Life Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

So on Friday I finished up my 5th and final week as a Pattern Room Intern. Whilst wrapping up my final days at the company, attending exclusive fittings along with salmon bagels and a very exciting sample sale were my personal highlights.

During the first half of the week, I got to attend fitting sessions for the upcoming S/S 15 collection. Ive talked about fittings in previous posts that took place in the Pattern Room. However, those fittings were just for toiles, while the most recent ones took place in a meeting room fitting final made samples on a model. At these sessions, head roles from Pattern Cutting, Design, Merchandising, Production and QA discuss the garments  in terms of approving the finishing, fabric, alterations, embellishment, fit, and whether or not a sample gets rejected. If the sample is rejected, it means that it won’t go into mass production. If a garment gets approved (sealed), they  discuss how they can reduce mass manufacturing costs.

In addition to attending and taking personal notes at fit sessions, I continued with my usual intern tasks. During some filing, I was looking through the dresses archive and noticed how contemporary and on trend designs have developed over the years. For example, 4 years ago dresses where heavily inspired by drape grecian styles, along with frills and ruffles. These days, popular design features include structured silhouettes, geometric, color/fabric blocking and vibrant print designs. It made me wonder what features will dominate fashion trends in 4 years time…

My last day at work was on the 4th of July, which was a very special day for me and fellow americans! So therefore I was already in good spirits when I entered the office. Once I found out that we were all gonna have bagels for brunch, l was even in a better mood and enjoyed my last day even more so (happy days!). The afternoon consisted of preparing for the sample sale (this time exclusively to staff), by helping out with carrying boxes of clothes and setting up. Soon enough, we all got to indulge in some shopping madness! It reminded me of that one scene from the movie Confessions of a Shoppaholic, when the main character is shopping at a designer sale.

After weeks of getting used to my new environment, I couldn’t believe how fast it all went by. Admittedly, I was a little sad when it all came to an end but thankfully it was a very rewarding and insightful experience that made me more sure that would like to pursue a career in Fashion. To my surprise, I was rewarded with a box of chocolates and a ”Thank You” card signed from the Pattern Room people! Getting to know some really nice people and learning about the industry was an opportunity I am certainly very grateful for.

confessions-of-a-shopaholicWhat the sale reminded me of… (Confessions of a Shopaholic)

I still cannot get over how I ended up interning at French Connection. When I look back at the “Sorry but no” e-mails from other places, I wasn’t feeling very hopeful about getting any type internship, yet alone a job in the future…

However sometimes the best things in life happen when you least expect them. As I sit here in my room typing away while eating out of the box of chocolates given to me, I look back at my summer in London thinking about a famous Forest Gump movie quote: Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

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Thank you card and chocolates from Pattern Room team!

A Glimpse Into The Future

Fashion is a fast paced business where seasons move into another with the speed of light. Therefore, time management and planning ahead is essential. Brands need to allow themselves plenty of time for important decisions within the Design and Production process. Think of it like this: Design => Range=> Plan=> Sample=> Sell

Collections are worked on 12-18 month before they are meant to hit stores. During my time, I’ve managed to gain exclusive insight of what’s to come for the brands S/S 2015 collection. Through sketches and fittings of samples with the in house fit model, the glimpse into the future brings exciting graphic prints, finishing design details and overall stunning summer time garments!

Whether it’s the Pattern Cutters using their technical skills or the Designers gathering inspiration, witnessing creative professionals work their magic has been an exciting thing to see. A few weeks back, I was wearing a white crop top that caught one of the Designer’s eye and asked if she can take measurements off my top. This week when I went to hand in Sketches in the Design Department, I was wearing the same top. The same Designer noticed and wanted to show me the sample piece she designed inspired by what I was wearing. It was this cute lace crop top with a zipper along the centre back. I hope it doesn’t get rejected and will be in stores next year!

Otherwise, my usual tasks of scanning and editing of sketches, cutting patterns, filing etc continued throughout the week. However, I once again was able to help out outside the Pattern Room which included working in Q&A, Production, and E-commerce.

Assigned to work to at the E-Commerce Department one afternoon, I got to assist the E-Commerce Coordinator with a garment checklist for the upcoming AW14 and SS15 collections. One of her responsibilities includes analysing e-mail marketing activity on a regular basis and keeping track of sample pieces. In addition to this, she gets to help out at Photoshoots. She mentioned that Photoshoots are mostly done in the building with in-house Photographers. It was nice to get to know another department that I’ve never been to before. Other departments on that particular floor include Web, Marketing, Accessories, Homeware, Photoshoot Studios, Buying, and the Legal Department.

That same afternoon, I got to attend a Rage Review Fashion Show for the upcoming A/W14 collection. The mini catwalk show that showcased Womenswear and Menswear pieces, is typically exclusive for Buyers and Staff that takes place every 6 months. The collection ranged from sequins party dresses, knitwear worn over dresses and well designed coats/jackets. One outfit that made a rather risqué debut on the runway consisted of a long sleeve mesh dress worn with a bra and high waist underwear. Overall though, it was a fun show with good music that provided an exciting atmosphere! It must feel rewarding for the people involved in creating those pieces seeing the garments being brought to life. If they were to look back 1 year ago, those clothes were nothing more than a vision on paper and toiles on mannequins.

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AW14 Range Review

Getting the hang of it

As the end of week 3 of my summer internship has come to an end, Ive managed to get the hang of things and grasped what goes on behind the scenes of working in a fashion brand. By speaking to some co-workers and my boss about their jobs and what they have done in the past, this provided a great way to understand various job roles within the industry and which ones I would consider doing in the future.

Throughout my time here so far, Ive noticed that there always seems to be food around! This week in particular, assorted foods have been brought in every other day to celebrate a co-workers birthdays. Trust me, forget the “Fashion people don’t eat” stereotype. They LOVE food! To quote one of the pattern cutters, the pattern room is the “worst place to go on a diet!” From cakes, chips, cheese, fruits, crackers, dips etc., I officially decided that I have picked the right place to intern..

While completing my assigned tasks throughout the week, I once again got to help out at the Design Department one afternoon. They always seem to be playing music whenever I walk in there especially songs by Drake for some reason.. (They have good taste in music though).  Apart from sticking color swatches onto sheets, my main task was to source selected AW14 garments and borrow them from various departments so the Designer can take pictures of them for a presentation. Going on a scavenger hunt within various floors of the building, allowed me to see other departments I haven’t been to before such as the Buying Department, Web and the Showroom.

Meanwhile in the pattern room, tasks consisted of the usual filing, boxing, scanning/editing sketches, printing off master specs of patterns by using Gerber along with additional new tasks such as cutting patterns for the Pattern Cutters. By using Web PDM and becoming familiar with Gerber Technology, I learned additional features of the software such as how to add information on a detail sheet, sample size chart and grading chart. The grading chart indicates the sizes and measurements of a garment (arm hole, neckline, CB, CF measurements etc.). The brand work with a UK size 10 (S). From this size, the factories have to either add or subtract measurements from the size S to create appropriate fittings for each size:

XXS, XS: Minus measurements from S

M, L, XL, XXL : Add measurements from S

Other tasks have made me become familiar with components within the production process, which I have mentioned in previous posts. For example, whenever I look at a specific garment or sketches from particular seasons, I see numbers and codes in my head. Each garment from the beginning to the end of the production process receives numbers, that keep track of them and what type they are. They are then archived in files digitally and hard copy. First, a garment is given a Base Number, to indicate the pattern pieces and what type of garment it is. Then it is given a Style Number to indicate what style it is from that Base Number (different color for example). Sometimes, old patterns from other seasons have been re-used. This garment will then have an AS number.

My tasks usually aren’t strenuous and don’t require significant physical demand.  However on Wednesday, this wasn’t the case… I was required to help out loading boxes and giant card board rolls into a truck. The boxes weren’t so bad but the rolls were WAY heavier than they looked! (Work out completed that day). Seriously, I couldn’t imagine how heavy those rolls would have been if they still had paper on them!

On the bright side, I later on during the week got to dig through clothes that are going to be at the upcoming 4th of July Sample Sale (YES ANOTHER ONE), and put them aside and to buy them on that day.

While talking to people during my time here, Ive managed to gain useful and most definitely valuable fashion industry advice and facts. Who’s worked where, who to keep in touch with, what happened to so and so, what to expect after graduating etc. From all these different stories, Ive learned some things that University doesn’t really prepare you for or even tell you..

For example, Ive been told that Highstreet brands seem to have standard 9am- 5 or 6pm working hours and usually stick to that (Im working in Highstreet btw). However in Luxury/Designer brands, employees are expected to work overtime (little or even unpaid). This is because multinational corporate Highstreet brands are bigger and produce clothing per season, whereas the Designer/ Ready-to-Wear market produce garments per collection.

At the moment, I am torn with the idea of either becoming a Designer or a Pattern Cutter. Some interesting pattern cutting facts include that companies have basic blocs and set measurements where the Pattern Cutter manipulates patterns and develops them accordantly. I have also been told that it is harder to switch from Pattern Cutting over to Design. This is something I really need to learn more/think about…

One of the most valuable things I have learned is the importance of networking. Whether its getting to know industry professional or even fellow students and recent graduates, who you have as contacts, could really make a difference in your career life.

On Friday after work, I decided to stop by this pop up store near by. The shop was called Monochrome Collective. It was founded by recent graduates from West London College ,showcasing and even selling their garments from their final year collection. I ended up talking to a few of the designers about their work and really liked their stuff! (My advice: make friends and get to know as many people as you can in the creative world). The Students had a choice of either doing an all black or all white collection but each designer added specific design details to make the garments stand out. Check out what they do: http://www.monochrome-collective.com/

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Having gained the insight within this industry that I have so far has made me realised that I have a long way to go, However I believe that the things I have learned from others and myself will prepare me in the future especially when I graduate in a year when I will be swimming in the great deep giant pool competing and searching for a paid Job in Fashion.

On that note, I leave you readers with an appropriate soundtrack to sum up this post:

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From Unpleasant to Pleasant Surprises

From suffering from a heatstroke, to discovering a dead mouse in my room, lets just say that I had a rather rough start of the week… However thankfully the rest of the week went pretty well that provided insightful moments and wonderful surprises.

Tasks at work consisted with the usual scanning and editing of technical drawings with Web PDM and Photoshop, along with some filing and boxing etc. However I was also given new types of tasks and learned some new things. This included writing a production checklist for the Mid Summer 2015 collection. This involved  me going around the pattern room to ask the pattern cutters what stage each garment they were working on was at. Such as whether its in the machine room, being fitted on a model etc. Working on the production development files for most of the week informed me about the different stages and which countries the company produce their products at. They mostly work with Indian and Hong Kong based factories, however other places include Romania and Turkey. I also gained a new skill by briefly learning how to use PDS (Pattern Design Software). Its a intuitive and powerful software designed to work with patterns at every step of the production cycle.  By using Gerber technology, the finished patterns are then printed out and sent to international factories for manufacturing.

On Thursday and Friday, fittings with a model took place in the Pattern Room. This was a very exciting thing for me to witness because it provided a great insight on how the Pattern Cutters and the Designers communicated and interacted with each other. There is a common misconception that being a Fashion Designer and being a Pattern Cutter is the same thing. However it is not. Designers are responsible for coming up with the design, concept, and color palette etc. Whereas the Pattern Cutter is the one who brings the Designers vision to life. They toile and develop the patterns for the garment.

While I was standing near a fitting and asking my boss for a new task, one of the Designers who was fitting a dress on the model asked for my opinion on whether or not the strap on a dress should be thinner or not. At first I was caught a bit off guard because my first thought was “OMG THE DESIGNER IS ASKING YOUR OPPION SAY SOMETHING NOW QUICK!” Thankfully, we both agreed that the straps should be thinner.

Apart from the Pattern Room, I’ve been able to help out/meet people in other departments like Quality Assurance  and Design. I usually have go into the Design Department every other day to give  one of the Designers sketches from the Pattern Room. However on Friday afternoon, I  actually was appointed to do tasks for the Designers. The first task was to copy and paste patterns onto word and do A3 print outs. Then I was required to box and pack away hangers (SO MANY HANGERS!!). When I went to get some more tape to finish up the boxing job, one of the Designers (the same one who asked for my opinion the day before), said that she liked my white Bershka crop top and wanted to take measurements off me. Afterwards we ended up having a conversation and I asked her things like how much creative input do they really have when working for a brand. She said that they do have a lot of input when it comes to the deisngs, theme, color pallets etc, but at the end of the day still needs to be approved by the Creative Director or Head Designer. She even said at one point that if I am not needed in the Pattern Room and if I would be allowed to, I could also help out in the Design Department.  Obviously I’m fully committed to the Pattern Room and especially assisting the Pattern Room Coordinator (a.k.a my boss), but it would be cool to get to know other areas and make the most of my internship!

To mark the end of week 2,  I now get to indulge myself into a bit of World Cup madness! Even at work people have been excited about the games! We even ended up doing a sweepstake bet, where we had to pick a random country out of a bag and pay a pound each. Basically who ever gets the winning team at the end of the games, wins all the money in the pot. I ended up with Colombia and Iran. So far Colombia recently defeated Greece with 3-0. Iran play Nigeria on Monday so we shall see how they will do…

So as the World Cup continues, so does the rest of my journey of my internship that will hopefully eventually  kick-off my career aspiration in Fashion.

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The Adjustment

A person needs at intervals to separate himself from family and companions and go to new places. He must go without his familiars in order to be open to influences, to change. -Katharine Butler Hathaway

Getting to know a new surrounding is always exciting. However, you might have to get used to certain things and adapt yourself accordantly within perhaps unfamiliar situations. This week for me was all about adjusting. Whether it was at the new work place or my new living environment, I had to incorporate new daily routines for myself.

Throughout most of the week at work, I found myself scanning and editing specs for their mid summer 2015 collection with web PDM and Photoshop as well as filing and archiving. I thought it was quite cool to see what garments are going to be in store in one years time! In terms of production terminology, I learned some new phrases:

CMT= Cut, Make, Trim. This means that the company source their own materials but produce their garments in oversees factories. Some garments that are being produced in other factories without CMT means that the factories are the ones who source the fabrics for the company.

Master Specs= Patterns sent without info.(no specific measurements). For prototypes.

Sales Specs= Send with info and alterations.

Sealer Specs= Final stage.

Thursday was a pretty exiting but busy day! Throughout most of the day, I had to walk back and forth from the pattern to the design room to hand in sketches to some of the designers. In addition to this, I had to do the usual tasks along with boxing folders (So many folders!!). The most exciting thing about that day however had to be the sample sale! We got to leave work a bit early to attend the company’s sample sale! The clothes were sold at much cheeper prices than usual, which made me feel very excited yet overwhelmed at the same time! All those people with all those heavily reduced clothes made it seem like some type of chaotic retail jungle. Spending wise, I thought I was rather good! Seriously, I could have been much worse…. The following day in contrast was a rather quite day. So quite in fact, that I ended up helping out at the Q&A (Quality Assurance) department during the afternoon. Q&A approve each sample garments before they can be sold in retail. One unusual thing I noticed that day was that all these male models were wondering around the hallways. They certainly weren’t a sight for sore eyes! Turns out that there was a model casting going on that day.

In terms of living environment, I found a place in the district camden. Outside the pattern room, I occasionally find myself exploring and wondering around the markets, where a diverse range of food ,fashion, people and music create the vibrant atmosphere camden is known for. Ive been able to scope out some new favourite pub/cafes of mine, that certainly will keep me entertained for the month! As I was doing some grocery shopping a few days back, some random dude gave me free tickets to see Chromeo at the Roundhouse. He didn’t even ask for money or anything else in exchange, he just simply walked away. I was sceptical at first, but the tickets turned out to be legit! So being able to see a free gig at the famous roundhouse turned out to be pleasant surprise that evening. Other places that I personally would recommend include:

The Monarch: Laid back pub decent priced drinks with some good live music!  

The Ice Warf: Part of the Whetherspoons chain, this place serves good food and fun atmosphere on a saturday night!

Inspiral Lounge: For all you fellow health food enthusiasts, this place overlooking the lock serves the tastiest salads, kale chips and raw chocolate cakes! 

Overall, I am pleased that I survived my first week at the internship and living in London! Tomorrow I start week 2, where new tasks/adventures/ acquaintances lie ahead.

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The Intern Experience: Day 1, First Day

So today was my first day as a summer fashion intern. Back in February, I e-mailed around 40-50 companies, asking if they had any internship position over the summer. Amongst the 10 who actually did reply, I was invited to two interviews and managed to secure one position.

Over the next 5 weeks, I will be working as a pattern room intern/assistant for a London based fashion brand. I will be keeping track and posting exciting things about what tasks I had to, how I am finding it, and a little bit about the area of where I am temporarily living in London.

The tasks throughout my first day kept me busy, but nothing that was too complex. The majority of it consisted of basic 101 intern tasks such as staking up folders, scanning spec sheets and hanging up clothing for the upcoming season. However throughout the day, my mentor/boss gave me some insightful information about the development stages within the production/sales of the garments and what seasons they do. Basically, the specs, fittings of the garments have to be re-worked as many times as needed before the final specs are sent to factories for production. And even then some things might have to be altered. The seasons that they do every year are: Christmas, Spring Summer, Mid Summer, Fall Winter, along with some fast pack ones in between.

I was also taught a new skill by using a PDM software, to edit and keep track of the specs of the garments. Each garment is given a so called base number that is stored in the PDM program. My job throughout most of the day basically consisted of me scanning and typing in the information.

Out of all the places I applied to, this particular company was defiantly one of my top choices and therefore feel very fortunate being able to work here for the summer. Cant say who it is though just like the previous posts about my Live Project (Policies etc…). Day one overall went well. Staff is nice, boss is nice, work environment/setting for a fashion brand HQ is good (Not like in Ugly Betty or anything like that). Looking forward to these exciting weeks up ahead!

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