Garnish is proud to be a locally owned business. From the very first sketch all the way down to the very last price tag, everything is produced right here in Portland and we seriously wouldn't have it any other way. With that said, we're thrilled to announce a new, innovative step that has made its way into this local system. Erica's home studio has officially been equipped with the largest technological advancement the Garnish collection making process has seen - a new digital plotter (and super high-tech new software called Optitex too)!
Now before we dive into all of the great benefits that this plotter and its accompanying software has to offer, let us give you a little run down as to how the collections are made in the first place. Erica will start off by buying the fabrics for that season. Selections are based off what she's personally drawn to, what would work well for both new styles and silhouettes that already exist in her style library, what fabrics mix nicely together and so on. The drape and hand of the fabrics will then play a huge role in what styles are brought into the upcoming collection. For example, if one of the fabrics is on the flowy side, then that will make a good flowy dress and will in turn mean a flowy dress is brought into the collection.
From here, Erica will create pattern pieces by hand using oak tag "slopers" (generic bodice, skirt, sleeve pieces). She will then manipulate them into any shape she desires by moving or releasing darts, creating style lines, etc to create the pattern pieces necessary to implement her vision.
Next, she will sew the sample of the garment so that she can see it in real life and make any additional tweaks and adjustments. Her philosophy has always been that if it doesn't look good on her, it doesn't get made, so you know nothing gets made that she isn't 100% behind!
After the samples are finalized, Erica will bring the patterns to her grader and marker maker. Grading is the process of translating the sample size pattern to all the other sizes we offer. Markers are long print-outs of all of the pattern pieces used in a style in each size. And by creating markers digitally we can ensure that we are able to most efficiently use the fabric, thereby saving on costs and reducing waste.
The markers and samples are then brought to local PDX seamstresses that Erica employs. The seamstresses will create the actual production runs of the garments, which are always limited edition and tend to fall in between 8-14 pieces in total. Upon completion, Erica will pick up the items and bring them to the shop. They'll get tagged and pressed by our team of stylists, put out into the shop, and eventually given a new home by one of our fabulous customers!
Now how exactly does the plotter and software assist with with this process? It helps out in two stages: Using the software, she'll be able to do the aforementioned shape manipulations via the program rather than by hand and using the plotter, Erica is able to print out the pattern pieces that she is creating to make samples. She'll then be able to digitally print markers for production cutting from the comfort of her own studio. These markers will trace the outlines of each shape that composes the garment, which will in turn make it easier to cut the fabric in the shape it needs to be. This is a huge improvement from having to drive back and forth between Tigard to get them, which is what she had to do in the past.
Erica designs all of her silhouettes and shapes herself, so this software and plotter can also help bring these ideas to life in a more seamless and efficient fashion. New silhouettes can be designed more effortlessly and existing ones can have their fit improved or even spawn new styles. The transition from concept to collection will ultimately become smoother thanks to this new, innovative step and we're thrilled to see these advancements reflected in the clothing itself.
Now, getting the plotter installed was no small feat - literally! Two ultra focused movers had to navigate this device up three flights of stairs in order to get it into her studio. And as you can tell by the pictures, this thing was huge.
Once installed, it went from physical work to brain work. With a fancy new printer comes a fancy new software system to learn, and Erica spent plenty of time with Garnish customer and pattern drafting whiz, Cindy, getting introduced to the advanced accompanying software, Optitex. It's a highly complex system and while there's definitely a lot to learn, it gave her an exciting glimpse into the many ways this technology can advance production making.
With that said, we're absolutely thrilled to put this thing to action! Erica is always looking for ways to produce the best quality clothing in the most innovative manner possible and we think the digital plotter and software will help achieve just that.