My favorite part of designing a swimwear collection is creating its overarching color + concept vision.
A huge part of that process is print and pattern development! For the sake of this post, I’ll be using ‘print’ and ‘pattern’ interchangeably to mean the surface design used on a finished garment, sort of like what’s pictured here:
Photo Credit: SWMR
Designing a stellar color palette along with signature prints is a huge undertaking, especially for a new brand—it’s not something to do solo or flying by the seat of your pants. You need a strong point of view, but since print and color can be quite subjective, you also want more than just one point of view to help you paint the right picture and to ensure the highest potential for success.
There are many ways to find textile prints for your fashion brand. Still, before you ever draw, design, or purchase a single print, you must look at what’s already on the market. You want your brand and offering to be original, fresh, and compelling to your audience, so you can’t just give them more of what’s already out there. You have to do your part to stand out. Research is critical!
Our design studio often starts by looking at what our favorite aspirational brands put into the world. Our favorite tool for gathering the information all in one place is Pinterest, but it’s also a great place to scope out some inspo in the beginning. We love digging into trend reports, going on in-person shopping trips, and scoping out the ‘gram and TikTok.
Once we’ve collected a fair amount of inspiration and seen what’s out in the market, we start building a color palette. We’ll expand more about color palette creation in a future post. For now, it’s helpful to create palettes with a mix of brights, darks, neutrals, and fashion colors.
Knowing your color wheel and how colors play nicely together is helpful for the next part. Once the palette is assembled, our team thinks about unique color pairings that feel fresh and new. Look back at your inspiration folder and see what your favorite aspirational brands are up to with color. Being thoughtful about how you mix it up with your palette and pairings is a fun way for your brand to stand out, especially by mixing more exciting colorways with classic patterns.
After establishing the visual look I’m going for, along with a more clear color palette, I’m ready to look for prints and get down to business.
Places we source our fashion prints:
1. Printsource + Other Surface Pattern Tradeshows: This is the best way to round up a bunch of studios you can reach out to later. A cheap trick if you can’t afford the journey to the big city, go check out the exhibitors and see if you can find the direct print studios on IG or online.
Photo Credit: Première Vision
2. Print Studios: Amazing artists work with print studios around the globe, creating beautiful patterns we get to finish into swimwear. Many of these studios will pull options for you if you have a mood board or trend for them to focus on. Some of them even have online shopping platforms. Usually, you must register and then be permitted in; it can be challenging for a new person to the industry. Studio prints cost $500 to $750 but give you an exclusive license to use them. A few of my favorite studios are below, but Instagram is full of amazing print studios!
Photo Credit: Karolina York
3. Vintage Fashion + Art: A smart and affordable way to get inspiration for simple but timeless motifs. This is still an area to be careful of—you don’t want to use anything modern accidentally. Vintage art, fashion, and even wallpaper work as a source of print influence.
Photo Credit: KRSTN NDRSN
4. Online marketplaces: This can be a slightly more affordable method of finding prints. Usually, this option will run you more like $100 to $250. The prints in these places usually feel a little less special and are not as trend-forward as typical print studios. Still, if you are willing to play around with the file and jazz up the colors, you can do a lot with prints from these marketplaces.
Photo Credit: Patternbank
5. DIY: We make our own prints here! If we’re skilled enough in the aesthetic we’re going after, our talented design team will create the beautiful prints we use on our garments. Most of what we use currently to create prints is Procreate + Adobe Illustrator.
Photo Credit: KRSTN NDRSN
After purchasing or designing our prints, we create several colorways to determine the best overall look. Once we’ve figured out our colorways, we prepare the artwork to be sent to the fabric mill. We do this to see how it translates to actual fabric before making the final call on which colors we adopt vs. what we drop. We’ll expand more on the colorway and print callout process in a future post, but that’s a wrap for now.
Curious to find more links to places for patterns? Sign up for a list with even more of our favorite studios and places to look for prints and patterns.