There is lot that I learned as a student of Fashion Design but one of the most important lessons is where to start. This can be such a daunting task for most creatives and those wishing to start off their career in design.

I know the feeling all too well; I know I want to design and make garments and I have an idea of what the collection would look like but I have no idea where to begin or how to go on. It can be very hard to express your creative ideas on paper or indeed, at all. Many a night I have spent staring at an empty sketchbook wondering how the hell I am going to start.

The first page is always the hardest but I will endeavour to offer some tips and tricks on how you can start that all important sketchbook. These tips will help both fashion designers and any other designers on the hard, hard journey of creating a book of inspiration that will help your designs on their way.

1. Firstly, buy a corkboard. You can pick these up at any stationary shop or Argos but if you are stuck for cash or want a larger board, you can buy large square tiles of cork from Homebase or Wilkinsons and glue them together/ nail them to the wall. I am in the process of creating one that spans an entire wall of my living room so that I can stand back and become engulfed. This corkboard is going to act as a reminder of what first piqued your design interest and help when you get bogged down with information or get lost in a train of thought later down the line.

2. Now, think of something that has really inspired you lately. I have long been itching to produce some work inspired by the growing popularity of ‘Glitch Art’. Using the internet, books and magazines, collect images that tie into this theme and pin them to your board. This can include images that you have taken yourself as well and, like I have done, contain work that you have photoshopped yourself.

3. Once you have filled your board with images you have found you can experiment with techniques that explore the key themes of your research. I have taken bleach, water and nail varnish remover to old photographs to glitch them and have also pinned these to my board. I often find that having a few post-it notes handy can help to annotate things that you want to highlight in your board and can draw you back into the theme if you get lost.

4. Now that you have your board of inspiration set up you are free to do a little reading on the subject that your research is based. I looked to wikipedia for most of my written research and looked into artists that had experimented with some of the things that I was interested in to see how they had progressed their ideas. This gave me an idea of how to lay my work out but also how to go about certain things.

5. If it helps, try and find a piece of music that really brings to mind the subject of your research and play that whenever you feel that you are losing the sense of your project. Music and smell also are great memory joggers and can help when you are feeling creative block. I use cinnamon candles and oils and glitch hop to help me with my current collection.

6. So now you have a wealth of information on the subject you are looking into and a vast visual representation to keep you inspired. Now it’s time to look into starting your sketchbook. I know that first page can take weeks to fill but it’s best to jump right in without thinking and you’ll be producing great work before you know it. A good place to start is with collage. I have nearly filled an A4 sketchbook with collage and I haven’t even begun to think about the final design or pattern cutting. Building this sort of collective of your conscious thoughts as and when they happen can be a great resource to look back on when you feel the grip of creative block.

7. Grab a couple of old magazines, print out some images and pull together all your inks, pastels, crayons, fine liners, watercolours, acrylic paints, paintbrushes etc and start by creating images which express the mood or the subject style. Keep making these images until you feel the natural urge to stop and take a break. This is a good time to let the paint and glue dry and to think about the images you have created. Collage, much like the large moodboard, will provide your mind with creative fodder for you to muse over when you finally start to think about the final product.

8. Once you reach the stage where you can’t collage anymore, it’s time to look back on your images and choose a colour palette. Now, if you are designing a fashion collection, there are lots of free resources online that can tell you the colour trends of the seasons 3 years in advance and you can use these as a guideline for what colours you will ultimately use.

9. Now to lay those colours out and find exactly what the colours name and classification is, you can use the Pantone tiles in Adobe Illustrator or InDesign. Both of these programs (at CS2 level) are available online free now and should work on most machines. Line them up, print them out and have a play about.

10. At this stage you have collected a huge range of images and texts that will help inspire you further to experiment with silhouette at your leisure. You can also collect fabric samples in the colour way you have decided on to sit along side your collages to help you more. Refer back to my previous article “Fashion Fabrics and Where to Buy” for more information on the plethora of fabric stockists available. Visiting these shops has provided me with a lot to think on and have helped me solidify ideas.

Once all this is collected you can go on to sketch initial ideas and your sketchbook will be full to bursting in no time! A great tool for those of you who don’t know, is the Fashionary, a fashion-dictionary-diary produced by Penter Yip and Vikki Yau that has model outlines for quick sketching. Check it out at for more information.

I know this might be a lot take in so for those of you, like myself, who get overwhelmed easily, take a highlighter and mark off the most important points of this article and form a concise list to work from. Highlighting and re-writing can be an invaluable tool to keep handy when you are swallowed by text! Happy Sketchbooking!