Leggings Christmas: The Prototype Arrives

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Oh boy! One of the great joys of designing a product is seeing it for the first time. And so, a couple days ago my prototype Nebraska leggings arrived from my factory in California. It was like Christmas. I opened the package, unfolded the leggings, and I felt good. The colors were vibrant, the pattern popped.

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But that was nothing compared to when my island buddy Mary agreed to model them for me. As these are the first leggings I’ve ever owned, I was struck by the sort of ho-hum look of the unworn thing. A very simple clothing pattern, leggings. But as a form-fitting garment, they come alive when they are worn. I believe I shouted, OH SHITTTT when I first saw Mary in the leggings.

When the leggings are being worn, they are fun to look at, the pattern comes alive, the colors are striking… And let’s be real: a form-fitting garment merges with the wearer into a new and wonderful thing. Wearable art. Design and the female form. What’s not to like? At the fitting, I felt better than I ever have about this project. It’s going to work, by golly.

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Today I fell into a pit of anxious worry about color matching. The colors are not Perfect. In that I can tell the garment printing software is making some strange ink choices to approximate some of the colors I’ve chosen. I talked with a support guy at my printer and there is a long technical explanation which will be interesting to graphics people and few others. The short version is that my printer converts the colors in my files upon receipt, which takes fine control out of my hands. This is part of the reason that designers fetishize things like screenprinting, in which pigments can be mixed minutely and beautifully. Direct to garment printing is analogous to printing leggings in your home printer. Not as elegant.

So the perfectionist in me loses this round. It’s for the best really, an extensive round of color matching would have delayed production.

Next steps: refine the legging design, order another (hopefully final) prototype. Sell the leggings. Go to high school reunion in helicopter emblazoned with my (TBD) apparel brand.

Speaking of which, I have been obsessing about branding of late. I have lists of hundreds of possible names for my brand. Recently, though, my buddy Mark
suggested that I might talk to my customers, and doing so might help me zero in…the sort of suggestion that is obvious in hindsight. How can I design a brand without knowing my customer?

So, this week, I’ve embarked on user interviews. Hourlong conversations on style and leggings with leggings “power users.” I’m learning a lot. Like: waistbands should be wide for comfort, to prevent plumber butt (yoga butt?), and to prevent an alarming condition known as “muffintop.” I am happy to report that my leggings have a wide band. There’s much more to say about these interviews, and the murky world of branding, which I’ll save for another update.

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