Shopping as a Key Stage in the Design Process

As a designer one of the most important things you can do is shop the market. Every designer, large and small, shops! They shop where their target market shops, and they do it frequently and strategically. If you are in the beginning stages of creating a new brand, this is a critical step to focus on before your pencil hits the paper and the sketching begins. If you are already shopping strategically, you will feel more focused when planning your line or collection.

Here are a few things that we recommend to keep in mind on your shopping trips:


The fit of a brand is one of its defining characteristics. Try on a variety of brands and styles to compare the fit, looking for the closest possible fit to what you want to offer. As you work with your pattern maker you will make tweaks and changes to customize the fit for your brand, but having a starting point will help expedite this process.


Touch and feel the different fabrics to see what you like for different garments. Check out the differences between a fabric for a coat versus a button down shirt versus a skirt. Also, look at the differences in fabric choices for similar products. For instance, look at a few different skirts to see the differences in the fabric and how the different fabric changes the style. It can be helpful to purchase a few garments to bring with you as you fabric source to show your sales reps for quality and hand feel.

Related Reading:  3 Ways to Save Money When Starting Your Brand


Make sure to look at the different trim options. Focus on looking at trims that can add value to your styles. Check out the different closures such as zippers, buttons, and snaps to see not only how they look but how easy they are to use. While the design of the trims will be instrumental in your decision to use them, don’t forget about the functionality.


You will want to look at the different kinds of labels that garments have. Check out the brand label, content and care label, size label, and hangtag. Not only will you want to look at the different options in quality, but you will want to note the placement on the garment. Are they in the back neck? Side seam? Are they all together or in different places?

Construction Details:

Look at the inside of garments to see how they are finished. Are dresses lined? How are the hems on skirts finished? Does the button down shirt have french seams? Some brands will use a signature on each garment such as a certain lining inside all styles or a signature grosgrain on seams. All of these little details contribute to the inner beauty of a garment. This will give you ideas of what inner beauty you might want to include on your styles.


All of the items mentioned above contribute to the overall quality of the garment. As you shop in your target market and check out your competition the fabrics, trims, labels, fit and construction details will give you an idea of the sort of quality your own garments will need to exhibit to compete in that price point. For instance, if your dress retails for $300 you will want to make sure that you meet your customers expectations of a $300 dress.

Related Reading:  What Does Modern Made In America Look Like?

Trends and Inspiration:

This is the best part of shopping! Always be looking for inspiration and trends in the stores. As a designer this may be an automatic step for you, but if it is not instinctual for you yet, make sure you look for colors, silhouettes, and design details that inspire you and that can be translated into your collection. Take note of what is on sale versus what is featured in the visual displays. This will give you insight into what is trending in your market versus what is on the decline.

If you are able to purchase garments for reference, then focus on the ones that best show the fit and fabric that you like. We know that in order to stay on budget you cannot purchase everything so take lots of pictures! Things like trims, labels and construction details are more easily translated in photos. You will thank yourself when you start sketching if you have photos of the details that inspired you. And don’t forget to have fun!

If you enjoyed this, check out these articles:

› Fabric Sourcing: 5 Important Points to Remember
› How Many Products Should You Launch With
› 5 Tips for Creating an Apparel Prototype