Behind The Scenes – Designing A Collection

As we’re getting closer to the launch of the SS17 Collection, I thought I’d share a bit about what goes into designing each of these quarterly releases at Manic Trout.

In the months leading up to a new collection, I begin by gathering images and notes, often scribbled on scraps of paper, and pinning them to a big canvas covered board in the studio. Usually there are notes for a few collections scattered around the board, including design ideas that have been great, just were had at the wrong time of year or that haven’t yet fit into a collection story. I print out any predicted trends and colors and stick those there as well. There are a few images torn from magazines or printed out up there in between all of the notes. Also on that board are my guidelines for where I am in the market and what I need to be in price point wise to make sure I’m not getting crazy with gem lust. There is a schedule of release dates for the next four collections, including how many pieces I need to design for each. The other constant piece of the board is the collage of my muse, whom I am always designing for.

On a shelf in the studio is my second pre design catch all…this is where the 3d items live: the gems, beads, animals, little bits and inspirations, all of the pieces that I pick up and find somehow connect to what I what I am feeling for an upcoming collection. Everything is as usual, stacked in paper bowls.

When it comes time to design. I gather everything inspiring me on my desk (I have a big desk for this reason) and make a nest of it all around me. I begin by reviewing every single thing and then editing out what I’m no longer feeling. The edits either go back on the board/shelf for a later collection or in the trash. When designing a collection, I want to pieces to tell a story all together, yet each be strong enough on their own to stand apart. There needs to be the right amount of over the top crazy pieces, whimsical pieces and sparkly neutral pieces. Everything must work together and fit in with the season, the styles and trends, while remaining unique, functional and pretty. I review my muse collage as well as my mission, which is to design jewelry to make you feel empowered, look pulled together and for each piece on it’s own, to be a special work of art to make you feel special.

So with all of this fresh in my head, I then start to sketch. At this stage, there is no wrong. I just go.

Once I have my sketches laid out, I head to my go to gem suppliers and see what I’m feeling, what’s available and what I think will be desired for the season. Then I research. I find the research phase is done after I let my creativity fly or it confines me too much. I pour over what my best sellers have been for the past year, what is exciting my trouties on social media, what I have had requested for custom orders. This is where my notes from the board about trends, market placement and price points come onto play as well. I edit out designs that are not working together, that I don’t like after I see what the materials to make the design actually look like (3d does not always look as good as 2d) or that do not fit into my price points or the season.

After I have the designs pared down, I gather the actual stones or print out images of them and play around with every thing. This is such a helpful stage, where I am starting to seeing everything together, making sure all of desired elements are included, looking at is as a whole instead of parts. Another round of editing naturally happens at this stage as I realize that something is missing (usually earrings) or that some pieces stick out too much and are not cohesive.

I then test out the pricing of materials to make sure I’m within my range, again, gem lust is a real thing and it’s easy to get really excited about gemstones and then realize that they are crazy expensive…which is mainly why I design the M Collection for one of the quarters, because I can go crazy!

Now I start to really get into the nitty gritty of what the reality is of cuts and colors available and how they match up with my designs. There are typically a few restless nights during this phase as I have designs constantly being worked on in my head, and it seems that the tired, winding down time is when my brain likes to problem solve (night owl problems). There are so many mornings when the first thing I do it redo/tweak the sketches with what I thought about that night! I also tend to panic at this stage that I have it all wrong and ask for advice on social media about what people are feeling when I show them certain images. This often leads to feeling better about my decisions/changing a few things around. But finally, my mapped out color combos/gemstones/animals on paper are becoming a more realistic mock up and are begin to excite me/make me what to throw up with fear of rejection. I start to see all of the pieces together and am sure that they are telling the story well. When everything feels good, I order materials.

Sometimes when the gems and animals arrive, it’s a disappointment, and sometimes, I’m delighted. I hope for every thing being what I at least expected. There are of course times when I have to back up a few steps as gems look different, the animals didn’t turn out in 3d how I thought they would, whatever. If that’s the case, I repeat the last few things until it all looks right

Once I have all materials gathered, I start to make the samples. This again is a time where things can not come together as well as I wanted them to. Changes to design as the pieces turn into wearable objets happen all the time to make sure the fit is correct, everything lays beautifully and is comfortable, the colors are what I was going for (gems are natural, they not always are the colors that I expected). Sometimes steps are repeated, sometimes not. This is why there are long lead times for doing each of these steps, I have time to go back and fix what isn’t right.

When the samples are done, I wear the pieces around to make sure they feel good on and adjust if they do not. I then photo all of the jewelry, edit the photos, name and price everything, and make the line sheets. Before the collections are released, I pitch the press, bloggers and stores (in theory, but I am really bad about this one step!). A couple of days before the debut date (March 1st for SS17!) I write the descriptions. The day before the release, I do all of the website updates. This step ALWAYS takes longer than I plan on it. Even if I give it extra time.

Often by the time the collection debuts, I am so sick of looking at the collection, lol. This however is when I finally share the jewelry with you! So I rally and get excited. I may have been showing peeks, but now I send out the emails, list on other sites (amazon handmade, etsy etc) and share on social media. The last thing I do, is gather up all of the paper from the design process, the bits from the board, the pricing and description notes, everything about the collection. I stick them all in a binder pocket in a “Collection Notes” binder. This is the final step and my kind of finale action for that collection. Now on to the next one!

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