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The 5 key lessons I learned from working in-house!

Updated: May 22


The 5 Key Lessons I Learned From Working In-house

In this blog post, I thought I’d share 5 key things that I had to learn when I was working as an in-house textile designer.


Not only are these things really important skills needed to succeed as a fashion print designer, but they are also great tips to keep in mind as any other designer working in other industries!


These 5 things are:


Lesson # 1: If a design gets rejected, it’s not personal


In the very beginning stages of my career, I was pumping out designs every week to present to my Design Studio Manager. I followed the brief, delved deep into the research, poured my heart and soul into each illustrative motif and experimented with different techniques (which I was very thankful for, as this takes a bit of time). However, chances are, only 20% of my prints got selected for sampling. And out of that 20%, one or two prints may get dropped or cancelled along the decision-making process before production starts.


At first, I was really devastated and took things a little personally. Was it my art? Was it just… crap? Did I not follow the brief? Do they not like my style?


Over time though you come to realise that actually, you’re an awesome designer. It’s not you. And it’s not personal.


For a fashion business to continually scale and grow, there is a lot of pressure on the products to hit all the marks - price point, commercial appeal, newness, and trendiness. Sometimes the print itself is in fact, professionally made and very beautiful. But with so many hands in the pot (such as the creative director, design manager, buying team, design team, sales and marketing team), your design will likely get criticised and judged by many eyes.


I will say this again. It’s not you! And it’s not personal. 


It’s just about the product development process and making the right decision to get the most amount of sales on a particular product.


Lesson #2: Colour can make or break a design


Colour psychology. Have you heard of it? Basically, as designers, we all know that certain colour combinations can express a mood, feeling or idea. It’s a powerful communication tool that can also influence your psychological state. So naturally, colour is important when it comes to presenting a print that makes people go, WOW.


When working in-house, you will likely have to present your print concepts to more than one person (uh, see lesson #1, above!)


I’ve had many designs that have made people go, “meh”... but after a few swift colour changes, that very same design can later make those same people say “Oh wow, I want to wear that!”


I found that even after being a successful graphic artist for over 10 years, I had to go back to the drawing board and study colour all over again - but from the perspective of the consumer. Some colours may look absolutely stunning on paper or on the computer screen - but as fabric on the body? That’s a different story. This brings me to lesson #3


Lesson #3: Design from a customer’s perspective, not your own


So this one may be particularly challenging if you are not your target customer. But just because you are not the target customer, doesn’t mean that you can’t be a good designer. You just have to design for someone other than yourself.


I spent some time working for a very feminine boho fashion label and at first, most of my designs were rejected. It was frustrating because I knew I was a good artist, and the prints I was producing looked great to me.


Well, to me they were great because the artwork I was creating was of things I would wear.


Personally, I’m into masculine prints, bold motifs, and more of a psychedelic aesthetic.


Boho, on the other hand, is not this. I had to quickly adapt my artwork to be softer, more subdued, and more feminine, featuring finer details and lots of border print inspired by Indian florals and boho chintz.


Over time, and after a lot of market research, I figured out my own special formula to nail that boho chic aesthetic. As soon as it clicked for me, several of my prints were being selected every week and I even had a few re-prints and top sellers!


So when you’re designing a print, always remember. Who is this print for and will they wear it, according to the information I have at hand? (competitor research, trend research, previous best sellers etc).


On the topic of previous best sellers, here comes the next lesson…


Lesson #4: Sales figures are important because it’s not always about the art


When a product achieves EPIC sales, it’s usually a combination of a lot of things at play. These can be a stellar combination of garment style and print, yes. But it’s also about social, political and economic trends, fashion trends, celebrity trends, marketing, timing, season, etc!


When something sells really well, it’s not uncommon for that same garment style or prints to be replicated and updated for the next season, in hopes of achieving similar sales figures. 


This is just one way to use positive sales figures to our advantage as fashion print designers. But there is also a flip side!


When you are working as a fashion print designer in-house, don’t be bummed out if a really lovely print you created does not get as well received as you may think when it comes to the product release day.


For example. The weather. Oh God, the weather. If you live in Australia you’ll know what I mean. The floods and downpours of recent El Nina/ La Nina events not only made the beginning of summer a bit dreary but actually negatively impacted a lot of lives and small businesses.


Naturally, sales were slow as people did not want to think about buying clothes at the time. The priority was about recovering from the damaging floods.


Regardless, the lesson here is to listen to what the sales team have to say. Even if you have to create a different version of the same print over and over! If it has a chance of selling, then analyse why this is and keep working with the data, not against it. This brings me to the last lesson! 


Lesson #5: Fashion trends come and go, so you need to be quick to adapt


I know that some designers feel like designing into trends is unoriginal and will turn you into a sheep, but that’s not the case. Trends just naturally happen. So if the ultimate goal is to make money and sales, designing into trends will give your designs the best chance possible to achieve this.


That said, trends come and go. Fast. Some trends linger longer than others but for those flash-in-the-pan, novelty trends - you will need to decide whether or not you want a slice of that pie. And if so, you better pump a few designs ASAP to not miss the window of opportunity.


I know I am very efficient and fast with my work, so this sort of reaction comes naturally to me. But if you are a more environmentally conscious, slow and considered designer, then feel free to skip this entirely.


For me though, I actually love injecting my own personal touch into a trend - which I highly recommend. When you find a trend that speaks to you and make it your own, it will actually look less ‘trendy’ and more ‘you’. So have fun with it.


PHEW!


OK, so that were the 5 key things that I had to learn when I was working as an in-house textile designer.


What are your thoughts!? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know via email: hello@carolynquan.design


Carolyn

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