Sportswear design is about innovation and problem solving
Sportswear brands, whether their purpose is fashion, function or a combination of the two, all fall within a sector of the market, they all have a specific target market and they all have certain competitors. It is these particular subjects that are the focal point of influence and direction when designing new products and collections.
Regardless of what division of sportswear the brand is associated with, there will be direct focus on certain customers, products, competitors, price points and trade shows. As a designer for a brand of this nature, you would not be exposed to alternative markets within the industry, restricting the chance to look into other fields and enhance your understanding and knowledge.
Here at Blue Associates, we are currently working with 70 brands across around 16 different sporting disciplines. These range from the likes of cycle and golf to shapewear and maternity. Since starting my role here 3 years ago, I have been involved with over 40 brands, distributed between approximately 10 different categories of sportswear. This extensive opportunity for variation is what makes being a designer at Blue Associates both unique and refreshing.
Having previously been a designer for a Gym and Fitness brand, I am also familiar with the more common, one-dimensional working style and the limitations associated. Whilst change occurs within each market sector, certain constraints are present through a number of the different design aspects. First and foremost, product. There are only so many styles that are relevant to the Gym and Fitness field, for example, a technical all-weather jacket would be completely out of place.
Variety keeps design fresh
You design the same core range of products day in day out, and whilst you could undoubtedly suggest that this would make you an expert with superior knowledge of certain styles, it isn’t necessarily a healthy approach to innovation. Design is about revolution and difference, but it is extremely difficult to apply a fresh direction to a pair of leggings that you’ve re-created countless times previously. You become stale as a designer and in turn lose the essence of what it is to design. Correspondingly, fabric selection is another restriction. Whilst new fabrics are developed fairly regularly, you will always have to work within the boundaries of what is suitable and relevant to the products featured within the sector.
Another limitation is price point. To be competitive, brands need to price competitively, and stick within the parameters of their market price point. As a designer, price point dictates what you can and can’t do to a product, from fabric to trims, seamlines to stitching, all need to be carefully considered. If your price point remains the same, which it most likely will, then there will be very little difference as to what you can afford to include or use, product to product, collection to collection.
By comparison to my previous job role, I am now immersed within a number of different sportswear divisions on a constant basis, developing a wide scope of different products, utilising a vast range of fabrics and trimmings. Each project is different and in turn, each day is different, going from designing for one sporting discipline to the next, with transitional ease.
Whilst all of our projects are separate, they become intertwined by the way in which we challenge the transferability of each individual sport, and the core design values that are associated with the required kit.
For example, when creating an athleisure-style women’s cycling collection, I combined my knowledge and awareness of both the Cycle industry and the Gym and Fitness market, in order to generate designs that perform for the purpose of cycling, whilst maintaining aesthetic appeal to also function as leisure sportswear off the bike. This exploration into transferring skills and understanding from one sector to the next, extracts creativity and challenges us as designers to pursue innovation in all that we do.
Working across different sporting disciplines ensures variety. Each working week poses new tasks and challenges with both design and development remaining fresh and engaging. We are not at risk of tedium evolving, as a direct result of focusing solely on one subject.
It would be very easy to get bogged down repeating the same design process on a regular basis, developing the same types of products time and time again. This capacity to maintain, attraction and interest towards work at hand, subsequently benefits the design process, your attitude and vision remains fresh, allowing you to produce stronger results.
In my opinion, the key principles of design are innovation and creativity. You should pursue originality and endeavour to push the boundaries, in order to produce diverse and unique products. Combining imagination with skill and knowledge, will lead you to discover the endless possibilities obtainable through the art of design. Here at Blue Associates, we are fortunate to receive exposure to a rich array of sportwear sectors, this provides stimulation and inspiration, ensuring that we are continually keeping our design work fresh.
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Head Designer & Project Manager