In the world of fashion designing, fabrics are the foundation for every outfit as you cannot make an outfit without a fabric. Knowing the types of fabrics there are, how to identify good quality fabrics, and how to combine them is very important for fashion designers.
This week we spoke with Olateju Adedokun of 7th Avenue and Nana Ajala of O’Nana on the various types of fabrics in the Nigerian market today, how to identify quality fabrics, ways to combine fabrics, and ways they finish their fashion outfits.
Olateju Adedokun is the Founder and Creative Director of 7th Avenue, a fashion brand that specialises in bespoke and ready to wear outfits for the beautiful, confident, and classy woman. She is also the Founder of the 7th Avenue Fashion Academy which is a fashion education platform that focuses on teaching young fashion designers sewing and design skills as well as the fashion business.
She also founded Olateju Studio, an aso-oke footwear brand that will help you live your best life as well as 7th Avenue Production Company that deals in mass production of fashion items for fashion brands.
Olateju, who was a fashion designer in Nigeria for 7 years, moved to Paris to learn fashion technology to equip her with the knowledge to teach young fashion designers in Nigeria about it.
For her, a fabric is anything at all that can be used to create a piece of clothing. It could range from the regular materials everyone is familiar with to the new materials being invented nowadays. It could also be upcycled materials like nylon, paper, and the likes that are being used to create a piece of clothing.
Nana Ajala is the Founder and Creative Director of O’Nana by Nana Ajala, a fashion brand that caters to bespoke, ready to wear, bridal, and Haute couture needs of every woman no matter her dress size.
A graduate of International Relations from the University of Lagos, her strong passion for fashion pushed her to become a fashion designer. Her fashion brand, O’Nana by Nana Ajala has been in operation for 4 years.
In her opinion, a fabric is anything an item of clothing is made from. Fabrics can be made from either weaving or knitting
Types of Fabric
In the Nigerian market today, there are numerous types of fabrics being sold, the most common of which include;
Lace (cord lace, chantilly lace), cotton, silk (duchess silk, dull face, shiny face), polyester, rayon, crepe, silk satin, satin, stretchy fabrics, taffeta, lace, also-oke, aside, ankara, damask, crepe, denim, muslin, chiffon, linen, suede, velvet, satin, organza, tulle, leather, polyester, chiffon, cashmere, lycra, and many more.
All of these materials have unique properties and methods of usage.
What are the Ways to Identify Good Quality Fabrics?
In identifying quality fabrics when out shopping, there are various things to look out for. Generally, however, there are a few ways to use in determining how good the quality of a particular fabric is, they include;
1. The Texture of the Fabric
You won’t know except you feel what the real thing is like. – Olateju Adedokun.
The best way to know if a fabric is of good quality is through touching, feeling, and always having a sample of the fabric you intend to buy when going shopping. Depending on the look you are going for, you might want to pick a soft fabric or thick fabric.
2. The Construction of the Fabric
Another factor that can go a long way in helping you determine if a fabric is of high quality or not is its construction. You need to look out for things like the finishing, knitting, or weaving of the fabric to see if they were done properly and without error.
3. The State of the Fabric
Some fabrics we buy in the market sometimes have a production error on the prints. That is something to always look out for because the sellers might want to pull a fast one on you. – Nana Ajala.
The state of the fabric in terms of the condition it is in also shows whether a fabric is of good quality or not. When going shopping it is important to remember to check if the fabric is worn or torn in any area. Damage takes from fabric and reduces its value so you need to be careful about this when going shopping.
4. Ask Questions
Before going fabric shopping, especially as a new fashion designer, you need to ask questions. Ask fashion designers that have gone ahead of you and are more experienced than you are about who the trusted fabric vendors are in the market.
Since most fashion designers patronise the same vendors, who are trusted and sell quality, asking questions will lead you in the right way to go. You can also ask these vendors for their swatches, a book with fabric samples in it, to see what they have.
How can I Identify a Bleeding Fabric Upon Purchase?
In most cases, it is hard to identify fabrics that will bleed upon purchase, however, for patterned fabric, say ankara, if it will bleed later on there will already be signs of it on the fabric with colours seeming to run into each other.
Before sewing an outfit with a piece of fabric, however, there are ways to know if it will bleed or not. You can either pour water on it to see if the colours will run or cut out a small piece of white cotton fabric or muslin, dampen it and iron it on the fabric you’re putting to test. If the colours on the new fabric will bleed, it will appear immediately on the white fabric.
Buying fabrics that will not bleed still comes down to purchasing fabric from trusted vendors. Purchasing fabric from trusted brands like Vlisco and Veritable wax also helps eradicate any likelihood of purchasing low-quality fabrics.
What Are Some Things to Note in Pairing Fabrics Together?
When it comes to patterned fabrics, I, personally, think there are no rules. Literally, you can mix and match anything when it comes to prints. The more diverse and contrasting the mix, the more interesting the person or the personality tends to be. – Olateju Adedokun.
In pairing fabrics together, the major thing to look out for is the colour combination. You do not want to pair fabrics with so many colours and end up having your client looking like a ‘hot mess’. The colours you pick have to complement each other.
If you are a beginner, it will help you to match fabrics that have one colour in common, say red. If your fabrics have one colour that stands out and ties them together, combining them will be much easier.
The taste and preference of your client is the most important factor when it comes to pairing fabrics together for bespoke outfits. What the client wants and colours that will suit that client matters.
Don’t limit yourself, try new stuff, be experimental. Fashion is Art. I work with my clients’ skin tone, I determine which colours will best suit my client. I’m also very particular about patterns, I love to keep it simple so there’s not too much going on. – Nana Ajala.
Fabric Texture and Pattern
For beginners, it is usually best to stick to fabrics that have almost the same texture and weight to make it easier for you to work with and to manipulate. It is also advisable that you stay with fabrics that have the same pattern in different colours until you get the hang of mixing and matching fabrics.
Is There a Limit to the Number of Fabrics that can be Paired Together?
In fashion, there is no limit to the number of fabrics that can be paired together. Since fashion is all about creativity, you can blend as many fabrics as you like these days depending on the look you are going for. For example, denim, lace and Ankara, Velvet, adire and tulle, and many more can be combined together.
Basically, in fashion, there are no rules!
Every fashion designer has different levels of creativity and innovation and as such, there are no rules to limit the number of different fabrics that can be paired in one outfit. As a fashion designer, you need to have an eye for colour combination, prints, and determining what fabric will go with another to create a beautiful outfit.
How to Attain Neat Finishing for Outfits
One thing many designers know is that finishing makes the dress. Your finishing, as a fashion designer who is trying to build a great brand, is one thing that differentiates your outfits from those of the regular tailors who are just trying to make a living with their fashion business.
In aiming for neat finishing, it is important to have seamless finishing for all the outfits your fashion brand produces. Seamless finishing in that all your sewing and seam allowances are hidden. This can be achieved (on bespoke outfits) by making the lining of your outfit as full as the dress itself.
I make my lining as a different dress so it is like you have two dresses in one. I actually pay a lot of attention to my finishing – Olateju Adedokun.
For ready-to-wear dresses, you can make the finishing as a part seamless finish. This is where there is a seamless finish on the top of the dress but at the bottom of the dress, the ends are finished with bias finishing, reversible finishing, french seam, or overlocking.
Also, to achieve neat finishing for your outfits it is important to iron from beginning to end of production and to make sure no loose threads are hanging anywhere on the outfit.
I cut out any loose threads before ironing and packaging. I also make sure to iron from beginning to end of the production. Attach my tags and seal them in packing nylon to make it look very presentable. – Nana Ajala.
Olateju Adedokun said, “Be true to yourself. Fashion designing is so much more hard work than glamour, but it’s worth it in the end.”
Nana Ajala said, “Lastly, I’ll love to say that as fashion designers we need to be very creative and experimental, watch fashion shows, let the environment you are in and other fashion designers inspire you but NEVER COPY their designs. Learn to create your own. Think outside the box when it comes to fashion because fashion is very versatile.” She also added that as a fashion designer, “you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. Make sure to capitalize on your strengths and work on your weaknesses. “