The First Steps of Fashion Design: From Concept to Illustration | Bellavance NYC | Skillshare

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The First Steps of Fashion Design: From Concept to Illustration

teacher avatar Bellavance NYC, Nolan Bellavance and Ava Hama, Co-Founders

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Establishing Proportions


    • 3.

      Defining the Body


    • 4.

      Hands and Feet


    • 5.

      Faces and Hair


    • 6.

      Fabric Types and Qualities


    • 7.

      Clothes on the Body


    • 8.

      Texture and Color


    • 9.

      Finishing the sketch


    • 10.

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About This Class

Creating rapid fashion illustrations is one of the most important skills needed for a fashion designer to convey the themes, shapes, and textures of their garments in the most efficient way possible. When building an entire collection time is often of the essence, so it is essential to accurately represent your ideas on paper - beautifully - without wasting any effort.

We started Bellavance after graduating from Parsons School of Design and we have been fortunate enough to have our brand featured in top editorial outlets like and retail shops like Opening Ceremony. Long before our pieces are featured on pages or shelves, however, they start out as concepts through sketch and illustration.

What You'll Learn in This Class:

Fashion illustration is something we at Bellavance use constantly in order to display our design concepts and communicate with our team and manufacturers. We are often in situations where we need to churn out these hand drawn representations of our garments rather quickly, so it is important to know specific shortcuts and tricks that allow us to focus on what is of utmost importance- the clothing. We’ll cover:

  • Basic Fashion Body: How to sketch essential poses quickly.
  • Detailing: Shortcuts for representing hands, feet, and hair with simple lines.
  • Fabric Rendering: How to convey the weight and texture of fabrics using washes and movement lines.

What You'll Do in This Class:

You'll be able to apply these skills immediately to your own project: creating a set of three fashion illustrations you can share with your classmates for feedback.

If you're a designer yourself, use your own designs; if not, feel free to illustrate designs from your favorite runway show.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Bellavance NYC

Nolan Bellavance and Ava Hama, Co-Founders


After meeting on their first day of orientation and working side by side in core design classes for three years at Parsons the New School for Design, Nolan Bellavance and Ava Hama decided to start a company together.

Nolan and Ava have collectively worked with Gap, Theory, JF & Son, and Opening Ceremony. Nolan won the National CFDA Student Award Scholarship and was awarded the coveted Saga Furs award in coordination with the Hong Kong Fur Federation. His senior thesis collection was sponsored and he traveled both to Denmark and Hong Kong to train and represent Parsons. In 2012 he was nominated for Designer of the Year, and both Bellavance and Hama's theses were selected to be displayed at Saks Fifth Avenue.

The duo's debut collection came to being when in September o... See full profile

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1. Trailer: I'm Nolan Bellavance. I'm Ava Hama. We are the designers of Bellavance. Bellavance is really rooted in American sports wear. We like to think of our aesthetic as progressive utilitarianism. You're going to go through probably a 100 different variations of the design before you end up choosing one that is right and that works. So, I think it's really important to be able to draw quickly and appropriately so that when you're showing your designs to people, they can understand them as accurately as possible. Students are going to create three original looks of their own design. It's really about making the sketches as fast as possible, but as accurately as possible, to convey a personality and a design aesthetic. 2. Establishing Proportions: Hey guys, welcome to our first class. I'm going to teach you how to do basic bodies. It's pretty much just establishing a framework for moving on to the next step. Typically, you would be learning in school like a nine heads type of illustration which essentially just breaks down the body based on the measurement of a head nine times. I find that it ends up being a little too big and the proportions end up looking a little too long and alien-like. The way that I do it is I just think about the body based on how I see it and it's more of a realistic approach. I like to draw with mechanical pencils, not everybody likes to do that. I like to do it basically because I don't have to spend the time to sharpen them and the lead is easily replaceable. I'd like to use a medium weight, I think Bic sells these with number two lead and I think they also sell them with HB, but I like to use a number two because you can go lighter or heavier with the thickness of your line. In terms of the spacing on the body, it's really just about when you look at a body and how you remember where the proportions are. There is a general rule that in terms of the relationship to the legs should be pretty much the same length as the upper portion of the body, and that will help you establish a sense of proportionality in terms of length. One thing that I have learned a lot is that people tend to draw the femur, the upper leg, longer than it should be, so what I like to do first is lay down a center line which establishes the beginnings of the proportion for the drawing. So, I start out by drawing the head which is like a rectangular shape and then about another head length down, I'll do a cross line for the shoulders and it's usually about the length of a head horizontally on each side. Then, I'll draw in a circle. That's the framework for the main points on the body. Then from this shoulder line down, I usually do about the length of another head to establish where the bust would be, maybe a little less. Then there's this trapezoid shape where it comes in from the shoulders to establish where the bust would be. From that point, the bust point down, it's again a little less from the shoulder to the bust to the waist. So, you draw that line in. Then, again, from there, it's about the same for the high hip. Then, I like to do it basically from where the bust, those two bust points are, that's where I'll throw in my anchor points and then this trapezoid shape for the upper body is inversed to create the hips and then basically, just a little bit lower there, that's where your crotch will be. In terms of the upper body and lower body, they should be about the same length. So, take a look at where your shoulder points are and your crotch line is and then that should pretty much be how long your upper and lower legs are to the ankles. So, I like to just cut the rest of that in half and I'll throw in my anchor points for the knees and then again, take that and throw it in for the ankles. Then, from connecting the hip to the knee, it's just like a rectangle and another rectangle, and then throw the feet in. The elbow line is pretty much where the waist is. Throw in a rectangle for the arm, anchor point, and then an anchor point for the wrist. I'm doing this really quickly so you can just get the idea of how quickly I can throw in a body. Then from here, this very robotic rectangular structure, we'll begin to fill in in the next step. 3. Defining the Body: So, for our next step, we're moving into making the body more realistic. Think of the last step as establishing the skeleton, and this is really putting the meat on the bones. So, what I like to do is take a plain piece of paper that's not in a sketchbook, and lay it over top of the foundation that we created in the last step. I also like to do this because when you're designing and when you're sketching really quickly, and you have a really good base, it's nice to trace over top of that, because it just provides a good quicker exchange of ideas. If I find that if I have to start over every single time, the process takes a lot longer and I get too caught up in trying to make the body look right every single time. So, the more that you practice and the more that you learn how to establish a good body, the better it is to keep referencing that as a template. So, I'm just going to use a simple printer, quality piece of paper, and I'm going to place it over the skeletons that we made in the last one. I'm just going to fill it in in a more realistic way. So, for this you're thinking about what you did on the last time, you want to continue to frame the body but now it's about making those simplified shapes more curvaceous. When you're tracing over the framework, it's really about making those simplified shapes look more gestural and it helps reflect the musculature. There's a fluidity that you have to use in this steps to make your sketches look less robotic and rectangular. So, I'll just go over what I went through and reflect that musculature that you would find. Here, on the leg, you bring it out to do a calf muscle. Then when you're at your anchor points like the knees, you reflect how you would draw the bones. So, here we have a side-by-side comparison from our first step to the second step. The first step as you can see is a lot more rectangular and it's about establishing those simple shapes, and you're masking all of that under structure that you've established in the first one to create this nude body. Essentially, just adding life to the first sketch to get to the second step. 4. Hands and Feet: So, for the next step, we're going to do hands and feet. This is a really important step because finishing the limbs can be pretty difficult and tricky. They can end up looking like alien hands, or like stumps for feet. So, I'm just really going to throw down a couple quick steps to establish more gestural feet and hands for you, so that when you're finishing your drawings, you don't really have to think about it. So, the basic shape of a hand, I'm just going to do a quick one, and I'll go back over it with outlining the shapes. This is just a side view of a hand that you see on a drawing straight on, and the way that the fingers fall. So, when I'll align it in a color, so you guys get the general idea of what the shapes are, like the palm and the upper part of the hand, it's like a rectangle. Think of everything as simple shapes when you're initially drawing because it's going to help you figure out how to fill them in later with a more fluid shape. So, using that kind of framework, practice it a lot, and then it'll just get easier to do more gestural hand shapes. A lot of the time, I don't even finish. So, when I'm drawing, it just depends on the mood that you're doing. You can just throw in a gesture for, say a hand that's holding a handbag and it's look more straight on like this. You would draw it like that. So, these are the fingers being bent, and these are your knuckles. This is the plane of the hand, and this is your thumb. Draw the handbag. If you take the same idea of the hand hanging just loosely from a different angle, just dividing up where the fingers are and throwing in your thumb. These are really robotic, but I'm showing you the simple shapes in creating the outline of how you would draw something more fluid. So, you could spend forever trying to perfect the way that a hand and a foot looks, but this step is really just about making it more gestural, so you can get it done quickly. It doesn't have to look perfect, it's just about establishing the right shape for how a hand actually looks. Feet can be tricky. It depends on how you're drawing. If you're drawing a leg straight on in sketchier way so that it's quick, a really good trick to remember is just to make it like a triangle with the top cut off, because that's what a foot looks like in a high heel. Then, you just do a little squiggly line for the feet. The main thing to remember about the foot is that it's an extension of the leg, obviously, and then the ankle bones is like the beginning for drawing out that triangular shape. So, if we're drawing from the knee, and we're using the leg as the beginning, here's our ankle and then you just draw out. It's quite simple. Then, from there, you can just gesturally either draw in a central line. It looks like she's wearing a shoe from the front. From the side is when it gets a little trickier and you have to think about the bones, and you have to think about the placement of the foot a little more. So, if I'm drawing from the knee down, you want to make sure that everything lines up perfectly, because if you're drawing the heel too forward or the heel too backwards, the drawing loses its balance and its sense of proportion. So, if I'm using the straight on illustration as a guide for my side view, I want to continue with the proportion. So, if that's the knee, this would be the front of the shin coming down. This is the front of the foot, so here's my ankle bone. This is the front of the foot here, and then you draw out, and that's your toe. You draw back in line with where that shin would be, that would be the ball of the foot, and you draw up and that would be your heel. Then, connect it back to your leg. I'm going to throw in a gold stiletto. Drawing feet flat is a lot trickier. I tend not to do this when I'm drawing quickly, and designing, and sketching. I mean, unless you're actually designing the look to be worn with a flat shoe, and it's truly important to the design, I tend not to do it. If you are going to do it, it's kind of the same thing. You just have to think about where the ankle is going to be placed on the foot because if she's wearing high heels, the foot will be up and elevated. But if she's wearing flats, her angle will be lower. So, I'll establish that again by drawing her leg, her ankle, and then it's really just a shortened triangle, like the last one. Then, you draw on your squiggly line for the toes. Then, for a side view to show you again the shape of how the foot is placed, you got your shin, get down to your ankle line, and then you'll extend the front of the foot more vertically. Then, draw your toe, ball of your foot, your heel. So, now, I'm just going to draw some quick sketches of shoes and feet to show you the process of doing it in a more rapid way. 5. Faces and Hair: So, for the next step, we're going to be doing faces and hair. This step is really important for establishing the personality of your drawing. Faces and hair can add an expression or a flair to a sketch that really helps you convey the attitude of your design, but they can also be really difficult to achieve in that. So, I'm just going to do some quick techniques to show a process that's easy to do that conveys a certain type of mood or attitude. So, I'll start out by drawing the shape of my head. Just like a rectangle with a more curved top. This'll be like the top of the head, the skull, and then you can draw in a chin. I'm going to do a more labored process to just show you how I get to a quicker process, but I'll throw in the parts of the face to establish that proportion. You should practice this so that you can get quicker at drawing a head and a face. Split the face in two. So, you're balancing it properly. I like to throw the ears in a little bit lower towards the jaw, because if you look at your head in a mirror, that's the in the middle of the head. Then basically, I like to throw the eye level and just base it at the top of the ears. Then I'll go to the mouth next, because the mouth is like the center of the face. I know people say that the eyes are, but I always start with a mouth. It helps establish the proportion from bottom to top. You knew lip shape anywhere that you want and you're going to have a big lips or small lips. It didn't really matter. I just do it like a general mouth. And then your nose. Again, eye shape is up to you. I'm just drawing this generally to show you where to place everything. It changes when I do the faster sketch. Eyebrow, cheek bone, I need to contour the jaw a little bit more. You can go back and erase anything that's extra that you don't need. If that's the center which I look apart drawing or hair behind her ears. With hair, it's really about quick gestural lines. Because you don't want it to look too labor-intensive. The hair can end up looking frizzy. Make sure you throw in a neck too. A little bit of shading. So, that's like a very labor-intensive process to do a face. There was a lot of line work and it wasn't the quickest thing to do and when you're doing a fast sketch when you're designing, you're probably not going to be spending that much time in the face. So, what I like to do for a face when I'm drawing really quickly is to establish those things that we talked about but I do it in as little pressure as little pencil strokes as possible. So, if I'm doing a head, I'll start with the head and the neck, and then I throw in the ears, a little bit of hair. I go to the mouth, nose, and then eye and then you can just do gestural lines for contouring. For hair again, if her hair is behind her ears, just throw in a quick couple of lines to establish that. All these smaller faces that concludes our first unit. I showed you guys how to do a basic framework of the body. How to fill that in to get an idea for the musculature and how the body looks in reality. Then, from there, I showed you guys how to do simple quick hands and feet and faces and hair. So, this will give you a really good base to move on to sketching for design. I would encourage you to practice the things that we did as much as possible until you start to get into a flow or those things become a lot easier for you. So that for the next step you feel comfortable in applying clothing to those basic sketching techniques. 6. Fabric Types and Qualities: Okay. So, in this unit we're going to be doing designing clothes on the body. This is really about fabric, and how the fabric moves on the body. We'll be going over fabric weights, different types of fabric, and how to draw them, and how to put it into a silhouette on a body as well as doing details like pleading and ruffles and things like that. When you're designing you want to really have a good idea about the fabric and how it moves. So, the first thing that I would do is have a good idea if not actual samples of what you'll be drawing. Here we have a raw denim which is stiffer and better for more constructive garments, we have a sheer chiffon, it's really lightweight. So, using the template that we created in the first unit, I am just going to use another plain piece of paper and place it over so that I can quickly sketch, and plug out as many ideas as possible as quickly as possible. So, for the denim, I'm just going to draw a simple denim jacket and a pair of jeans. When I get through it, I'll talk about how the denim is falling on the body and to get the right shape of the silhouette to reflect the qualities of the fabric. So, when I'm drawing from a template, I like to still establish a little bit of proportion from the skeleton that's underneath, and then go over it afterwards when I'm rendering to erase some of the proportion lines that I'm establishing. So, I'll put it in the head, and the neck, and then I like to draw out the shoulders just so I have that upper structure established to put everything onto afterwards. With denim since it's a stiffer fabric, you can be a little bit more rigid in terms of the lines that you're creating, especially with something like this that's not drapey at all, it's very stiff. So, when it moves on the body, it reflects that nature to it. Here around the elbows when you're wearing a garment at certain points on the body, the fabric has to move with the movement of like your arm or your leg, so you're going to want to have to draw those wrinkle lines and, with denim when it moves it creates these like round shapes, but you also want to keep them as rigid as possible, draw in your details, some patch pockets, some buttons. Then once I get a garment down, I like to just throw in a quick face, so she gets a little bit more attitude. Again, for the pants when you're drawing denim, you want to do the same thing that you did with the jacket is to make sure that you're keeping in mind the points on the body where she'll be moving and compensate for that in the sketch. So, the knees and at the ankles, as well as the hips. It's pretty much just making little squiggle lines to show that the fabric is moving and how it's moving. Draw in the pocket's and then a quick just draw of hand and then your feet. So, for something like chiffon because it's lightweight and it's more airy and bouncy. You can compensate for that in the drawing by allowing it to flow away from the body, as opposed to what we did with denim. So, I'm just going to show you a really simple way to draw like a fuzzier or furrie texture like for this shearling or for like a mohair net. This is an existing design that we're doing for fall, it's a shearling bomber jacket. So, I'm just going to quickly redraw it, and show you the process to get that fuzzier feeling, so again starting at the head, the shoulder line. So, I'm drawing the collar and then the front closure of the jacket. Something that's a lot more voluminous that goes away from the body, I'll tend to just lightly draw in where the body is, so that I can see it on the page, it helps me get that sense of proportion I need to move away from the body, and something like a big shearling lined jacket isn't going to be tight, so you want to really show in your sketch that it is off of the body. Then with shearling or something hairy like a mohair net, it's really just about these quick little squiggly broken lines that help you establish this silhouette. Then I'll go back over and erase what I don't need. These initial lines that I drew that help me just place the body. Then I can throw in some more finishing details like a ribbed cuff and then ribs on the hem and some pockets, throw in a pair of jeans, feet again these little quick gestural hands and then her face. 7. Clothes on the Body: So, I'm going to show you examples of sketches that we've done that exemplify different fabric weights and textures, so you can see, in sketch form, how to differentiate those things, and the qualities of the fabrics, and how they fall on the body. These sketches are from our Fall Winter 14 Collection, which we'll be showing in February during New York Fashion Week. We're using three different fabric sequin and I want to show you how we're using them differently in each sketch. So here, the difference between this sweater and this dress is that the sweater uses this more voluminous, fluffy, knit fabric, which ends up being more round and curved on the body when you're representing it, as well as you want to show that volume. So, the sweater looks a lot bigger than her proportions would be. Then this denim dress, it's very rigid and straight to show the property of the denim on the body and how it would be compared, again, to something like this medium weight crape, which we're using for dresses and we're also pleating this. So, we're showing that here with this ruffled skirt and this pleated skirt and two different opposite variations of how we're applying the fabric to the garment. When you're drawing something like ruffles, you want to just make a quick gestural squiggle, I guess, and then connect those lines back up to wherever the fabric is falling from. With pleating, it's really just about making quick line gestures to show the concentration of pleating. If you're doing for the way pleats, show that and how they're measured, but for this kind of micro-pleating, it's really just this quick frenetic process of drawing that texture and I can demonstrate that. So, I can do a basic skirt. There's gestural lines showing that it's pleated. I like to go over it again, just to pump out some of those lines to create different line weights. It helps your sketch have more personality and texture. Then say for like a ruffled skirts, it's about those quick gestured squiggly lines that you're connecting back to wherever they're falling from, and then completing them. So, two very similar silhouettes with different fabric applications, really really small pleating, big ruffles, we could even do bigger pleating, depends on what you're designing, and how the fabric is going to react to those details. For this unit, I showed you guys how to really consider the fabric that you will be drawing, and to inspect it before you go into the design process. Then from there, I showed you some simple, quick, gestural techniques to convey things like pleating and the way that fabric will fall on the body. We did some ruffles. I showed you how to do some texture like a more hairnet and some fur. This is going to give you a good base for the next step, which is putting color and rendering out those textures a little bit more 8. Texture and Color: So, in this unit, we're going to go over just simple, quick rendering techniques to throw color and texture into your finished designs. I have some examples here of different fabrics and different techniques that I've used but I'm going to just throw in the color for like a denim mark and then a liquid pleading and a textured net like we went over in earlier steps. I'm going to be using mixed medium, I find that it's easier to kind of convey different textures and gives a bit more flair to your illustrations. I'm using quash, I'm going to be using some letraset and prisma color markers and then some colored pencils as well as microns to finish out the rendering. So, for a neutral Caucasian skin tone, I like to use brick page prisma color. It goes on really easy and I don't like to mix paint to create a skin tone because it tends to be too complicated and takes up too much time because you have to mix like four different colors together. So, for a quick sketching this is what I use and you go through a lot of them. When I'm throwing in color on my sketches, it's very gestural and it's basically just about highlighting the areas that need to be highlighted. So, I'm just going to throw in color really quickly on these girls. It's almost like you're just going over where there would be shadows and and where the light is coming from. So, if the light is hitting her coming from this way, I would put the shadows on her coming from this way and it's really about how you're applying the pressure onto the marker that's what that's going to give you the quality of light and dark and as you can see, here in these other sketches that have done from older designs and what I'm using that pressure to create the shadows where they're needed and then really making a gestural to show the highlights of where the light is hitting her directly. I'm going to use quash to throw in the color for the denim. So, I'm just using a blue and it's the same technique as I would with the skin tone, it's just really about where the shadows are. It's the same technique as you would be doing with the skin and it's really just about highlighting and showing where the shadows are. I tend not to use a lot of color in my sketches because of it tends to make them look over processed and it can kind of lose a lot of the detail that you're trying to convey. Because denim is a more textured fabric, you can kind of be looser with it. I also believe that when you're designing and when you're sketching that things shouldn't look perfect, so actually I like it when it looks messy and it looks quick because it's a sketch and it's on an illustration and sounds it will still look perfect, it's about making it gestural and it's about making it easy for you to move on to the next one. So, I'm going to go over the paint with a colored pencil just to add some more texture to it because on denim, you have those cross lines from the way that it's made in the grain. Colored pencil on top of paint is always really nice because once the paint dries, you can reapply color to it to kind of give it more depth and again, it's about creating that extra layer of texture. Then I like to use a darker one as well just to throw in more shadow, it helps differentiate the design details and that's really important when you're going back over your sketches, is to highlight what is being designed because if you're just throwing color on it and then moving on, you can can kind of lose the elements that you've drawn previously. So, I just kind of like to go over those shadows from all of those stylings that you're creating. Then for hair, I like to use marker again just because it's quick and it's gestural for her I'm going to do some brown hair. Again, keeping in mind where there would be shadows and where there would be highlights. The final step to my illustration or my sketches is to use microns to go over them. This is really just like a finishing step and it gives it like a pop to it. So you want to do it on anything that's really important and much like the shadowing you want to do it and use it on important style lines and design details. You can use varying thicknesses, it just depends on the weight of the fabric. So, for denim, I'm going to use something thicker because it will help reinforce that it's a stiffer, heavier fabric. Again, I'm doing it very gesturally because it's a sketch, I'm not going to labor over it, I could spend two hours making this look perfect but that's not what it's about, it's about plugging them out really quickly. But it's also about making sure that you're hitting everything that needs to be hit and including all the important things that you're trying to convey in your design. 9. Finishing the sketch: I'm going to do something that's like harrier to show again how to use mixed medium pane and then colored pencil on top of it to create texture. So, I'm hitting all the important things and then I'm filling in, based on highlights in shadow. Once I have the base color in, I can go over it with the color pencils to create the texture and then finish it off with the microns. So, while the paint is drying, I'm going to throw in some shadows on the pleated skirt. I'm going to keep it white, I think it's good to show how I would illustrate a white fabric, it's just throwing in shadows where they're needed, since it's pleaded kind of just go over the pleats in a less intense way than you would with pencil, because you don't want it to look too overdone and confusing. For this I'd, like to use the tombows. Tombows are really good because they go on lighter, and they are really smooth. They're nice marker to do gestural aligns with. Then I'll go over that with two micron, to plug in those details. Okay, so now that the paint is dried, I'm going to go over with a darker colored pencil, to throw in the texture that you would find in a hair net. It's really just again highlighting details you need to highlight. She's a red neck line draw that in. Then this is quick, kind of messy lines you're creating that texture. I like to kind of criss cross it, it helps make a more gestured look, so that it doesn't look so uniform. Then for a net, what I like to do is actually draw because if you look at net closely the way they are constructed, most nets will have a very linear aspectrum, it's just the way that the construction of the fabric is done. So, what I'll do, is I'll go over it as a last step. These lines and then kind of throw in some texture. It helps it established the type of fabric. Hence my shadow, and then I'll go over everything with my mic. So, in this section I showed you guys how to quickly throwing color on your sketches, and some quick techniques is to throw in texture on top of that as well. We used some different mediums some squash, some colored pencil, and some thought markers all. I really hope you guys enjoyed the class, I want to encourage you guys to upload your work into the classroom, and talk about it and I really wish you luck in all of your endeavors. 10. 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