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Behind the Seams: Designing a Collection

A sit-down interview with designer Marquelle as we discuss her creative process, what goes into designing clothing, and being a black woman in fashion. Questions by Journalist Aaliyah C. Bowden

Q: What is the first step in creating a collection?

A: My process for designing a collection starts with what inspires me. I am the type of person that can be inspired by anything. I find inspiration in art, fashion history, music, movies, and even fictional worlds. I like to make a mind map of everything currently inspiring me and find similar ideas that can be combined to develop a basic concept or storyline. Coco Chanel said it best "Fashion is in the sky, in the street. Fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what's happening".

Q: How many sketches do you do a day? Before you sketch, do you have a clear image of the look you are going for?

A: I have yet to set a set amount of sketches I produce daily. When I begin the sketching portion of my creative process. It is more like when I think of an idea for a garment, and it's heavy on my mind. I have to get it out and put it down on paper. Often times ideas will come to me as I am designing. I love to experiment with various iterations of a garment. For instance, my upcoming Genesis Collection is one standard jacket produced in 10 different ways. Which is definitely a first for me. One jacket may have puffed sleeves, and the other may be a long coat with a puffed collar. The sketching process is when I play and let my ideas fly.

Q: How do you pick a storyline or concept for a collection?

A: It mostly comes from whatever I am inspired by at the time, and then I build on that idea by using images, words, and even music to develop a solid concept out of all those ideas; then, as the collection progresses, the actual story becomes more apparent. As a designer or a creative, you must be a great storyteller and always be conscious of what you want to say through your work.

Q: How do you decide what fabric to use for garments? What are some of the qualities you think about when picking a material?

A: First is functionality. How do I want this piece to function? Every day people want clothes that are two things, functional and comfortable. When selecting fabrics, "is this fabric comfortable for me? How does it feel on my skin?" Those are the type of questions I usually start with. I like to get fabric swatches to determine if it looks and feels cheap because if it looks and feels cheap will perform cheaply. The fabric's color does play a role, but less than how the fabric of the garment will perform and have a higher lifecycle in someone's closet. For instance, my upcoming collection is nothing but outerwear. For that sector of garments, I chose fabrics that can withstand cold weather or rain or give the wear a cozy feeling. My target audience is definitely the driving force behind what materials are selected.

Q: Why do you obtain a bunch of color swatches before designing a garment? Why is this step essential to the whole process?

A: Developing a great color story for a collection is essential because this is the first thing viewers will see and connect with. This is one of the fun parts when I'm designing a collection. I love developing a color story with my color swatches to see what color scheme correlates to the overall concept and level I want to tell for the collection. I like using color ratios, the process of how many colors will be used in a garment and/or throughout the collection. It seems minor; however, it's crucial because the color story acts as a guide when selecting fabrics and making the collection as a whole look cohesive.

Q: What does black girl magic mean to you regarding fashion?

A: It means knowing myself, what I want, and striving to make my fashion dreams come true! It is funny that you ask this question because I just revamped Niquelle. The brand did not feel like me; none of who I was or what I visualized for my brand was evident. I changed everything from what type of garments I wanted to produce, what the brand looks and feels like, EVERYTHING. In this industry, it is super important to know what you want to send out into the world and why you are doing it. I call this my WHY. The reset button will always make me realize what I am working towards.

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