I would like to introduce you to my student Jason C who has been attending my pattern making classes for approximately 18 months.
Jason owns and operates a small business called Bleecker Street – showcasing a collection of new & vintage clothes, plus new and vintage home wares. You can find his shop online at http://bleeckerstreet.com.au or visit Bleecker Street at SO:ME Space, South Melbourne Market.
I spoke in length with him and the following is an interview that I thought you would like to read. Also see photo’s of both his sampling range and his newly released vintage inspired dress. Jason will be adding to his collection throughout 2014.
Below are photo’s of his first vintage inspired dress that he has released on his website and in his retail shop.( please click on any photo for a larger light box version)
What lead to the decision to open up your shop at South Melbourne Market?
There is a bit of a story to this one. Believe it or not, I am an ESL teacher (English as a second language) and selling vintage & homewares was a bit of a hobby of mine. In the past I would do stalls at Camberwell Market or small vintage fairs, but that all changed when there was a bit of a downturn in the ESL sector. I used my new free time to do more pop-up shops and South Melbourne Market was a place where I did one of my pop-ups. Back then I was located in the middle of the SO:ME Space area of South Melbourne Market which is used for pop-up shops. Since the SO:ME space concept of South Melbourne Market was still in it’s infancy stage, there were a few vacant store available to lease. I thought to myself, since there is a drought in ESL, I may as well make the jump and have my own retail store as there was a lot to gain from the experience.
Where do you want to go with your business?
Well, if I could I’d like to have my own line of clothes plus a range of homewares developed from my own textile designs. I’m a long way off from that as I have a lot to learn. I know I’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way, but I’m not afraid of that as that is how people learn. I just need to try and limit the expense of the mistakes.
At what stage in your business development did you decide that you wanted to learn pattern making and why?
I had an interest in pattern making for a while and in high school I was required to studying sewing. It was then a teacher suggested I study fashion, but I wasn’t interested as I knew it would be hard to make it in fashion. I forgot about it for a long time. It was only when I had started pattern making at Designer Stitch that I thought about using my store as an opportunity to begin making and selling my own clothes. So many start -ups struggle to get their designs into a store, but I already had my own shop. It just made sense and I knew I would regret it if I didn’t follow through with a life goal of mine.
Tell us about your search for a suitable pattern making class.
My search began in Japan of all places! Between 2004 & 2009 I was living in Japan teaching English and studying Japanese on the side (plus a bit of ceramics!) It was towards 2008 I started trying to make my own hoodie pattern. Admittedly it didn’t turn out the best, but I enjoyed the process and wanted to explore pattern making further. I purchased a few books, which bamboolzed me , so the books quickly became door stoppers. After that, I visited Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo to see if they had any short courses on pattern making. The idea of studying something as complex as patternmaking scared me as I knew it meant learning a whole new set of vocabulary. It was during this time my partner and myself were at a crossroad about living in Japan. We had been deciding whether to stay and live in Japan permanently or return back home. If we stayed, then I would study Japanese full-time, so I could learn pattern making in Tokyo and my partner would seek work in IT.
As it turned out, our other goals that we had made together made it impossible to us to stay in Japan, as a result it was decided to return back to Melbourne.
Before we left I researched pattern making schools in Melbourne and found one that offered a part-time course in pattern making and construction. When I returned I enrolled and began the course, but I found it wasn’t really for my learning style. Everything that the full-time course offered was crammed into two three hour lessons. There was too much to learn, so a lot of students quit the course. My turning point was when we had a pattern making test. The class had not learned one of the tasks that had to be completed in the test, so it was decided to quickly teach the technique before the test.
Being a teacher myself, I knew this was a very poor way to teach and learn, so I ended up refusing to complete tests and assignments and just focused on learning patternmaking skills instead. Sadly, like most people who finished the course I ended up losing all my sewing confidence and didn’t touch my industrial sewing machine for nearly 12 months.
What made you choose and learn pattern making from Ann at Designer Stitch? (Ignore her fabulous personality)
Sorry Ann, but somehow you made it to the bottom of my list! But I’d like to blame that on google as I didn’t find you on my first couple of searches. After the disaster at the fashion school, whose name I won’t mention, I was looking for a school that had small numbers and where I could learn at my own pace. There was only one that I could find that was in the east of Melbourne and when I called to discuss the cours on offer the owner told me she wasn’t keen on having men at her school since she only knew about female pattern making. That was actually fine by me as I wanted to learn about pattern making for women, but the owner was not convinced! I also emailed someone I knew who had attended the school asking for her opinion, but she never replied, so it was a bad sign from the start!
What attracted me to Designer Stitch was the fact I could learn what I wanted at my own pace, but under Ann’s guidance. In addition Ann is a qualified teacher, so understands about learning styles and is very patient which is handy for me as my memory is like a sieve. I know I can ask Ann the same question 10 times and she won’t say “I’ve already told you that”.
What did you first undertake in the pattern making class?
The first thing I made was a skirt pattern. Rather basic I know, but the previous school was that bad I didn’t even know how to make a skirt! Ann requested I be really creative with the design lines, which was the challenging part of the exercise.
Tell us about your trials and tribulations and hurdles sampling your 1st garment.
Developing the first pattern and making the first sample is the easy part. It’s the tweaking that I dislike, as it can take a bit to arrive at a finished pattern. I was told from someone that in the rag trade if a garment can’t be perfected at the 3rd go, then it’s dumped as it just becomes too expensive to keep working on it.
You are going to run a small line of classic vintage clothes – where do you get your inspiration from?
A lot of my inspiration comes from the design lines of a vintage piece then using that to make something different, but vintage in it’s essence. For example, I sold an early 60’s wiggle dress that had pleats in all the right places and I made a mental note of it for future use. Later, I came across a vintage top which had a pussybow. It was then I thought the top would look better in the form of a dress with the pleats from the 60’s wriggle dress.
Tell us about how you are developing your dresses for your line.
I usually begin with an idea in my head and go with that. I know it’s best to use inspiration boards, then from there create designs, but I have a reputation for taking shortcuts in class so I may as well run with that one. Once I have an idea for a dress, I begin with a development pattern and add design lines. From there the pattern is traced off in pieces and a seam allowance is added. Next the first sample is created, then put on a manninquin to check if it fits well. Any changes that need to be made to the dress are noted and are adjusted on the development drawing. After making the adjustments the pattern pieces are traced off again and another sample is made. By this stage I prefer to use fabric that I will be using to make the final dress from as it gives me a better idea of how the final design will look. If I am happy with the final sample then the dress is graded into different sizes.
When you were making patterns for your vintage dresses, what hurdles did you encounter?
Grading was not a hurdle. It was a MOUNTAIN. Mt Everest in fact! After learning the basics of grading I began applying those principles to my patterns. When I was halfway through my grading, which was size 8 to 18 I realised I hadn’t added a seam allowance on the dress! I don’t even know how it happened. Part of the reason for the ‘error’ could have been due to the trauma I was experiencing of grading, which is really hard!
How did you resolve them?
Cried a lot (on the inside!), then took a step back to think about if I really needed to do it myself and also considered the time constraints I had. I realised I needed help so, I begged a nice patternmaker to grade them for me (wink!).
What was the hardest thing about pattern making when you were making you patterns?
Tell us about sourcing you fabric. How easy was it?
Sourcing fabric is really difficult in Melbourne. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was one of the many reasons why most clothing manufacturing is offshore. Wholesalers won’t allow you to purchase a sample of fabric so you can check if the fabric would be suitable for a pattern. This is the reason why I am currently researching into off shore production myself.
Your pattern making journey is a long one – What would you like to achieve?
I would like to be able to make well designed clothes and to be able to confidently grade. I realise it’s a big goal, but I have a knack for achieving them. As long as I am mindful it will take a long time, then it will be okay.
What advice would you give to others who would like to start a small business?
It takes more than ideas and creativity to start a business. The number one quality you need to start and keep a small business running is drive and self motivation. This is something that you cannot learn. You either have it or you don’t. Without it, a business will fail. Alternatively, you could always hire someone who has that drive, but who has $100k at the beginning of a business? Not me!
You also need to be willing to change your business strategy if it’s not working. Sometimes just a small pivot will do the trick.
And finally, it’s impossible to be a pro at everything, so get someone who can instead, so you can focus on what you are good at in your business. Even though my business consists of just me, I have a team of consultants that I utilise.
What do you think about pattern making classes?
I’ve discovered that to be a pattern maker your brain must be wired a certain way and as a result some people get it and most don’t. I’m in the ‘most don’t’ category and I’m okay with that. As for class, it’s important to be realistic. It is impossible to become a patternmaker in a term. Pattern making takes time as there is a lot to learn, so practicing at home and bringing in projects that been worked on from home helps to speed the Learning process.
Thank you Jason for speaking with me and I hope to showcase more of your Vintage inspired clothing in the near future.
And I am sure that you all loved reading about Jason’s business endeavours.
Cheerio and Good Luck to you all.
Ann from Designer Stitch School of Fashion and Design