The design process from design concept to final production takes many months. Researching current fashion and making predictions of future trends is the first step in creating design. Some designers do their own research, while others depend on trend reports published by fashion industry trade groups. Trend reports let you know what styles, colors, and fabrics will be popular for a certain season in the near future. Textile manufacturers use these trend reports to design fabrics and patterns while fashion designers begin to sketch designs. Designers then visit manufacturers or trade shows to get samples of fabrics and figure out which fabrics to use with which designs.
A fashion designer takes part in just about every aspect of bringing fashion to the public. Creating the basic design can be done in different ways. It can involve storyboards with sketches, to working with a dummy and sewing pieces of material together. This creating phase is when the designer takes his/her vision that's swirling in the mind's eye and puts it into a visual expression. This first draft of the design is then worked on as the designer develops the first basic prototype.
Note: Computer-aided design (CAD) is being used more and more in the fashion design industry. Although most designers initially sketch designs by hand, a growing number take these hand sketches and put them on the computer. CAD allows designers to look at designs of clothing on virtual models, in many colors and shapes, therefore saving time by needing fewer adjustments later.
The fashion designer's next step is to take the rough sketch or model and develop a more specific working pattern. Usually the designer will make a rough model of the design by creating a toile. This is made by sewing inexpensive material (like muslin) to make a rough model of the design. When this is placed on a manequin-like dress stand, the designer can see how the material will drape or hang on a human form.
Large design houses hire their own patternmakers, tailors, and sewers who create the master patterns and sew the prototypes. Designers working in small design firms, or those new to the business, usually do most of the technical, patternmaking, and sewing tasks, in addition to designing the clothing. When the garment is complete, the designer will either modify, scrap or approve the design for showing in a collection.
A fashion designer usually has full control of a fashion show, often picking the models, determining the price of each garment, and arranging how the garments will be presented. Most designers have assistants to help with all the many small details, but overall, the designer retains full control.