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Designing During COVID

As we have all adapted in many ways to life during the COVID pandemic, it has been surprising to see how many of our activities can take place virtually. Birthdays, happy hours, brainstorming sessions, and even weddings have taken place over the internet. There is no doubt that we miss being in person with one another, but we admit there is so much more possible online than we would have anticipated.

It was during COVID that we began the process of designing and producing our first clothing line for Birdie & Claire. We were again skeptical that you could design clothes from a distance – after all, so much of clothes are the feel and the way that it looks when you see it in person (who among us hasn’t ordered something online, only to find it to be completely...different when it arrives in the mail?). As with so many other things this year, we didn’t want to wait and jumped into the virtual design process. So, how did it work? How exactly does a garment come together over a Zoom screen?

We want to share with you some of our experiences that led to our first collection:

  1. Vision: We had a strong vision for what we wanted the clothes to be. Thanks to so many of you, we were able to gather feedback on what was missing from other clothing brands, and what was important to incorporate into our pieces. Your experiences and opinions helped us shape a clear sense of what a Birdie & Claire garment should and must be. These insights became our North Star – from fabric selection to design features, having that sense is crucial, whether virtual or in person.
  2. Fabric: Mail became a dear, dear friend to us and became especially important as we were selecting fabric. This step was one that demanded a physical component. During the initial selection, we received a package of hundreds of swatches of fabric in dozens of colors. Some swatches were big – we could really feel it in our hands – and others were the size of a stamp. We sorted through, searching for the right combination of care, feel, color, and breathability. We found perfect fabrics for three of our items and decided to cast the net a bit wider to find the final fabric. Our design partners helped us source the ideal selection, and after viewing a PDF of the colors, we received the final swatches in the mail to confirm our choice. Even if we knew everything about a fabric – its color, composition, care instructions – we knew we needed to feel it before we made a decision.
  3. Communication: We got very creative and explicit in our communication. Even after both seeing the fabrics and garments in person, we were still quarantined from one another. Sometimes, one of us would run off-screen, grab something from one of our own closets, and “show” the other a specific fit or fabric (“I’m thinking something like THIS” *flails arms around*). On occasion, we needed to come up with detailed color descriptions if we needed to identify a particular fabric swatch (“It’s the dark eggplant, not the red/purple/burgundy/wine” “Ohhh, got it”). Making sure we were on the same page took some creative language and a lot of patience, but it was always worth it.
  4. Design Partners: Finally, we must give due credit to our incredibly knowledgeable design and production partners. They were experts in fabric, fit, features, and production, and they helped us bring our vision to life. We are grateful for their guidance and ability to fill in gaps left by the virtual process: How will this hang? Is that see-through? Do I see some bunching there? There were so many opportunities to feel lost, but they helped us stay on course.

When it came time to have our first fitting last month, we were grateful to be able to participate in person (thank you, vaccines!). We met at our design partner’s offices in New York City and got to see the clothes on the fit model for the first time. Seeing the product live and interacting with everyone in person felt like such a novelty after a year-plus of remote work.

We are so proud of our first collection, and we are grateful that it has come together over the past year. As we move closer to putting COVID in our past, we will remember the steps we all took to keep moving forward in the ways we could.

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