We aim to design well crafted, beautiful and functional garments that will serve as the building blocks for your forever wardrobe. Pieces that will last and compliment your life.
Our main inspiration is always the shape of a woman’s body. From this foundation, every collection starts with an idea, theme or feeling that sparks the creative process. I gather these ideas throughout the year to inspire my work. So when it comes to designing a new collection, I dive into my treasure trove of collected ideas and the process of researching and creating begins.
This is how our signature laser cut design detail was born. I was given a book about WWII by a friend one birthday, All the light we cannot see, a novel by Anthony Doerr. I was fascinated by Marie-Laure, a character in the book who was blind. This led me to research braille and experiment with different applications and techniques to translate the feeling of braille under your fingertips onto fabric. The end result was our laser cut designs, where I fell in love with their magical movements and textures in the breeze.
Once my story and inspiration behind the collection feels concrete, I start sketching all my ideas onto paper, focusing on design details like silhouettes, sleeves and necklines. Sketching these ideas out is always a lot of fun, and is an organic part of the process that helps develop clarity on where the collection is going.
I have a checklist to ensure each collection includes a variety of garments that celebrate different shapes and sizes, an important ingredient in our brand DNA of inclusivity. Each collection needs to include occasional pieces, everyday pieces and investment pieces broken down into a mix of dresses, tops, bottoms and coats. Another essential ingredient is to honour my brand’s philosophy of easy on-and-go pieces for the modern woman to slip into. Lastly, I reflect on the previous season’s best sellers and re-design them in a way that feels fresh.
Simultaneously, while all the sketching and planning is happening, I meet with our fabric agents to view the fabrics available and on offer in South Africa for the coming season. Fabric agents arrive at our studio with suitcases filled with swatch cards and prints to choose from. Sometimes I instantly fall in love with a fabric or print, sometimes I don’t find anything that feels right for the collection. This is a challenge of limited selection I overcome by getting creative with what is available.
Another challenge designers are faced within South Africa are limited quantities of fabrics available. There is a big chance the fabric you love is already sold out or snatched up by another designer or big retailer. For a small designer, these are heart-breaking problems! Luckily, there is always the option to print my own patterns onto fabric, dye the fabric a specific shade, laser-cut fabric panels or incorporate embroidery on fabric to give it IDV’s unique edge.
I have familiar favourites I like to work with like silky bonbon for our signature wrap dresses and 5-way jumpsuits, and I’m always experimenting with some new textiles to sample with. I always make sure to have a mix of natural and synthetic, stretch and woven fabrics, plains and prints in each collection.
I love drafting patterns by hand. We make all our patterns in our studio using large rolls of pattern cardboard and an armoury of different rulers and pens. After 10 years of pattern making for the brand, we have quite an extensive library of patterns displayed in our studio as a feature wall. Patterns are an extremely important part of creating a well-fitted garment and I’m proud to have spent years tweaking and perfecting ours. Each pattern holds valuable information about the garments size, notches, darts, pocket placements and grain lines to name a few. This information is used by the cutter when cutting the garment. To cut the garment the cardboard patterns are placed on top of the fabric and traced with a marker (we prefer to use a soap bar). The cardboard pattern then gets removed from the layer of fabric and the cutting can begin.
Sampling is the process of developing a new garment to make sure the fabric and pattern work together, keeping the end design in mind. The fabric and pattern need to be best friends. It’s a process of trial and error. We sometimes sample the pattern in a couple of different fabric options to make sure we get it right. These samples never go to waste as we sell them at our sample sales at the end of each season.
During this stage in the process decisions regarding the construction, finishing methods and thread choices are made.
Lazarus in our sewing department, who is also my right hand in the studio, expertly sews up the fabric cut from our pattern into a 3D garment. It is truly an exciting and magical experience witnessing the flat fabric pieces come alive as our design vision takes shape. After the sample garment is completed, it is steamed, ironed and sent back to the pattern department for a fitting.
Our sample gets fitted on a mannequin and a real-life body so we can investigate any changes we need to make regarding the fit, length, finishing or design details. If changes need to be made, we go back to the 1st pattern and adjust accordingly. This process is repeated until we are happy with the design fit.
With the finished sample in hand, we have a rating (the amount of fabric each dress takes to make) for each style. Rough cost estimates are part of the design process as well—we need to determine if a style is practical to produce based on the amount of fabric it takes, the material cost, and the sewing time it requires. We get an idea of what the retail price will be and decide if it feels appropriate and if the style can move forward, or what needs to be re-worked, or scrapped altogether. Once we are happy with our sample’s fit and cost, it is time to grade the pattern.
Grading is a method of using specific calculations and methods to scale a pattern up a size or down a size. We believe in celebrating all women’s different body shapes and sizes by grading a wide and inclusive size curve in our brand. If a design doesn’t work for our broad size curve, we don’t include it in our collection.
Patterns are graded by hand from a size 32 - 48. It’s a labour-intensive process that results in a lot of cardboard paper cuts and ink blotched wrists. I have perfected our own grading method when it comes to curve sizes over the years. Our base patterns are a size 36 and a size 44. From the base sizes, we grade our way up and down for the entire size curve. We have different grading rules we apply for specific patterns and fabrics to keep our sizing reliable and true.
After all, our patterns are perfected and graded and our final samples for the new collection are made, we are ready to do a photoshoot. The photoshoot gives us an opportunity to share our inspiration, the garments, as well as our brand DNA, with you.
It takes a village to shoot a collection: There are many pieces that need to come together to shoot a successful campaign. We are so lucky to work with Bernard Brand. He is an immensely talented photographer and just an all-around great guy. When it comes to models, we have exclusively been using Tulie and Mieke for the past couple of years as they both embody our brand’s DNA of diversity and inclusivity. Thankfully, they keep saying yes to being our models! – It’s a relationship we treasure.
The logistics of arranging a shoot involves booking the team, confirming a day everyone is available, sending out mood boards to the team with specifications regarding styling, make-up & hair options, sourcing accessories, steaming the collection, getting snacks and refreshments and making sure everything is ready for shoot day. We use our beautiful studio as the shooting location - It’s the perfect background to each collection with everything we need at arm’s length. It’s a day filled with fun, where our work and vision come together.
MARKETING AND PRODUCT RELEASE
After the photoshoot, we select the images for the collection release. These images get developed into a lookbook and sent to our stockists for orders. We also upload these images on our online store for our customers to view each garment from a different angle and on different size models. We generate SKU’s (stock keeping unit or product code) for the website, garment descriptions and care instructions for each garment. Thereafter, we finalise pricing and take care of all the back-end stuff.
As a business owner, you just can’t do everything yourself – so we work with people that are experts in their field. Graphic designer Zani from Stray Dog Studio is just that – she takes care of our marketing material, swing tags, logo designs, mailers and prints. The rest of our marketing strategy consists of developing and sending out newsletters, emails and posting on our social media platforms to connect with our stockists, clients and fans.
CUT PREP & PRODUCTION
At this stage, our collection has launched online and we are receiving all your orders while doing a little happy dance. Our decision to make on order is not only because we are a small team, but it’s also the most sustainable way of producing fashion.
When we receive your order, we have already ordered bulk fabric from our suppliers or invested in our own in-house print for example our scrabble print or wonder woman design. All the trims and labels are ready for production and Lazarus has made his construction notes on the styles for the collection.
As soon as orders start flowing in, we begin planning our production schedule. We can only produce a certain number of garments in our studio and we prefer it this way. Small production runs give us the opportunity to ensure each garment is made to our quality standards. Each garment gets the love and attention it deserves.
I cut each garment either by hand or with the help of an electric cutting machine (this is especially great for the thick winter fabrics as cutting can be unforgiving on hands and joints). After cutting the garments, the material will be sent to our sewing room where Lazarus will select thread and trims before sewing each item from start to finish. We feel so lucky to make beautiful garments we love every day. Hint: look on the inside of your garment – you will see a satin tag just above the wash care with the name of the person who made it.
All our samples and production are made in-house in our sunny studio in Pretoria hidden away in a lush forest garden with our studio assistant, Gizmo (a little four-legged fluff ball) keeping an eye over studio activities and operations. We have 4 machines in our sewing room and each garment goes through them all to ensure good quality and finishes. We have an industrial straight stitch, binder, cover seam and overlocker.
CUSTOMER CARE & FULFILLMENT
The final stage of our process is all about order fulfilment and customer care. It consists of ironing and steaming each garment, carefully making sure the thread and fabric are bonded and friends forever. The garment is inspected for any flaws (any flawed garments end up on at sample sale) and all the excess threads from the production process are trimmed away. The garment then gets tagged and folded.
We book a collection time with our Courier company and handwrite a special ‘’thank you’’ note to each client before carefully placing the garment/s in our fabric bags for packaging and delivery. Finally, the orders are ready for collection by either our clients or courier company. We love getting feedback and seeing images of our clients in our collections – it always makes our day and puts an extra big smile on our faces. Customer feedback is an important part of our process as it directly informs our future design decisions.
As a brand, we are very conscious about producing in a way that makes sense to us, the planet and mother nature. We believe it is our responsibility as designers and consumers to incorporate sustainable practices in our business and daily lives. We do little things that add up to make a big difference:
We use all our offcuts and small pieces of fabric to make beautiful fabric bags for our online orders. This initiative minimizes the plastic we use as a brand and gives an extra point of value to our clients. Nothing goes to waste.
We have a retirement programme for our items to make them into something useful and new. We promote repair rather than replace it with our @ Home repair kits.
In South Africa, most of the fabrics available are surplus from around the world. Instead of ending up in landfills, we as designers can create beautiful collections that our customers will keep, care for, mend, and use for years. The most sustainable garment is the one you use often and for a long time, and we try to make things that will encourage you to do just that.
Responsible labour – we produce all our garments in our sunny studio in Faerie Glen, Pretoria. It’s a beautiful place to work in and our team gets paid fairly for their contributions.
RESELL, REPAIR, & UPCYCLE
To ensure everything our studio makes has as long a life as possible, we have a repair and upcycle program, so it can be turned into something new when the functional life of an item comes to an end.
Items that have become damaged or are experiencing wear and tear can be sent back for repair or you can order a repair kit to enjoy the process at home. Items that have reached the end of their functional life can be sent back through the "End of Life " program. Heavily damaged items are deconstructed and turned into entirely new, "Upcycled" products.