This season, we’re following designer Luis Bonfiglio as he puts together a collection – from the first inception of the designs through to the finished pieces. This issue, we hear about the process of starting to create designs for a new collection.


What are the next steps after I have created my moodboard and colourboard, and sketched all my finalised designs?   After choosing the design I would like to realise, the next step is creating the pattern. There are two ways in which you can create a pattern, either by drawing them on sheets of paper or by draping with muslin on the dress form.   My personal preference is to use both techniques and with this collection, the pattern making consisted of 80% draping and 20% of drawing on paper.

So, let’s start these amazing and incredible steps.

1) Marking: Marking is the first step before draping the muslin on the dress form.  I begin by using marking tape to mark all the lines from my sketch onto the dress form. I mark the shape of my neckline, the armscye and all the other lines I need for my pattern. This procedure is done on the front and then repeated on the back of the dress form.

If I have a design which has the same pattern on both the left and right sides eg. a skirt, I normally mark only half of the dress form as one side mirrors the other side. However, if I have to create an asymmetric design, then I need to mark the entire dress form because, in the end, I will have pattern pieces that will look different from each other.

2) Draping: Once I have marked all the lines of the design, I will start to drape the pattern. This is actually my favourite part, to be honest, as it’s pure handwork and very interesting. I do all of my drapings with muslin. What is muslin? Muslin (also mousseline) is a cotton fabric of plain weave. It is made in a wide range of weights. From delicate sheers to coarse sheeting. Muslin is used for making test garments before using the original and more expensive fabrics.   I prefer to use a mid-weight. I cut out a large piece from my roll and I iron it first, just in case it might shrink a bit. Most fabrics will shrink a bit after washing or ironing it.   I usually start with the front part. I pin the muslin on the centre front and then use my hands to mould the fabric into shape to where I marked the dress with marking tape. This needs a lot of delicate handwork because you have to feel how to use the fabric and how to mould it organically into shape. Depending on the design, sometimes you have to listen to the fabric and you might end up doing little changes from what you sketched originally.  

After I’ve completed draping the muslin, I pin everything nicely into position and also ensure that the darts are pinned. As the muslin has a mid-weight and is slightly seethrough, you will perfectly see all the marked lines from your marking tape. I then use a pencil and mark all the lines on the muslin. I mark all the outlines and all the seams that I will sew together. The darts need to be marked as well. I do this with all the pieces from the front and back sides. Sometimes I end up with only two pieces of patterns, and sometimes I end up with ten different pieces which will be sewn in double together (but the sewing part will be explained next time).   When I drape, often I get some tension on the neck and on the armscye area, this tension needs to be cut out or in with small cuts into the fabric.   Once I have marked all the lines I need, I double check everything before I take all the pins off.

3) I put all the fabric pieces flat on the table which are marked with the pencil, I cut all around the lines, and I leave one centimetre sewing allowance on the edges. When I’ve finished cutting all the pieces out, I double check them to see if all the pencil markings look nice and are correct.

4) Now comes the first test. As I’ve left one centimetre sewing allowance, I use this allowance to pin all the seams together and close all the darts as it would look when it’s sewn. This is the first test that is done to see what the pattern looks like and If there are any changes I need to do. If there are changes to be done, I mark them with a different colour pencil or marker.   After pinning all the pieces together, I place it on the dress form and check the design.  Again if anything needs changing, I mark it with a marker and If I’m happy with the first test, then I take the pattern off the dress form, remove the pins and then iron the pattern so that it’s totally flat.

5) Now is the time for sewing the prototype.   I sew the prototype also with muslin first. So I cut out the amount of muslin needed and place the muslin patterns on the fabric. I then pin them together and cut out the pieces. I then sew all the pieces together, including the seams and darts. I try to sew the prototype as I would sew it with the original fabric, as accurate as possible and this will save you so much time later on.   From my experience, when I sewed the prototypes, I often noticed which techniques I have to use later on and which steps are to follow first etc.   For the prototype, I don’t use any zippers as it would be a waste of time and money, I just pin the place where the zipper should come in together. Once I completed sewing the prototype, it is placed on the dress form and I check it thoroughly to ensure that the design looks perfect and just as I wanted to have it or if there is anything to change for later on.

All the required changes will be written down on a piece of paper like “give five millimetres extra on side seam” or “Darts at the back need to be one centimetre longer” or so.  If I’m happy with the result, then I take a picture from the front, side, and back. I like to keep these pictures with me for reference when I go to purchase the original fabrics. But you will read all about that in another issue of London Runway.

Photography by Tim Van Der Most

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