Let’s talk about the design process

The eight steps of our design and development process

Recently we asked you what you’d like to know about what’s happening behind the scenes here at Valiant HQ and the resounding response was that you’d like to know more about the design and development process from start to finish. Ask and you shall receive!

What is the design and development process we’re following and how are we getting from our initial ideas to the finished items?

We think of the process as having 8 basic steps:

  1. Ideas, inspiration and moodboards
  2. Technical drawings
  3. Sourcing
  4. Pattern making
  5. Samples and fit testing
  6. Grading
  7. Design approval
  8. Production (!!!!!)

Want to know a bit more about each step along the journey? Read on!

Ideas, inspiration and moodboards

We’ve already spoken a bit about our starting point for creating Valiant’s first collection.

We knew what we wanted and we reached out to you and asked what you want and need.

The overwhelming response was that, in addition to wanting something that is comfortable and sensitive to your body, you also want something beautiful, a bit luxurious, a bit sexy. And colourful!

So, taking that on board, we started planning the first collection.

We pulled together our notes on how we wanted our collection to feel (really lovely super soft fabric so they feel really nice against your skin and don’t irritate any sensitive areas or scars), how we wanted them to function (supportive, comfortable, non-wired, pocketed so they they can be used with or without breast forms) and how we wanted them to look (fun! feminine! sexy! colourful!).

We started to compile our ideas and refine them into our collection. we thought about the design (all the beautiful lace), the silhouette, construction and material.

Throughout this initial process (and the following steps), we have been keeping in mind women who have had different forms of reconstruction as well as women who use breast forms and women who don’t. Lots of you have been in touch with suggestions which is enormously helpful. Keep your suggestions coming!

Technical drawings

A sneak peek at a technical drawing

Things start to get technical…

We’re working with a specialist lingerie product development studio based in London: London Contour Experts.

Once we had compiled our ideas and inspiration and refined it in to the garments that will make up our first collection, LCE produced the initial technical drawings or “CADs”. These are essentially the blueprint for each design so they’re more than a fashion illustration; they begin to show elements such as placement and type of seams, components to be used and so on. They set out the map for the correct construction of each garment.

Ultimately, these technical drawings are used to create “tech packs”. Tech packs are so important. They are the full instructions that the manufacturer will ultimately use to create each item! They include every detail the manufacturer needs: the materials / components, colourways, details of the different sizes….

Sourcing

Once the technical drawings and tech pack have been created, it’s time to source the materials and components for each design.

Material choice is very important to us. We want something that looks great but feels amazing to wear too!

We’re going to write an entire post about fabric choices – that’s a story for another day!

Pattern making

Some of our first pattern pieces

Once the materials were sourced, our wonderful dream team at LCE created the first patterns.

Lingerie patterns can be pretty complex. This picture shows some of our first patterns pieces. There’s lots to think about – bras can be composed of between 20 and 40 different elements!

Samples and fit testing

This is when things start to feel real. Really real!

Working from the tech packs, technical drawings and first patterns, LCE created our first samples.

The samples were then reviewed and tested. This involved thinking about a few different things:

  • Design: how does the overall creative design look? Is it bringing to life the original ideas? Is it the beautiful garment we set out to create?!
  • Fit and function: is the garment fitting and performing as we want it to? Is it as comfortable and glorious as we hoped and dreamed?
  • Construction: are the technical elements of the construction working as they should? Do they add or subtract to the overall design? Does anything need to change?

After reviewing the first samples, and taking them on an extensive “test drive”, we were able to identify what’s working really well and what could be even better.

Following the initial samples and fit testing, LCE are working hard to amend the patterns to take into account any improvements we want to make. The next step is to test another round of samples to check that the improvements are as fabulous as we think they are.

Grading

Once the samples have been approved and the patterns are finalised, it is time to create the full size range.

Samples are created in one size. Once this is perfected, the patterns are “graded” so that every size in the collection can be created.

Grade fit test samples are then created so that our lovely lingerie can be fit tested on different sizes. We’re aiming to do this within the next month – exciting!

Design approval

Once we have finished the sampling, grading and fit testing process, it will be time to approve the designs!

Everything will be check a final time to ensure the tech pack is 100% accurate.

If no further changes are required…. it’s time for production!

Production

The collection is looking gorgeous! The lace is beautiful, the fabric soft, the colour combinations fun and flattering! It’s time to bring them into reality…

Each of our garments will be lovingly handmade for you in London. We’ve chosen to produce in London for a number of reasons, not least because we can satisfy ourselves that the whole team are paid a fair wage, have good working conditions and a proper work / life balance! We also like that we are able to work closely with our highly skilled manufacturing team to ensure our production is efficient, minimises waste and reduces our carbon footprint.

So that’s the basic “design and development” stuff. What does that mean in terms of the timeline? At the moment we’re in a really exciting stage… The first patterns have been designed and we’re about to start trialing second samples! In the next month we will be looking at how everything performs across the size range.

Once that’s done, we’ll be working full steam ahead toward our production run and our launch!

We’re so excited about what the next few months is going to hold. Thank you for being here with us from the beginning!

Meet Sarah; a wonderful flat fashion blogger and Trustee of Flat Friends UK

The amazing Sarah (@flatterfashion)

It’s Friday, it’s almost the weekend, it’s a beautiful day AND we have another amazing blog for you!

We’re thrilled to introduce today’s blog which is written by the wonderful Sarah. Sarah was one of the first people our founder, Eleanor, connected with on Instagram but it took Eleanor quite a while to realise that Sarah only lives a few miles away!

Sarah works full-time as a social worker having retrained after being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35. In her spare time she is a trustee of registered charity Flat Friends UK, and she is the founder of flatterfashion.co.uk.

Since she had a mastectomy without reconstruction, Sarah has been developing a fabulous resource of tips for dressing flat after single or double mastectomy – which can be found on her website or in Flat Friends’ patient booklet “Living without reconstruction”.

Sarah is also currently completing a year long “Outflat” fundraising campaign in aid of Flat Friends.

You can find Sarah at flatterfashion.co.uk and on Instagram at @flatterfashion.

Without further ado, here’s Sarah!

“It’s been said that being diagnosed with cancer is like sitting an exam in a foreign language you haven’t had time to learn. We have to rely on our healthcare team to translate for us and we go online in search of exam tips.

On 18th December 2014 I was diagnosed with a fast growing invasive breast cancer in my right breast after finding a small lump behind my nipple two months earlier. On instantly declining the idea of reconstruction my breast care team warned me I would be “very flat” and wouldn’t be able to find nice clothes. The Breast Cancer Care patient booklet on clothes told me that women living without reconstruction who don’t wear prostheses could “disguise” their chest by wearing scarves and loose fitting tops. I searched online: “Which clothes suit a flat chest?”, “Post-mastectomy fashion”, “Clothes without reconstruction”, “living and dressing flat” (and every configuration of those words you can imagine). A website about living flat had one page about clothing but frustratingly gave the same advice of baggy tops and scarves.

I was 35 and being told that if I didn’t reconstruct then I would need to spend the rest of my life concealing my body; as if the public shouldn’t be confronted by a woman without two breasts. Another thing which struck me was that there were only two varieties of living flat portrayed online: either needing to cover up, or wanting to appear androgynous. On finding Flat Friends a few months later I realised that’s far from the truth. “Flat” is the space where a breast once was, it’s not the whole of your chest nor how you choose to present your chest to the world. All women living without reconstruction after a single or double mastectomy – whether they choose to wear prostheses always, sometimes or never – are “Living Flat”.

After many days and weeks scouring social media I found two women in the UK and one in the US who were open about living flat and sharing photos of their daily lives without a strategically placed scarf in sight. I genuinely thought we must be the only ones; that everyone else was hiding in plain sight, or having recon. I imagined I wasn’t the first woman to be in this position; doubting a gut instinct because of how we’re expected to look. I quickly became concerned that some may agree to have reconstruction based on their team, cancer charities, or the internet telling them that the alternative will be unrecognisable and uninhabitable.

The thought that there may be women getting dressed each day in a cloak of secrecy, fearing if they do not obscure their chest then they risk offending society, inflamed an idea to create the resource I had been looking for. Within a couple of weeks of having my mastectomy I had worked out how to build a website and uploaded my first post: “The One Where I Tried On Everything In My 34DD Wardrobe”. I was having to start from scratch working out which fabrics, styles, shapes, designs, seams, and darts would flatter my new body shape.

The day before each chemo I would use my short-lived energy to go to a high street store and try on clothes. I photographed and documented each discovery for my website and social media, whilst picking out themes and criteria which eventually became my list of fashion tips for dressing single or double flat chests. Just as “Living Flat” is an inclusive term so is “Dressing Flat”. Dressing Flat is not the preserve of those who have no breasts, and is not describing an attempt to appear flat. It’s what each of us does every day when we pick out which top or bra to wear.

After five years of mastectomy fashion blogging I have compiled a wardrobe of clothes I feel comfortable and confident in. A huge variety of colours and prints, frills and ruffles, floaty and fitted. Everything from workwear, sportswear, and evening gowns to swimming costumes and bikinis. Plus a padded crop top and a pair of Knitted Knockers. That doesn’t mean I don’t have days when I think nothing looks right and I declare ‘I have nothing to wear!’ – that’s something that happens whether you have two breasts, one, or none. Most days I’m oblivious to my chest’s appearance – it’s my normal and I’m comfortable in my body. Some days I’m acutely aware I don’t have two breasts and I’m sure everyone is looking at me trying to work out what’s missing. But I don’t think you can tell that from my posts because online we are encouraged to share only our best moments – the enviable events; the picturesque location; an emotive attention-grabbing post, or the perfect outfit because they’re what get the most likes and comments.

I’ve never been your typical fashion blogger or instagrammer; rather than wanting to be an influencer I just want to create practical content for women to use when they’re wondering if they’ll be able to wear a bikini, a smart work outfit, or an evening dress if they don’t have reconstruction. The aim is to spare the next woman the initial ground work and trepidation when navigating clothes shopping without two breasts by sharing the basic principles. The rest – finding our own style and experimenting through trial and error – is something we each have to do as individuals, just as we did the first time round as teenagers and young women working out what suited us and reflected our personalities. Over the past couple of years it’s been exciting to see more women sharing their own flat style, either in the Flat Friends seasonal fashion blogs on my website or by starting their own personal Instagram accounts.

For five years I have just shared my latest shopping trips; focused posts about swimwear or evening wear, or the occasional noteworthy outing or outfit. I don’t usually post on a daily basis; so, I decided that in 2020 I would set myself the challenge of sharing an unfiltered selfie everyday in my outfit of the day –  my “outflat” outfits! I hope that by sharing 366 days of dressing without two breasts others who are feeling self conscious will see that Dressing Flat isn’t about perfectly staged photos or needing to validate yourself to others; it’s the reality of picking out something to wear day in day out. Finding clothes that you feel comfortable in, and of looking at your reflection as you go about your day and recognising yourself looking back is the only thing that matters. Don’t let your team, the internet or social media trick you into believing you need to completely re-imagine who you are or be taught how to dress yourself. Find inspiration from others; feel empowered to try different styles, and why not share what you discover to hearten the next woman searching for ideas!

As well as creating useful content I hope my #Outflat campaign will also raise money to support the work of Flat Friends UK, a charity which is dedicated to supporting women who have had single or double mastectomy surgery without breast reconstruction, including those who may face such decisions now or in the future. I am very proud to be a trustee of Flat Friends UK: we believe living without reconstruction is a positive outcome and work to normalise living without two breasts and providing support to women living flat, including those waiting for delayed reconstruction. You can find out more at www.flatfriends.org.uk and you can sponsor me at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SarahCoombes3

Thank you so much, Sarah, for sharing your story with us today. If you haven’t checked out Sarah’s #Outflat campaign, we strongly advise you to do so – we love seeing the wonderful outfits Sarah pulls together everyday!