Contrary to what every episode of Project Runway makes you believe, most fashion designers don’t sit around all day hand sketching and draping fabric over dress forms. Not all fashion designer works in Manhattan or Los Angeles either. In fact, my freelance apparel design agency runs entirely remotely.
So you might wonder what a day in the life of a fashion designer looks like, and how we operate outside the two major fashion hubs. We know we’re a little offbeat, so here’s a glimpse at the average workday for the KRSTN NDRSN team, myself included!
What time do you wake up?
Most days, I wake up around 6:00 am to start my morning routine. One of my first morning tasks involves me making some tea for myself. I like to peek out my kitchen windows while I wait for the kettle to heat up. I live in a very wooded area, so I love seeing the morning animals waking up and coming out. In the warmer months, I’ll sit on my front porch and watch the birds while I drink my tea and read. During the winter months, I keep cozy, sitting in my living room with a fantastic view of my backyard and all the wildlife.
What’s your morning routine?
A perfect morning routine starts with a cup of tea. Ok, maybe it’s more like two or three cups–I’m definitely over-caffeinated! I usually read first and then journal a bit. Sometimes I sketch a little bit. Depending on my mood, I’ll start with meditation or save that for after I’ve journaled a bit. Journaling before meditation helps me clear my brain of all the ‘to-do’s’ that pop up when I’m supposed to be in a mindful place. I’ve fallen a bit out of the habit of a morning yoga practice lately, but the best days start with a little gentle exercise to move my body.
What do you read?
I love reading nonfiction books in the self-development category. I sometimes read 2 or 3 books at a time, so I’ll pick one and go with it until I need to switch it up. Most recently, the books I’ve been (re)reading:
RE-READING - The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday is one of my absolute favorite books. It helps me get through tough decisions.
RE-READING - Start with NO...The Negotiating Tools that the Pros Don't Want You to Know by Jim Camp.
NEW - Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive, and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
NEW - Why Good Sex Matters: Understanding the Neuroscience of Pleasure for a Smarter, Happier, and More Purpose-Filled Life by Nan Wise
What do you use to sketch?
I don’t sketch as much in the morning as I used to, but I love working on my iPad in Procreate when I feel creative or antsy to tap into that side. Sometimes I just spend time playing with the different brushes and effects to see what I can do, while other days, I have more intention behind it, and I sketch with purpose — to help my team understand my direction or what I’m looking for in a more finished sketch idea.
What’s your getting-ready routine?
After I finish my morning rituals, I head upstairs and greet my husband, Jonathan, and our dog, James, who are usually both still cozy + sleeping around 8:30 am. I brush my teeth, fix my hair and change into something that isn’t pajamas. I never work in my jammies unless I’m sick because I like how it resets my brain into work mode!
Do you put on makeup? Depending on who my calls are with, I’ll probably put on a little makeup. I don’t go overboard because…well, zoom! But I do like getting a little BB cream, mascara, blush, and eyebrow filler because I’m blessed with my father’s less shapely sparse brows :P
Do you eat breakfast? I rarely eat breakfast unless I’m not feeling great, and I believe eating will help. I like to fast for the first 6 to 8 hours of the day, drinking only my tea and caffeinated bubbly. Sometimes I double fist those bubbly’s. I’ll often leave one on the counter, and my husband will make the journey to drop it off in my office if he notices I forgot one in the kitchen.
Beginning of the Workday
Since you don’t commute, how do you get into ‘work mode’?
My husband and I enjoy a quick drive around our neighborhood together as our ‘commute.’ He’s semi-addicted to energy drinks, so that’s his current excuse for these little morning road trips, but I just like going for a ride and seeing the local farmland surrounding our area. Our dog recently started getting excited to go for a morning ride, so he usually sneaks out to join us when we open the door to our garage.
What time do you start your workday?
Usually, between 8:30 and 9:30 am, I’ll sit down at my desk to get the day rolling. I seldom begin past 9:30, unless I have a doctor or dentist appointment.
What is the first task you start with? Answering emails usually takes the cake! I prioritize the quick wins first. These emails are more ‘need to know’ vs. action based. If there’s anything I can file and archive, I’ll do that. The more task-oriented emails are done throughout the day, depending on what we must prioritize based on our goals and due dates. I’ll delegate tasks to my team whenever I can pass them along to someone else to lend a hand. The delegation part usually happens in our team standup via slack, Clickup, or email, depending on the task and the urgency.
What’s next on your agenda?
Organizing my day and prepping for team meetings and stand-ups for both KRSTN NDRSN and iteration, the brand I’m working on. Every day is different, so it’s constantly changing. Somedays we might have a fitting or a working session in Clo3d to make pattern corrections. In the afternoon, we might have a client call or a sketch review to follow up on future collections and work that lies ahead. I also have a lot of one-on-ones with my team and my business partner, aka my work-wife, Bridget. 🤣
Team Meetings + Standups
What’s the purpose of your team standups?
Earlier this year, we started a daily Zoom team standup, and it’s been the best change for our team’s efficiency and effectiveness. I love seeing everyone’s beautiful faces to start our day and understanding how everyone’s work is going. The standup helps us stay accountable to deadlines and allows us to follow up on any pending items, and it’s also a great time to reconnect and ensure everyone has a balanced and clear workload.
What do you discuss?
I like briefly catching up on everyone’s personal lives before jumping right into work. Understanding my team’s headspace is essential in case some areas require their attention aside from work throughout the day.
After that quick catch-up, we usually review our client list of open items and pending meetings. We review every client individually and delegate any open items to the appropriate team members so we can continue to move forward every day.
Do you take notes anywhere?
Yes, we have a long-standing Google Doc that keeps track of all the working details of open items and pending tasks, so we’re always on top of everything in each client’s business.
How do you delegate tasks?
We use Clickup to help with task management and delegation. It is a solid reminder for our team to stay updated with their assignments. Most often, I’ll delegate the task to the team member, and they’ll add it to Clickup, so we all follow along as the item moves forward. I like it this way because it allows us to keep track of the relevant items in a contained space designated for the specific task at hand.
Outside of meetings, how do you communicate with team members throughout the day?
We love using Slack for real-time conversations. It can sometimes be challenging because all our Clickup alerts go to each client’s channel daily. If there’s much to do, it can flood the Slack channel with updates. Still, we’ve found Slack pretty effective for our autonomy and for flagging urgent items that need my or someone else’s immediate attention. We also use Loom videos quite a bit for questions that require deeper explanations or clarifying words.
What time do you typically break for lunch?
I usually break my fast with a later lunch at around 1 or 2 pm, depending on the day. I have an hour between 1 and 2 pm blocked off in my calendar, so I don’t book calls during that window; it helps me stay on track to keep the reminder. I like eating leftovers from the day before or going to a cute, healthy juice spot for something more fun and exciting.
What else do you like to do during your break?
I love going midday walks on the trail by my home with my husband and my dog. If the weather is cold or rainy, I might step on the treadmill or do a quick yoga routine.
Do you run errands?
Sometimes I run errands like dropping off urgent samples or picking up groceries. I usually try to pop my sample packages in the mailbox to avoid a post office run.
What do you typically do after lunch?
We usually meet with most of our clients in the afternoon. With our different time zones, this seems to be the best time of day for everyone.
How often do you meet with clients?
Every client has different preferences for how often they like to meet. For some of our more established clients, we have meetings every other week; for others, we meet only once a month, and most work we handle via email + Loom.
Do you meet In person or Zoom?
We usually meet via Zoom since we have clients all over the world. Occasionally we’ll have a client meeting in NYC so that I will visit them in person. Most of the time, we’re conducting business remotely, though, as our entire team works from different parts of the world.
Design + Development Tasks
What other design and development tasks do you have?
Depending on what step of the design process we are in, my team and I could be sketching, making tech packs, specing samples, or fitting garments. I also love working with our technical team to make pattern adjustments in Clo3d in live working sessions. A few days ago, we had a rush task of grading urgent panties, so we all hopped on a call and worked through the problem together as a team!
What’s the process for sketching?
Before my team even begins sketching, we explore the market for inspiration and trends. After thoroughly reviewing the market, we present mood and style boards to our clients to share our direction for their collection. We make high-level comments on any styles or details that are ‘must haves’ and those we’re not as in love with anymore. Then Jasmine, our designer, sketches all the design ideas she can dream up. We love to have options before finalizing anything!
Next, we have a team sketch review where we provide feedback and get clarity about the design intent. At this stage, I suggest any sketch edits; from there, we narrow down to our favorites to show the client.
What’s the process for making tech packs?
Tech packs are a very detail-oriented process. Jasmine typically starts the process by adding sketches, construction details, the bill of materials, and specs. Since the accuracy of these is so important, I’ll typically review them twice before firing them off. My first review is right after the tech packs are completed, and then again in the morning with fresh eyes before we send them to the factory.
What’s the process for specing samples?
Packages usually arrive in the afternoon. Once they arrive, we have a robust system of reviewing all the prototypes throughout various stages. In our first stage, samples go to Jasmine or Riley, who will do the initial assessment and check the garment for mistakes and out-of-tolerance specs.
After that, we send the samples to the appropriate people for the fitting. We do a lot of fitting in-house, either on myself, Riley, or Jasmine, to ensure the garment is commercially viable. As design + fit experts, we know what to look for and what a good fitting garment feels like. It’s incredibly helpful to have a team of ready + willing fit models! We all feel like kids at Christmas when we get new samples to try on. It’s so much fun seeing your garments come to life.
Once we hold our Zoom fitting, we make detailed notes and comments about any fit changes, measurement adjustments, and construction details to ensure the factory has all the information they need to proceed with the next round of samples.
Then we make our pattern revisions, usually in Clo3d, to finalize all our changes. We revise our tech pack comments in Backbone to ensure all specs + pattern adjustments are noted and clear throughout the tech pack. After that, we fire it off to the supplier, and then we wait for our next sample round!
What’s the process for fitting garments?
We host a Zoom meeting with the whole team, with one or two people usually taking detailed notes with our comments for later implementation. We usually record our fittings to go back later and find other areas that may need fixing with a watchful eye. After the fittings are completed, we divide the styles across the team. Then the fun happens and everyone gets to work making pattern adjustments, revising our tech pack specs, and adding revision comments to ensure everything is crystal clear for our factory partners.
End of the Workday
What time do you log off for the night?
Never? Lol, my husband thinks I work too much, and my dog agrees! I have difficulty signing off because there’s always something else to do. I try to wrap as much up as possible by 6 pm, but depending on the time of year and how busy we are, I can sometimes work until 8 or 9 pm to make sure everything is tied up and communicate with our overseas team.
How do you prep for the next day?
I like to take a quick look at my calendar to know of any meetings coming up. Sometimes we talk to factories in the early morning hours, so I hate being surprised about that! Other than that, I might take a quick look at our daily stand-up google doc and make a few notes to tie up any loose ends.
Rinse, wash, repeat!
Honestly, every day is slightly different depending on our client's current needs and where we are in the development process. That’s what keeps it interesting. I truly LOVE every part of the design and development process. I can’t imagine moving back into a design role where my only job was to sketch and concept garments–I’d be SO bored!