Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ask The Fashion Professor

Dear Professor Cady

Thank you for taking questions from Project Runway viewers. My question is this:

How realistic is it to expect designers to be able to make flawless samples of their designs? Is this common in the fashion world? Or, are there sample makers associated with most designers and design houses that perform the execution?

Secondly, what value is added to the competition through the designers on Project Runway executing their own designs rather than directing professional sample makers? I understand the need to know construction, etc. but, it seems like the show spends more time on sewing and time limits than on the actual design process.

The reason for my question is that I work in the world of product design (home decor and furniture) and never make samples myself. I present detailed plans and technical drawings to manufacturers who produce samples. I then critique the samples and have corrections/improvements made. Does the fashion world work in this manner?

Thanks again and happy holidays.

Best regards,


Oh Boy! This is a very interesting series of questions!

First - I am a fan of the show - at its best it is highly entertaining. Is it an accurate vision of life as a fashion designer? Not really.

In as much as the competition requires the competitors to produce finished work quickly - they really must understand construction and how to make a finished garment.

And in the Real World? Assuming they return to a day job in a mid or large fashion business they will never touch a machine again. Nor will they have to produce anything within 24 hours. Is their knowledge of finishing and construction useful? Yes - very. Any design job will require being highly detailed when communicating with factories - typically Asian.

All fashion designers, houses have sample makers or use factories that provide the sample making.

I had a jet lagged neighbor at the house this past weekend, just back from an Italian trade show, who is a high level knitwear designer for a very big fashion brand - her design team was awaiting samples from Hong Kong. She hasn't sewed or knit a thing in 20 years since graduating from FIT. Which is not to say that her job isn't exciting, interesting, well paid...

The value behind the competitors scrambling to complete their designs? It makes it more entertaining. Having a young designer yelling into a phone at an agent in Hong Kong about samples that haven't arrived isn't entertaining. It also takes weeks. Tough to edit.

To be fair to the producers and editors, condensing a contrived fashion competition into 30 minutes, less product advertisements, must be difficult.

The description of your job in product design is pretty much identical to that of any fashion product be it a jacket, gown, bag or shoes. Again, obsessing about the minute details of a product ain't sexy.

Do I think there are ways the producers could liven up the program and make it relevant? Yes I do.

Thanks for the interesting questions,

Anthony / FIT