The fashion design process - Royal College of Art


In transforming their designs into 3-D garments, fashion designers enter a problem-solving stage. Traditional methods of making, as well as innovation and experimentation with materials, cut and construction, are vital to this process.

The 2008 fashion graduates use a vast range of techniques to create and control the shape of their garments. They tailor, stitch, mould and build supports for rigid leather, soft fur, thick wool and fluid textiles. Some of them experiment with mock-ups in inexpensive materials such as calico or paper.

Instruction in pattern-cutting, tailoring, fibre identification and the sourcing of materials provides a good foundation for this work. The RCA also encourages corporate sponsorships, which can ease the financial burden of acquiring costly materials such as crystal, leather, lace and fur.


In creating their collections RCA fashion students have to develop their skills. They attend lectures and workshops in subjects such as dyeing, sewing, computer-aided design, knitwear construction and tailoring.

Aside from their tutors' knowledge and guidance, they have access to different types of technical equipment: laser cutters, digital printers, computerised knitting machines and sophisticated prototype systems.

Some students expand their options further through collaborations with colleagues from other disciplines, such as textiles, ceramics and glass, product design, jewellery and vehicle design.

This enormous wealth of resources allows students to experiment with many techniques. Several garments and accessories show a high-tech approach. Others are entirely handmade.


Detail, whether hidden, decorative or functional is an essential aspect of fashion design. Customised fastenings, decorative stitching, jewelled embellishment or a delicate print can make a garment truly unique.

As RCA fashion students develop their final collections, they use the many skills they have learned to define their work. Adding these often imaginative and subtle details involves rigorous experimentation. Collaboration with other students, institutions and industry partners helps where more specialist expertise is needed. Companies might donate expensive materials such as fur, crystal, lace and leather.

Close inspection of these garments reveals hand-dyed buttons, laser-cut acrylic, a bespoke zip-pull, crystal-embellished leather and delicate hand-stitching. These details improve the students' catwalk collections so discretely they must be seen up close to be appreciated.