Following up on our discussion of commercial sewing patterns last week I decided to contact the two major pattern companies, McCall's (Butterick, Vogue) and Simplicity (New Look, Burda Style) to see if I could hear about their patterns directly from one of their designers. Simplicity is clearly the more web savvy of the two, with a Facebook page and a presence on Twitter. They carry Oliver + S's Lisette line and have the community of BurdaStyle. I didn't get a response to my interview request from Simplicity, though. Maybe it didn't reach the right person. I was excited that I did hear back from McCall's. Carolyne Cafaro emailed me. She said she works with all of the in-house and outside designers and would find one who would be interested in answering my questions.
I emailed her the questions and requested a few images to use along with the post. Nothing too high resolution, just something to illustrate the text. She forwarded my request to Penny Reginio. Penny told me she would send me a CD. I reiterated that a few JPEGs in an email would be sufficient, but she said it was easier to send me a CD. The images you see here are from Penny's CD.
Carolyne got back to me saying that their resident soft craft designer, Virginia (Ginny) Maizenaski, would be doing the interview. Ginny's title is Non-Fashion Designer (Crafts, Accessories, Home Dec., Costumes). Here's the interview (the links are my doing):
How did you become a designer for McCall’s?
I've been involved in crafts since I was a girl. I made soft toys (and clothes) for my girls. I joined the Society of Craft Designers and began designing craft projects for various craft publications including ‘McCall’s Creates’. Margaret Chapman was Creative Director and asked me to come work for her. A while later I became part of the McCall’s Patterns’ Team.
We continually watch trends. Read blogs, attend Toy Fair, various magazines, catalogs, TV, stores, people watch. Merchandising watches what the consumer is buying from us. If the consumer responds positively we follow their lead.
Take us through the process of designing a new pattern from inception to publication.
There are many people involved in the process of a design from inception to publication. Designers are given direction from Merchandising. The line is presented and picked for the Issue. After a design and it’s fabrics are approved fabrics and notions are ordered. I work with a patternmaker to discuss size, fabrics, construction, feel. I’ll enlarge my illustrations to get appliques and/or a rudimentary pattern. We go over the muslin making any corrections. Dressmaking/Craft Dept. makes the approved pattern photo model. I make sure the photo model is correct and I may do some of the approved details. Photography does their magic. The Writing Dept. writes instructions and illustrations. The Technical Artist does a detailed sketch. The designer needs to be available to answer questions any department may have concerning the design. The Art Dept. does page layout.
There is a lot of technical work that is involved in the creative craft process. All the little pieces have to be created and accounted for. The initial creative idea gives way to precise engineering.
What do you think the future holds for the sewing pattern industry?
Crafts is an area in our industry that is on the upswing. We see designs that previously only sold during holiday, selling all year round. Consumers who might be afraid of making their own clothes seem more apt to try an item from the craft area. We have to give the consumer what she wants. My hope is we'll be creating new and exciting designs for the consumer for years to come.
After I received the interview responses and read them over, I asked Ginny if she would take a look at my blog post about commercial sewing patterns, read your comments, and share her thoughts about our discussion. Ginny forwarded this request back to Carolyne who responded this way:
"Both Ginny and I read the postings. I, too, am a home sewer and personally prefer looking at the illustrations rather than reading the instructions. We do try our best to create clear instructions. It is an evolving process and our staff continually tries to produce the best product. We receive comments and read blogs so we are aware of our shortcomings and try to overcome them."
I have a few reactions to the interview. First, I know people are very busy and I am appreciative that Carolyne, Ginny, and Penny took the time to interact with a blogger with a random interview request. Frankly, I was surprised that I wasn't immediately handed off to someone in public relations.
I will say it was a bit hard to assess who I was talking to because, besides Ginny, none of the people I emailed back and forth with have their title as part of their email signature.
I would have thought that a few JPEGS in an email would be easier than mailing a CD. (The CD came in a folder along with a printout of my emailed request). But hey, images are images.
Ginny specifically mentions that the soft craft design team at McCall's is reading blogs and staying current. I'd love to see McCall's interact more with the online craft community, maybe set up an interactive web presence of some kind and start actively engaging. There are so many easy ways to do this now, and it does make a huge difference in the public's perception of a company.
Most of all I'd like to hear your thoughts on this interview, on the toys shown here, on what questions I might have asked, or on anything else that strikes you about my effort to reach out and hear an inside perspective and the response I got.