Photo Credit: Moleskins

Inspiration is in every direction. With no limits to creativity, let the shapes, colours, and textures around you contribute to the bag designs in your mind. Fashion need not be inspired only by fashion. Fashion designers often get their ideas from current events, entertainment, art, the environment, or cultures around the world. Brainstorming, imagery, awareness, and observation can be very powerful in any of your artistic endeavours. This way of seeing is ideal for enhancing your creativity. Next, you need a method to capture and remember your creative visions.

Keep a Fashion Idea Sketchbook

Sketch, sketch, sketch – There’s no risk involved in a sketch. If it doesn’t work out, just turn the page of your sketchbook and start again. Not much of an artist? Use a grid template. A grid template is a linear layout of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines. Use them to sketch your bag design’s stylelines and overall appearance while maintaining accurate proportions and dimensions. Graph paper makes a good template so that you always have copies of this grid to draw your designs. Gather newspaper and magazine clippings, photos, drawings or make photocopies of favourite bag styles as well as ideas and details for colour palettes, fabrications, etc. and paste them in your sketchbook. Your ideabook will be constantly evolving just as fashion does. Update it often, removing those ideas that aren’t as inspiring and adding new-found creative ones. When “shopping the shops” make a note of any details or design ideas you discover in the marketplace. Look closely at the construction, shapes and proportion of the details. Draw/sketch, and write down as many notes as you can remember for later use. Sketch the detail over and over again, varying the shape and design to improve on it. Make it your own and let it generate many more great ideas.

Redesign – redraw – renew.

I’ll let you in on a trade secret. Sometimes designers are fortunate enough to develop a “runner” in their collections. A runner is marketing jargon for a style that is an instant seller and is reordered over and over again by the retailer. Whenever a runner is developed, designers do not discard it at the end of the fashion season; we alter it slightly… perhaps changing the hardware or possibly re-fabricating the popular style in a new material for the next season. You can do the same. If you have developed a bag design that you really enjoy, do not start over from square one; instead sketch it out and re-work it with new hardware, new colour scheme, or new materials. Let one single good design idea morph tenfold.

Visual Cues

It is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Use this philosophy in your sketching. Often there is no “real” pattern-drafting needed to produce a basic bag silhouette. Draw out your design based upon its specifications. Patternless designs (a simple block grid) can be plotted directly onto your material as long as the fabric is square and on-grain. Once the design specs are communicated visually, you are ready to cut out the shape, sans pattern.

Simplification of Ideas

If you’re happy with your first attempt, well done. I would caution you however, do not expect perfection for your first trial or you might end up disappointed with the end results. I often find novices put too many of their ideas into one sketch. My advice is take your original design and simplify it by redrawing the concept eliminating any parts of the design that cannot stand on its own. Keep simplifying each progressive sketch until you can no longer simplify it without changing the prime concept. Often it is that sketch of the bag style that should be put into production. Designing is a evolutionary process, so practice make perfect. If you continue to keep on sketching and improve it for every new attempt, soon enough you will have a collection of bag styles in your repertoire worthy of the production stage.

Drawing your design ideas takes concentration. A defined work-space and a preplanned time frame are often helpful. Try to plan sketching time every day, or whatever time is available to your lifestyle to sketch. Planning a time frame in a space where you can concentrate will help slow down your ideas and draw them out so you can actually be productive with them.  If you’re in a hurry or if the ideas come too fast, it’s difficult to convert them into a good design.


Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Insight

9 responses to “KEEP AN IDEABOOK

  1. Ann

    Hi Don,
    Thanks for your great site and blog! I stumbled across you two weeks ago when I decided to make a handbag. Although I’ve made one before, I am decidedly stepping up my game this time by not only designing my own pattern, but improving the construction. I do appreciate your site for the project ideas, how-to’s, and construction techniques. Thanks for making all of this available, and keep up the fantastic work! I look forward to following you from now on.

  2. Luz

    OMG thank you sooo much for this post…I just came across your weekend designer blog which led me here and I am so glad I did. I am going to try and make a bag using one of your tutorials and hope reference your site regularly. Thank you!

  3. I guess coming across your blog is confirmation that I need to start using my new idea book I purchased a few weeks ago. I’m not a designer, but my daughter (5) loves fashion and has asked to make her own bag. For 5 she has a great eye for style as well as loving to grab her little notepad and drawing her bag ideas. Thanks, I will encourage her to use her idea book and I will help her from your tutorials.

    • Don

      You can never start too young, Roddy….enjoy designing with your daughter. She may not remember the bag but she will always remember the fun time with you.

  4. saheldesign

    What a fantastic blog I have just discovered here! I am just starting out making bags using horse reins as straps in a bid to make the work of some traditional craftspeople in West Africa profitable for them. I shall be following you for tips and inspiration. Thank you for putting the time and effort into making this great reasource.

  5. Edir

    It was a good help for me, I start my first steps in this way, then thanks a lot for share them. Greetings from Brazil. Edir

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