We've been *too* excited about this one for a long time!
And it has been a challenge: we juggled lockdowns which temporarily closed the family-run print house we work with, postal delays during fabric sampling, organising and re-organising photoshoots around restrictions... All in all, it has been quite the mission!
But the creation of a new collection is such a fun process that we wanted to take the opportunity to share with you a behind-the-scenes look at all that goes into the design, development and delivery of a new ColieCo release.
So here it is! And we start by rewinding more than 12 months to the conception of an idea for a new collaborative project...
(Re)introducing Nicola Hanrahan
Nicola is a surface pattern designer who works primarily in watercolour and hand drawn illustrations. Motivated by her great passion for nature - a passion we share here at ColieCo Lingerie HQ - animals and wildlife are a major feature in her work.
Dedicated ColieCo followers will remember our previous collaboration with Nicola, the Goldfinch and Asters minicollection, which proved so popular that when we decided to explore ideas for a new nature-based bespoke print, Nicola was the obvious choice for a creative partner.
(Spoiler alert: much to our delight, she said yes 😀. Otherwise I guess that this might have been a much shorter blog post...)
Developing the concept
With Nicola on board, we kicked off the creative process.
We wanted to explore another wild, natural theme, and we got going by sharing colour palettes and mood boards with Nicola to help communicate our vision for the aesthetic.
Having come to a shared understanding of the feel for the project, we discussed themes and settled on an experimenting with a wild dog motif.
Nicola started with sketches, and looking for botanic and floral partners to complement the canine concept.
Suitably, during her research Nicola was inspired by the dog rose - Rosa canina - and worked up ideas incorporating the stems, foliage, rose hips and flowers of the wild shrub.
Nicola found what is a perfect match for the colour palette in the dog rose, and we love the character of the plant: it's a strong climber, fiercely determined and versatile, carrying a great natural beauty and also a generosity in its medicinal properties.
Refining the artwork
Nicola's process transitions from the conceptual through the creative to the technical.
Hand-drawn, detailed monographs featuring the refined animal and dog rose sketches are painted with watercolours to work on light and tones and build ideas around the composition of the final print.
The choice of the painted monographs are then digitally scanned before the discrete elements are brought together to find a spatial and symmetrical balance in the print design.
At this point, we join back up with Nicola to work on further careful refinement of the tones together before the digital print is finished.
Testing the print
This is where the practical fun passes back to us at ColieCo Lingerie HQ.
From here, we start experimenting with paper garments, looking at the scale and positioning of the print.
Firstly, we want to find a good aesthetic balance given the size and relationships of the pattern pieces required for the garments we're considering (and by this point we'd already earmarked our POPPY and ASTER sets for the new print).
And secondly, we want to ensure that we can use the print in such a way that we can minimise any fabric waste.
Once we've found the perfect scale, the digital print is ready to be sent to our print partners.
Printing the fabric
Before printing the fabric, we have to decide on the kind of material we want to use.
We'd previously had our in-house designs printed on a couple of different scuba jersey fabrics of different weights and finishes, and we wanted to be sure that the fabric that we ended up with carried the exact qualities that we wanted in terms of its grade, elasticity and feel.
For this, we returned to the family-owned and run small business that printed the fabric used in our Goldfinch and Asters collection.
This print house, local to the birthplace of ColieCo Lingerie in West Yorkshire, UK, and with a staff boasting over 100 years of combined experience in the industry, has led the way in textile digital printing, a process we love because it eliminates the production of water waste.
Having agreed on a fabric sample with our print partners, they got to work on creating our new fabric whilst we eagerly awaited its arrival...
And the roll finally arrives at ColieCo HQ in Sagres, Portugal!
Once we've gotten over the excitement of unpacking the fabric (cups of tea and meditative breathing exercises to calm down...) we can get on with sampling up the garments ready to be shot.
As we already had the patterns ready to go, in this case, this part of the process just looked like the production of a customer order - drawing, cutting, sewing and finishing - ready for dispatch to our photographer, Siân.
Given the challenges we've all faced this last year, we expected that we'd see some hiccups along the way, and we weren't disappointed!
We saw postal delays with samples, our print partner forced to close temporarily during lockdown, and we had photoshoots cancelled.
Given the unpredictability that came with changing social distancing measures and lockdowns, we weren't sure when Siân might be able to safely arrange a shoot, or whom she might be able to work with.
Usually, we'd want to produce samples to measure for the models, but this time we had to employ a little guesswork.
Luckily, the designs we'd chosen for the new print - in the ASTER and POPPY lingerie sets - are highly adjustable, and with Siân eventually able to arrange shoots with Sophie Stonem and Sam Erised we were delighted with the results.
Rosa Canina CCxNH minicollection
And here they are: the POPPY soft cup bra and side wrap panties, and the ASTER plunge bra and ouvert low rise panties.
I hope you enjoy the new minicollection as much as we have enjoyed creating it!
I hope you've also enjoyed following this little journey along with us, and as always, we'd love to hear your feedback.
Hook up with us on social media and let us know your thoughts!