Are you staring at a blank sketchbook? Do you have no idea how to find inspiration for your fashion line? Do you end up feeling frustrated, empty or overwhelmed, and sure that you are wasting time? Do you want a process for getting your ideas together? This used to be me.

Inspiration is fundamental to producing a fashion line or collection. That first kernel of inspiration is the spark that sets your creative fire blazing. It is the fuel that keeps you going afterward. That said, sometimes it can be hard to know where to draw inspiration from, and also, it can be just as hard to know how to properly manage/streamline it to get the most out of the process.

A great place to start is simple research. Finding ideas – images, patterns, stories – that inspire you and just might become themes or elements in your fashion line.

Finding inspiration is important. Not only will it get you started, it will deepen your ideas, and help you in further developing your ideas. And most importantly, finding and then following your inspiration will help keep the joy of working alive.

How to come up with ideas

Inspiration for your fashion line can come from anywhere. It may come from a personal vision. Or it may stem from and be dependent on the style, occasion, customer and identity that relates to your brand.  If you are just beginning to look for your own inspiration it might be a good idea to try a wide lens approach. That is to say, start wide and broad, and then if needed, zoom in as you go.

Look around you, look at books, look online. You might become inspired by something in nature; by the seasons, by a colour, or by a particular trend or design detail.  Inspiration can be found in previous collections, in the history of fashion or in the wonders of travel and other cultures. Or you may be find inspiration in the work or the spirit of someone you admire, or by the work of artists, or textile and fashion designers.

Try mixing things up! You can use methods such as brainstorming, mind maps or word association to come up with ideas.  Reading a bit of poetry or even free-writing can open up some inspirational ideas. Try not to seek inspiration just from other clothing. Look to architects, artists, musicians, films, books. Generally try to stay up to date with what is going on around you.  Keep learning.

Collect and store your ideas

The important thing here is to follow the leads that interest you, and maybe even try to extend your original ideas.  There are as many ways to do this as there are stars in the sky. Here are a few techniques that worked for me. Make a habit of collecting images, ideas, even stray thoughts that you are drawn to. You may want to sketch ideas, or maybe take a few photos, or write your thoughts down, so that you have these saved for anytime you need ideas in the future.

A great way to collect your thoughts is to keep a visual diary containing anything that motivates or stimulates you; ideas that challenge you or help you to delve into problems.  Create images and write about what you are doing and what you see.  Keep work that is unfinished or has been discarded, and don’t be afraid to come back to it and rework it. Don’t forget, as your experience grows so to do your skills.

Organisation is key! Try to keep an organised library of your ideas rather than shuffling them away haphazardly.  Take some time to set up a storage system for future ideas.  This system might be something simpler like labelled folders of photos on your computer, or free apps such as Pinterest or Trello.  I use an app called Milanote, which allows you to create mood boards including colour swatches, and link to other boards and folders.

To steal from one person is plagiarism, to steal from many is research

As a designer it’s generally good practice to get inspiration from a variety of sources, and not to become too caught up on the work of another designer.  Otherwise you might find your work suddenly and accidentally too closely resembles what you have seen. Worse still you might not develop the originality and creativity you’d like.

If you become awestruck by another designer that you really like and can’t stop thinking about their idea (we’ve all been there!), try to find other sources for the same idea. Perhaps try to dissect the idea, and work out exactly what you like about it, and why?  This will help you select elements as inspiration, and not the whole design.  After, you can go back to your design basics and look at changing the silhouette, fit, panel lines, trims, colours, fabric, prints, or other features.

Maintain your goals and vision

When going through the research process to spark your inspiration feel free to follow tangents, to naturally develop your own momentum. You may find some thoughts are unleashed that you can not let go of.  If you follow what interests you, what really inspires you, it might result in ideas, designs, tweaks and twists you wouldn’t have otherwise thought up.  This is the great thing about the creative process – once you start you can go as deep or as broad as you like with your research.

I recommend planning your goals. How much time will you spend researching? What subject will you research this time? Outline what ideas you will research and what ideas you will avoid right at the start of the process. Don’t let yourself go too far down any rabbit hole, don’t spend too long on any wrong path.

The energy you put into working through your inspiration keeps your ideas moving forward. It usually carries through to your final designs and gives them an energy of their own.

Always leave time for experimentation

Most importantly, leave time for experimenting, thinking, for working things out, for sketching, and for using your imagination.  Set time aside for resting and relaxing, too, as often ideas come once you stop thinking about them.  Time spent experimenting is necessary, and should not be seen as time wasted. But having deadlines is equally essential to keep your project moving forward.

Researching inspiration can be fascinating. It can lead you in many different directions, but remember to try to maintain your vision. You can easily lose yourself in the overabundance of information that is out there – information overload! It is easy to keep searching for more and more ideas. Don’t forget to stop and develop the ideas you already have. Always remember the goal is to use your inspirational research, to create something else, something tangible.

What’s next?

It’s easy to get stuck getting started designing and bringing your collection to life. That’s why I help emerging designers with professional services to develop a trend driven and quality fashion line.

Do you need help with technical product development, with tech packs, patterns & samples, production or quality control? Or perhaps you need help with sourcing, ideas, focussing? Are you needing one-on-one training to help you do-it-yourself? If any of these sound like you, reach out and I can walk you through how we can work together.

Book a free 30 minute discovery call through my Calendly via the below link. Leverage my 15 years fashion industry experience to help you get to the next level.