Wednesday, August 6, 2008

becoming a knitwear designer: the retail years

after graduating college, i moved to the boston, massachusetts area to work on a ladies' sportswear line. i spent about two years doing product development for them, with varying degrees of responsibility. our design director developed most of the group concepts, color stories, and prints for our lines, but the rest of us on the design team collaborated with her as well. after the groups were established, we created and specified garments, embroideries, prints, and appliqu├ęs for our own portion of the line. we would then have to put the styles actually ordered through a series of approvals for color, pattern, fit, and construction. and finally, we would have to grade the styles for the different sizes we offered. at any given time, we would be working on multiple seasons so we would often be developing one season while doing approvals for one or two others. it was great to be able to work on all parts of the development process; having to do the more technical end of things helped us develop smarter to begin with. i enjoyed this job for its variety and the great group of people i worked with. but, i'm a midwesterner at heart and missed being closer to family. so, after two years, my husband and i decided to move back closer to home.

my next job was with a major girls' retailer doing product development. this role was fairly undefined at first as the buyers all did their own product development prior to me joining the company. i had to put many systems in place to help improve the process. sizing and grading needed to be evaluated to make it more uniform. for the first two years, i developed the specifications for most product categories there as well as doing all the fit approvals. thankfully there was someone else to approve color and pattern (there are only so many hours in the day). as the company grew, so did the department. a separate creative design department was added. my job became more and more narrowly focused; which kind of took the fun out of it for me. i learned tons and got to travel some places i would never have gone to otherwise (although i didn't get much opportunity to see much outside the offices and factories i was visiting). i spent 11 years there so i met and worked with many different people. some continue to be life-long friends.

all during my retail career, i kept knitting. mostly i knit baby gifts. i rarely knit something from a pattern so i was designing sweaters all along. here are a few of those early designs:

so, when my department was re-organized and there was no longer a place for me, it seemed natural that i try do something with my knitting. in my next post on this, i'll talk about what i've done with my knitting up until now.