Embellishment Design - Guest Blog Post from Burcu Kilic, Embellish Me BK

Expert Advice

Have you ever wondered what ‘embellishment designing’ is? I still get confused stares every time I tell someone. Very few people know. Those that do know are the ones who have actually encountered it or done it themselves.

I’m an embellishment designer and I’ve done this for over 7 years. I actually have a degree in it too, and I can proudly say that this is my job title, a title that not a lot of people understand.

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I’ve been on a mission to explain and educate what this title is all about.

I know you’re familiar, or even fans, of Dior & Elie Saab’s bead work. An embellishment designer would be the one who designs and puts this work into production. Our job is to come up with the research, create samples and technical packs ready for sampling, and be in contact and liaise with factories to get these ready for production once the sample has been approved.

I understand that you’re reading this because you have some sort of interest starting up, or are up and running fashion labels. Now the question is have you ever wanted to incorporate embellishment designs into your range but didn’t have a clue how to start, what to do, what to prepare for factories to get clear, accurate instructions sent to them for a smooth sampling and production process?

This is where I want to share some simple steps to get you thinking.

Step 1

It’s so important to have embellishment research images collected as these will help when trying to give clear instructions to the factory. This stage also helps with designing too.

I usually select 2-3 images, circle areas I am inspired by, and combine them together, changing the colours and placements so that I’ve got something completely different from the images, avoiding the common mistakes of copyrighting issues.

Step 2

This is my favourite part, this is where you create something called an ‘artwork & key’. This is an accurately drawn design where by you draw the correct size of the beads, sequins or anything you’re using for your surface embellishment. If it’s a row of beads in the shape of a flower, then you make sure the flower is in the correct scale you want it to be on the garment. The best way to do this is by tracing out a copy of the pattern piece of your garment (only the section you want embellished) and drawing directly onto it so you can visually understand if you are happy with the scale of it on the garment. I usually hold it up against a mannequin or person to see if the drawing is too large or too small etc. But the beads you draw out will always need to remain to correct scale. I use a shape stencil to draw out different measurements of circles quite quickly, saving me time from measuring my hand-drawn circles as I used to do when I first started out.

Step 3

The key. This is where you colour in all the shapes that represent different beads or techniques. You need to create a table with the following headers:

Key, Bead/Component, Size, Colour.

The best method to follow for the “bead/component” section is sticking down the exact beads you’d like them to use, but you can give them different “colour” and “size” instructions so you’re not hunting for these yourself. The factories have access to so many sizes and colours so don’t feel shy to use their resources!

Step 4

Once you’ve created your technical pack, you want to include the research imagery you initially used for your inspiration. This should be included in the technical pack so it gives the factory an understanding and feel of what you have envisaged. Trust me this works a treat, and helps them so much. The last thing we want to do is make their work difficult for them and allowing room for errors.

Step 5

Lastly, you should then expect to have your initial sample back from the factories within 2-4 weeks (depending on what they’ve quoted), and this is where you can make any notes or comments based on the sample. It’s a great idea to have all your samples sent and then arrange a visit to your factory to get involved with the process by advising and adjusting as its being created in-front of your eyes. This could possibly feel costly because of the flight and accommodation costs, but think about the bigger picture as it could save you stress, more costs, frustration and a collection you don’t like.

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I would say this is the best thing to do when you work with a factory for the first time, as you want to get to know their style and way of work, and once you’ve established a good relationship and understanding you won’t need to attend factory visits frequently each time as you would have a better understanding of how they work and operate. It’s always good to know who you’re working with anything and what conditions their staff work in, so without a doubt factory visits are a must have in my opinion.

This process may seem lengthy and daunting for some, but believe me it’s incredibly exciting and enjoyable once you see results! I enjoy this process so much and although it can come with stress when things don’t go the right way, I know that frequent contact and addressing miscommunication early on has helped abundantly.

I hope this inspires you to try it out for your own collections, who knows what wonderful embellishments you will create, you can even join me on my mission to make this title wide spread! Let’s be the ones educating our peers and reviving this beautiful trade.

You can find out more about what I do by heading over to my Instagram page on https://www.instagram.com/embellish_me_bk/

Burcu Kilic

Embellish Me BK

Embellishment designer & tutor

www.burcukilic.co.uk