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Aim to pleat

Designer Alexander Wang breaks down a skirt's trip from his brain to the sales rack.

RECOMMENDED: See all of this year's fall fashion content

Fall fashion 2007, design process

Photo: Beth Levendis


“For inspiration, I think of an icon: the person I want to dress. This time it was Tess McGill from Working Girl. She was so determined to be successful, and if that meant experimenting in someone else’s closet, so be it. Then I apply my own aesthetic. I like to take traditional silhouettes and modernize them—nothing too complicated. People have to wear it and be able to afford it.”


“I start with a drawing. This season, I was so over all the embellishments. I wanted something clean and graphic. To make it interesting, I experimented with ruching, twisting and surface textures. Pleating was a big theme in my line. The skirt is a basic shape, but we sectioned it off like a Mondrian painting and used five different fabrics, piecing the cutouts together. Whether it’s worn with a little blazer for work or a baggy T-shirt on the weekends, it works!”

Fall fashion 2007, design process

Photo: Beth Levendis


“Usually I don’t know where the design is going to go, so we’ll play around with it. But sometimes I know: For this piece I knew exactly how I wanted it to look, so I had all the details figured out for the pattern maker.”


“I bring the pattern maker a drawing and sketches of the measurements: how big each pleat should be, where it should fall, the length. Our pattern makers work on 37th Street in the Garment District. We like to keep them on the DL—they’re our own little team, and I don’t want to say who they are or where to find them.”

Fall fashion 2007, design process

Photo: Beth Levendis


“Over two weeks, the pattern maker made the skirt in muslin, a cheap cotton fabric. When it was done, we did a fitting on a model to see if it fell right. This time we got it on the first try.”


“We get our fabrics from Italy. I post them up with my sketches on a big board to see what goes with what. If we’re missing something, I’ll have to look for it in the Garment District, but usually everything is covered.”

Fall fashion 2007, design process

Photo: Beth Levendis


“Next, I decided what fabrics I wanted for each portion of the skirt: We used a silk mesh, a dupioni silk with polka dots and glazed linen—matte, shiny and fuzzy textures. Then we sent the fabric to the sample maker, who also cuts the patterns.”


“A week or two later, she’ll present us with the sample and we get to shoot the look book. We get our collections done really early so we can spend a lot of time on the photography. It’s my chance to tell the story of the girl. This year we shot in a trailer park in Far Rockaway, Queens. It was the perfect setting; I am so over seeing girls wearing pretty dresses in pretty settings—that was so last decade. ”

Fall fashion 2007, design process

Photo: Beth Levendis


“We make three of everything: one skirt for press, one for sales and one for production. After fitting it one more time, we send it back to the sample maker, who also does the production for us. She’s a rare bird. The hardest part is deciding how many to make. The sales department looks at how many similar garments have been bought in the past. Then we order fabric. For this skirt, we’re making 200. The size of our production ranges from 20—for a really special sequin piece—to 1,000.”


“When the garments are ready, they get all packaged up and go to our warehouse in North Bergen, New Jersey. Stores order from the sales department, and we tell the warehouse. Our press department has a sample, so they send it out to celebrities and magazine shoots.”

Fall fashion 2007, design process

Photo: Beth Levendis


“If we have leftover merchandise, we’ll have a sample sale. I wish this article had come out before I started, so I would have known how this whole process worked! Everyone does it differently. When we first started, it was all trial and error. So there were a lot of mistakes and some downers, but we learned from it all in the end.”

The pleated combo skirt just hit the Fashion Week runways. Look for it in stores in spring 2008.