the young and often foolishly romantic designer entrepreneurs and fashion school students - who worship the ridiculous Project Runway as their ideal.

After almost 60 years in the fashion industry as a designer & manufacturer of high fashion, and winning engineering design grants for the fashion industry, I know well what it is like to spend effort on creative technological solutions like Alber Elbaz on lining polyester with silk organza to achieve the desired result. Today, as a mentor for the very few young designers who can achieve something worthwhile for the future, I motivate them toward excellence in researching technology to compliment great creative ideas.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fashion Future: Crafts, Consumer/Designers & SELF

The new postal stamps, with “Quilts from Gee’s Bend” are very inspirational and timed well to what I see as an extremely important development in the fashion industry for DEs (Designer Entrepreneurs) and consumers. For those who are very creative, and love to play with art, graphics and colors in fashion, the spring/summer season is great for experimentation, especially for those DEs that sell directly to consumers. The sleeveless jacket and skirt is one from the 1980s of my huge vintage collection. The photo is by Ron Ranere, Positive Image, http://www.positiveimage-boston.com. It is in Ivory colored leather with the leaf patterns (front & back) in different colors of lambskin suede. It could sell very well this year, but I’m not selling anymore. I simply want to inspire you. Can’t you see using some of those color combinations or even some patterns of the quilts as appliqués or pieces of the garment shape in a dress, skirt or top?

I have been very busy helping DEs locally in Boston. As you well know, I am organizer for the Boston Fashion Industry Meetup, for all aspects of the industry to help one another, by meeting face to face locally. http://fashion.meetup.com/1/ You also know that I organize the Fashion Product Development Meetup, that is now completely virtual, online for CHAT discussions. I make announcements on this web site for when I will be online to talk. You can join (anyone, anywhere & free) and then learn when. http://fashion.meetup.com/221/ I now have just added a third meetup, Boston Craft & Fashion Sellers Meetup. Ivy Glass is my assistant organizer, and we hold the meetups at her studio in the artists spaces at Fort Point. It’s purpose is to research all the craft shows, fashion shows for DEs, and set up some as well as trunk shows and home parties in New England – all for selling direct to consumers, that helps you to make an income. If you go to the web site, you will see the same photo of my leather outfit with the leaf patterns. Click: http://craftsellers.meetup.com/76/ We will be having our first meetup Feb. 8. I’m telling all of you about it because eventually, once we get it well established here, those of you in other parts of the country could also set up a Craft Sellers Meetup (and I will help you). Then, we could even exchange products and help each other sell over all parts of the country. Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of “organized selling power”?

There’s some other things that keep me very busy as well, all for helping young DEs. I am a business consultant for the Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE) in New England. They have the best and cheapest business advice and classes. If any of you are in this area, you should check them out. http://www.cweonline.org I just met one of their clients that is really interesting, and represents the wave of the future in fabric coloring. She has been doing customized fabric dying for chains like the Gap, Ann Taylor, etc., and now is going big. Everyone is interested world-wide because she has established STANDARDS for fabric coloring, globally, and will be having it digitally as well. In my talk with her, she knows that the future is for consumers, and small businesses on the web, and eventually will have something for you as well. I will keep you posted. Go see her web site. http://www.precisiontex.com/index.php

All the work in SELF (Self-Employed Laboratory of Fashion) keeps mounting, because the group of members are all each making a tiny collection of dresses for spring/summer that are based on my Generic S-Patterns, both to test them and to help the members develop their styles. There is a great deal of graphics and craft influence in what we do. Unfortunately for you, this is completely local. We are having a meeting on the 3rd. and will keep you updated on what we set up. We also have one member that I’m helping to set up a business for sourcing cottons and silks from India. Once some of these things are set up then we can offer it to you as well.

By now you must realize that I do not have the time to set up an online teaching structure for learning about the S-Patterns. I’m sorry that some of you had hopes of this. Maybe I will meet someone in the local area that I will teach and she or he could do it?

If any have questions, please ask me. I love to answer them. My commitment is to help young DEs for a very interesting 21st century future.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

YOU, Time Person of the Year, SELF & S-Patterns

I have been asked about the difference between SELF and S Patterns. SELF (Self-Employed Laboratory of Fashion) is fundamentally a Laboratory doing Research & Development (R&D), and is a non-financial entity. That is, each within it has a self-employed business outside of SELF. But, we work together within SELF, creating, researching, developing new ideas and solve problems in creating fashions, engineering patterns for production, and marketing & selling. SELF is not an entity that sells anything itself. Rather, the resulting products like the S Patterns, are sold through individual self-employed businesses, who are working together in SELF. Right now we have six of as potentially researching some aspect of the fashion industry. In other words, big corporate retailers & manufacturers have their important R&D departments. YOU, tiny DEs, have us. It is very exciting to be creating a 21st century new fashion industry for YOU. We have ideas for business structures, technologies, marketing, sales, etc.

The choice of the 2006 Time Person of the Year says it all. It’s YOU. Gerry McGovern, who is the best consultant on the web, about the web, wrote the following in his blog, which I totally agree with about the future for all industries as well as the fashion industry, YOU & the web. http://www.gerrymcgovern.com
“The Web has become the organization. An organization of a billion people with a billion things to say. And a million ways to work together. … The Web allows for new forms of organization that will have a profound impact on how we live, work and play over the next twenty years. Traditionally, the tools of organization belonged to a powerful elite. … Today, your office can be at Starbucks, while your network is wireless. You can get a complicated job delivered to the highest standards without any fulltime employees; just your network of independent partners who agree to work towards a shared objective. This is a new way of working. This is different. [This is also SELF] … This organization of you, me and us doesn't need to listen to the old organizations as much any more. We don't need to be told what is cool by some fashion guru, or some clever ad campaign. We decide. … "A person like me" is more trusted than doctors, academics and other such experts. In the U.S., trust in "a person like me" has shown a dramatic increase from just 20 percent in 2003 to 68 percent in 2006. … Those organizations that do not become truly customer-centric will be severely punished by the Web. … This is the age of customer power, customer collaboration, customer content; the sprawling, highly networked organization of YOU. “

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

S-PATTERNS Will Be a Part of the Future Technology Wave

First, I must apologize to all those to whom I said the 3 “Fashion/Pattern Design” classes for understanding how to work with the S-Patterns would be online by this past weekend. I’m sorry but it is going to longer to get it set up for the web. At this point we’re not sure, but maybe another week or two. Meanwhile we are continuing to develop the Primitive and Generic Patterns so they will be available for delivering to you.

(From the Boston Globe: "A modified iRobot Create can pick up a piece of paper. iRobot, unlike the Roomba, does not vacuum or clean.)

My “Chemise Theory” and Robotics today
Some of you, who have read my posts last September, might remember the one I wrote about my successful “chemise dress” I designed in 1957. (Click September in right column if you want to read the whole story.) The chemise was a fad, died and then was reincarnated as the “shift”, and has been a successful seller ever since for high fashion or commodity designers. Even more interesting is that the chemise is having a great high fashion comeback for spring, 2007. In all of my engineering design papers, related to my NSF research grants, I explained the story of the chemise dress, and used it as a social theory to explain how most fads rise, die, and come back again as more ubiquitous and not faddish. The primary example for which I used the chemise as analogy in the late 1980s was robotics, and I predicted its comeback. That is, robotics, at that time, was a “fad”, big in the media and everyone talked of the great things it would do for people at home. Robotics then died in the public eye, only being considered in robotic arms on factory floors.

For awhile I have been watching robotics making a slow comeback into importance, as I predicted, as the Roomba, vacuum cleaner. Now, it’s evolving. In yesterday’s Boston Globe, 1.8.07, “Technology clears a path for putting robots to work … emphasis is beginning to shift away from robots that entertain and towards robots that labor in the home and the office.” But, the most exciting and key aspect is the “development of a common platform like Create or Microsoft Robotics Studio that will allow hobbyists, students, and entrepreneurs to play around with creating robots without having to become an expert in every aspect of robotics. …software that allow people to use their products as a starting point to create something of their own….build on top of it and go further. …after finding that robot hobbyists were trying to customize the Roomba.”

S-Patterns as a common, foundation, platform.
This is precisely what I am trying to do with the technology idea of S-Patterns. The purpose of the original Stylometrics system, in the 80s & early 90s NSF research grants, was to be a “common platform” for the American apparel industry. They would not accept it, as Sears Roebuck and the Dept of Defense had also tried to do, for 20 years previously. So, in 2004, after my workshop at MIT, I decided to take Stylometrics, my “common platform” for pattern engineering, to you, Designer/Entrepreneurs (DEs) and to consumers. It’s purpose, likewise, is to allow you to play around with creating high fashion clothing without having to become an expert in every aspect of the fashion industry.

In my nine Primitives for NSF research grants, I validated that they could be a common platform in women’s wear, for every style that ever was, is, or could be. The Generic Patterns that we are now developing are an “evolution” of those Primitives, necessary for making the system simpler for developing some more complex styles. As we go in SELF (Self-Employed Laboratory of Fashion) we will develop more complex shapes, to gradually make more styles easier for you. However, please realize that all of this will take time. I no longer have any grant funding, and don’t want a business that makes money. But I do have some devoted people, self-employed, working with me to help, and I am deeply appreciative of that. Eventually (much later) we will set up what I call “FitAWear” standards, to simply changing patterns to fit some common problems. We even have “StyleAWear” and others under the umbrella of “SelfAWear” coming over time – all for you.

When we say a “common platform” or “standardization”, that means that every pattern style evolves from the foundation Primitives. You will note in the 12.9.06 post “More on SELF…” I showed the sheath dress sketch, or AB Primitive. Next to it I showed the sketch of an empire waist sheath, or AB-1 Generic. Size and measurements of the two are identical. The jewel neckline, sleeve, armhole are identical. The only difference is the waist and midriff, which is not as simple as it seems at first glance, because the empire waist indents under the bust more, and therefore also needs more length under the bust. After we have more generic dresses, tops, skirts, blazer, etc., we will also have generic necklines, collars, sleeves, etc. Later we will do pants. And even much later we will do some foundation construction technologies. All this for you at low cost, and some things will be free.

I’ll keep you updated as we get things ready. Happy New 2007!