INTRODUCTION/PROBLEM STATEMENTLondon based Tourne de Transmission is currently shifting towards a more high fashion aesthetic direction from their previous streetwear roots. This requires tasks in the areas of design development, production documentation, logistics and handling, promotion, and fashion shows constituting a broad solution. The brand, as per a general programme, will be analyzed in regards to infrastructure/organisational structure and sustainability as core focus areas. DESCRIPTION/PROFILETourne de Transmission is a small menswear company based in the Shoreditch area of London in the United Kingdom.
The office is shared with a PR agency in the upper floor, Sane Communications, both owned by the creative director, Graeme Gaughan. A showroom is located both on the upper floor near reception and the bottom floor connected to the office. The brand itself is operated in a small enclosure compartmentalized from the office.
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The team consists of four members: Graeme, the creative director, Dara, product development, Tai, assistant designer, and myself, the intern. Any other roles requiring third parties such as stylists, model casters, and consultants are outsourced. Roles are often overlapped, as the company is somewhat unstructured.
PRODUCTTourne de Transmission offers high end streetwear for men ranging from outerwear, basics, accessories, tops and bottoms, as well as tailoring. The brand does not have a proper atelier/workshop, thus the production is done via OPT (onward processing traffic) manufacturer/consultant located in a factory in North London that samples/makes toiles in joint collaboration with a associated production facility in Turkey that does the rest of the hard work. This also allows the brand to label their clothes as “made in the UK” in accordance with regulations. The other supplier is located in Vietnam. The company also often does collaborations, such as capsule collections, with other brands/boutiques. The clothing aesthetic draws inspiration from Eastern fashion and can be summarized as essentially “Japanese streetwear meets British tailoring”.
TARGET GROUPMen age 18-35, who dress in a fashion-forward streetwear sensibility who also express or relate to social-political commentary. They also appreciate/are influenced by Eastern fashion, amalgamating a East-meets-West aesthetic taste. ASSIGNMENTSMy tasks can be described as working in areas of design and production. Regarding production, my tasks included transporting the samples back and forth from the factory in North London, for editing and various other uses such as model castings, photoshoots, collaborations, and of course, fashion shows.
Another aspect is the sourcing of components/trimmings for the garments as well as contacting new suppliers and obtaining samples. Such suppliers involved plastic manufacturers, vinyl printers, and embroidery services. I often made trips to all the different fabric stores in London to get price and quality comparisons, as well as dropping off bags to have vinyl-printed lettering done, or embroidered samples often used for collaborations. In terms of design, my tasks involved a diverse set of assignments, involving production documentation, technical drawing, ideation, and fittings. As for production documentation, I mostly created technical drawings, taking inspiration from a original product for a bag collaboration with an accessories company, C6. The process involved creating multiple technical drawings, editing with comments from other team members, and final approval via the creative director, resulting in finished tech packs for C6’s factory in China. The ideation phase was mostly involved with props or show-only pieces for styling purposes on the runway.
Lastly, the company used me frequently as a model for fittings. This was done at the factory in North London, where I would try on the garments, make comments about the fit, details, and color pops (“tipping” is the industry term). I also attended all design meetings, often held informally and impromptu at the creative director’s discretion.
Another crucial set of tasks, was behind the scenes of the autumn winter 18 fashion show. I mostly helped with the logistics by organizing the outfit allocations and lineup for the models to walk. Other tasks included assisting the various dressers, double checking the outfits presentability, working with the head stylist. I also helped set up lighting and the backstage photography backdrop. Pre-fashion show, with the help of other interns, we utilized the basic tailoring technique of reverse/back stitching to hold two areas of fabric closed, which was my first experience with said hand-sewing technique. During my time at TDT, I also played a role in the marketing/promotions for the brand.
The campaigns ranged from sample sales, newsletters, to social media posts. For sample sales, I had to create gif (animated graphics) as promotional visuals. As for newsletters, I learned a new software, MailChimp, which made newsletters a bit more automated, which allowed me to focus on designing graphics/visuals to appeal to the customer base. These were then recycled for use in social media posts, that of which I had to write the copy/headlines for. Some more mundane tasks included picking up lunch for the director, making returns for his purchases, and taking items to get dry cleaned.
REFLECTIONSPractices in the industry were a bit different than I expected. Efficiency is a huge factor in most of the practices. For example, at the brand I was working at, they don’t necessarily draw illustrator drawings from scratch. Rather, they often use templates or base the drawings off of other brand’s clothing and modify them.
Specifically, TDT used items such as jackets from Acne Studios and trousers from Our Legacy as references. I realized that brands that have become popular or hyped often use Gildan basics for prints in order to maximize cost efficiency, however, is frowned upon in the fashion community, thus most brands would try to hide it by replacing the labels with their own. If we had to draw certain hardware as a technical drawing, we would take reference pictures with a phone camera and trace it with the pen tool. As for colour research, we didn’t immediately pin down the pantone colors, rather, we decided on colours based off our concept and decided on pantone colors much later, when the color story is finalized, and gone through a few changes. I learned that there is a lot of trial and error in the design process.
It isn’t a linear step by step path but rather a tree with many branches. Many design ideas are killed prematurely earlier or later in the process after factoring different aspects such as functionality or expense. Search engine skills are a crucial skill in production when you have certain limitations or requirements that you must navigate carefully. I feel that these skills are gained over time, not an easy task for a first-time intern.
The most important parameters for finding the right supplier were minimum order quantity and lead time as well as cost. I also learned the importance of double checking everything, as mistakes just lead to more work needing to be done than necessary. For example, I was told to price-check everything component I sourced, as the numbers do add up. Comparison shopping is very important when you are a small brand with a tight budget. It was always a battle between price and quality. You want the most premium-looking component but for the best price possible, keeping in mind all possible options. As for product development, it is important to look at all angles of a product’s usage and functionality. Taking in factors such as how the product’s look changes when worn and other aspects, akin to being almost like an inventor/mechanic.
It is more than just how the product looks on paper or in photos. I learned also about the relationship between designers, suppliers, and buyers. The expectation that brands should pay 30% before production and 70% after the order is finished is not realistic, as it depends on the brand’s buying power. In our instance, payment had to be 50/50. With the last 5% of the job being completed after full payment, due to special circumstances. The suppliers also need to protect themselves, as many young brands may only last one season. I also realised that the domain of buyers/showroom is a bit more formal. I made the mistake of not being informative enough, it was better to introduce myself first to the brand business partners, even as an intern, rather than getting straight into business.
I was used to a casual, informal environment in the designer sphere. While I was interning at the brand, I learned a certain weakness about myself. That is, I am not very good at multitasking especially when it involves more than one thought process at a time. I usually end up making mistakes or overlooking something. This is something I need to work on and overcome. Of course, I try to fix it right away, but it would be important in the future for me to figure out how to blend/associate these thought processes together so that my brain doesn’t separate them and prioritize one over the other needlessly. The one crucial element of all the collections at Tourne de Transmission was hardware.
I learned a lot about the possibilities of hardware and how to push the industrial look that is taken over the streetwear zeitgeist. ANALYSIS INFRASTRUCTURE: From a structural standpoint, the brand doesn’t have the necessary space to grow. The team is mostly operating in a small confined cubicle for two or three personnel, sharing the space with a PR agency office, along with a workspace for both companies interns. The moodboard and collection overview are on a large moveable foam board that is often obstructing the way for the PR employees, as the personnel are often bumping into it. Rather than having dedicated space for the brand only, showrooms are often turned into makeshift photoshoot space or model casting walkways.
They also don’t have proper storage for past collections or some semblance of a physical archive. The PR agency has wardrobes in the back that hold past collections of their current brand portfolio. This is often mixed with the TDT collections. This causes a bit of confusion as to what belongs to the agency and what belongs to the brand.
They also lack a workshop or atelier, a small dedicated space for a machine or two. This means they have to outsource tasks related to sewing, repairing, or finishing or alternatively work within limited means of space and proper equipment. Around the time of the show, the office becomes much more busy and chaotic than usual.
The lack of space makes it difficult as well to bring in more help, paid or unpaid. As for logistics, the company tends to use a shipping method which is international with tracking requiring signature. It takes 5-7 business days worldwide and 3-5 working days within the EU.
This is quite standard. However, certain stockists, such as Harvey Nichols actually ship faster. It would be favorable to the brand to be the first choice for the consumer. Another topic is the show stage for the fashion show.
I had this discussion with the assistant designer. The brand tends to pick its own private locations to have the show. For example, this season, we used a chapel in Holborn.
The benefit of this is having a more unique show space. On the other hand, there is the option to use Store Studios/ 180 The Strand, which is the conventional place to have a show during London Fashion Week. The benefit of this is that the lighting is better, and you have a much larger crew handling the setup.
In other words, most things are taken care of for you. This means more energy to focus on the models and the clothing and ,of course, the performance itself. SUSTAINABILITYIn regards to sustainability/sustainable development, the brand makes notable strides towards sustainability. Although, sustainability isn’t the brands modus operandi or even the main focus of their brand vision, they do make some effort here and there.
For SS18, they utilized tencel as one of their fabrics. This may have something to do with its availability as it was “developed by British firm Courtaulds during the 1980’s”, making it quite accessible in the UK (Hallet and Johnston, 221). The main reason they chose tencel, according to the designer, was because of its hand feel, described by research professors as having a “soft touch…, good lustre and drape.
” (Hallet and Johnston, 222) It seems that the brand tends to favor fabrics that are easily sourced in the UK, unless they are looking for a certain function or exceptional type of quality in a textile. They work with Turkish factories, which have potential to be sustainable due to the current trend of sustainable and ethical production in Turkey. They also used fabrics such as ballistic nylon, kvadrat, scottish wool, paper nylon, and gabardine to name a few. Many of these have potentially sustainable alternatives. They also create a lot of waste due to the fact that many styles simply won’t sell season-to-season. They tried to remedy this by donating huge amount to charity as well as selling some older styles as a carry-over by modifying it slightly. This works to some extent.
Nonetheless, there is still much stock left over in the vault where they keep older collections. BRANDINGI had a discussion with the product developer, Dara, about branding. He has some experience with this, having worked previously at brands ,such as NIKE or A-Cold-Wall, that have a cult following. TDT seeks to become popular or as hyped as these brands but fall short in some ways. If you look at A-Cold-Wall, they have a strong graphic element in all their prints that is very memorable to the consumer. The bracket and asterisk create a synergistic visual, appearing throughout collections, that allows it to land into the consumer mind’s top hierarchy of brands. Coupled with the home-grown British streetwear heritage you have a recipe for success.
TDT is lacking a signifying element that resonates with the consumer mind. I will say though, the creative director is quite open-minded, and tends to take in consideration other’s opinions whether it be the designer, product developer, buyers, and even interns. This is crucial for TDT to grow in creative direction and as a brand. ARGUMENTS FOR A SOLUTIONIn regards to infrastructure, it would be ideal for the creative director to find a space near his home to operate as a workshop/atelier. It is important for him to be able to travel between the PR firm and his brand easily. They could move the whole team to the workshop, or simply have interns operating the atelier under supervision by one team member.
There used to be many factories in the area that the director lives, it should not be too difficult for him to find a space to convert into a workshop. There is also an argument for simply buying another floor of the current office, although it may be too expensive, as rent in Shoreditch tends to be exorbitantly high. A small space enough to fit 2 – 3 machines, roughly the size of a studio apartment, would suffice. In terms of sustainability, there are a few options for the brand.
On the topic of fabrics, we can say that tencel is a good place to start. However, the other fabrics have many potential alternatives. For example, ballistic nylon was a popular technical fabric this season, thus it was in limited supply, not enough for the collection. A viable alternative would have been N1680D from a supplier in South Korea, which is a high tensile nylon: tear-resistant, water repellent, and most importantly, easily recyclable (material connexion). Instead of scottish wool, they could have use Wooltex, a partner of Kvadrat. It is sustainably produced with “85% of the water… recycled and a “zero-waste (practice) that recycles all cardboard, oil and plastic etc.” (kvadrat.
dk) INITIATIVEDara and I have talked about experimenting with different concepts, one possibility being sustainability. We agreed that it would be easier to test the waters with capsule collections to see how it would be received by the public. My proposal is to create a capsule collection using upcycled old garments from past collections. A lot of the old garments are in premium fabrics, but thanks to obsolescence in the fashion system, many of the garments wouldn’t sell due to being no longer in style. This aspect of sustainability refers to the “end-of-life” phase of the product life cycle (gwilt pg 32).Since sustainability isn’t the core focus of the TDT brand identity, the design and production phase will be ruled out.
The distribution phase can be improved with biodegradable packaging when shipping items out to stockists and customers. The upcycled look will fit in with the brand identity, because the brand often uses patchwork taking inspiration from Japanese boro textile. The collection will consist of 8 coats/jackets made from pieces of different garments from older collections or current left over stock. The packaging will be sourced from a company called EARTHPACK, and will consist of mailing envelopes and shipping boxes with TDT branding. CONCLUSION