Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lilly Pulitzer Technical Engineer

Today you are in for a very special treat! You know that I love my Lilly as much as, actually, probably more than the next girl, but I never really thought about how much is involved in the design and fit of a garment. Recently, I interviewed the most delightful designer from the Pink Palace, Sara Bernard. Sara is a technical designer for Lilly Pulitzer and is going to share some exciting information with Maryland Pink and Green readers today.

What is a technical designer?
A Technical Designer is like an Engineer for clothing. We are the fairy god mothers of fit, experts on pattern and construction, and constant problem solvers. Designers come up with the concepts and Technical Designers partner with them to help explain and instruct the factory to make the garments. When samples come back from the factories we go into a fitting with Design where we look at the garments on live models and we discuss what we want to improve on the garment. Perhaps it looks great but is uncomfortable to the model, or feels great but doesn’t look like Design imagined it would. We take down a lot of notes about all the things we want to change and then later on the Technical Designer translates these notes into comments for the factory that are clear, consistent and easy for them to understand. We use LOTS of pictures to help explain corrections, keeping in mind that for the people who have to read our directions; English is not their first language.

In the end we want Design to be pleased with the look, the garment to be comfortable and cost effective to make, and most importantly we want goods to deliver on time – as we like to say around the Pink Palace “You’re on time or you miss it” and no one wants to miss it!

We have several team members, each working on a different product type like pants, sweaters dresses etc. and we each work to fine tune our skills in a particular area. For example I concentrate on all Ladies’ bottoms which includes pants, shorts, and skirts. Working on one category helps me identify common problems and the most efficient solutions to get the best results.

What is a typical day like for you?
A day in the life of the fashion industry is anything but typical. One thing that is a must, is being flexible! I usually come into the office with a set list of things that need to be completed but fully understand that priorities sometimes have to be re-adjusted at the drop of a hat.

Depending on the stage of development we are in (Prototypes, Sales samples, Pre-production Approval etc.) I could have any of the following occur: an all day fitting, 6 styles to comment on, one major pattern to work on, meeting with design to hand off new styles for development, measuring samples, or a combination of all of them!!

Two of my favorite things are working on new developments and working on patterns. New developments are great because you really do a lot of thinking to make sure the samples come in the best they can the first time. I draw A LOT of diagrams to explain to vendors all the different points of construction of a garment. For example, how a particular binding is attached, or the construction of a cargo pocket or decorative top stitching can easily be explained in a diagram!

Patterns are also fascinating to work with. It is sometimes a lot of work to go through every pattern for every style that comes across your desk but sometimes the pattern holds answers that the garment is not showing you.

What role do computers and technology play in your job?
Computers and technology are HUGE! Since we work with vendors that are a half day ahead of us it is essential that we can get information to them as soon as possible and email really helps this. Whenever possible we send information via email. This could be anything from a sketch, measurements, artwork, or patterns that we have drafted in the office and digitized into the computer using special patternmaking software in order to e-mail to the factory.

We use data management software to keep a record of every style we create and all the information a factory could need to make the garment. Kind of like a how-to manual for putting together an item of clothing! Everyone in different departments can access the information, and add or change things when they need to

We also use Illustrating software (adobe Illustrator) for doing “flat” sketches – which are drawings of the garments as they would look if they were laid out flat on a table, and to draw diagrams for construction. Having these images in digital form allows them to be easily accessible and also quick and clear when sending to our factories.

Best of all since we have branched out to Facebook and Twitter we are able to get immediate feedback direct from the horse’s (or customer’s!!) mouth.

I don’t think any of us realize how dependant we are on using technology to get through every day tasks, thankfully there are still things we can do with out computers such as measure garments, and work on patterns by hand!

Can you give us any previews or hints about upcoming trends for Summer?
Well I don’t want to give too much away BUT I will say that the summer installment of ‘Lilly Goes Green’ focuses around the idea of ‘Buy Local’, as in fresh produce from your local farmers market! I am super jazzed about this! Our print and clothing designers did such a great job of using bold colorful prints on silhouettes that have a loose and flowey throw-on-but-glamorous feeling. Styles that look great on multiple body types and are comfortable even after too much fun in the sun! Designers have incorporated the concepts of high waisted and paper bag waist as well as using nautical details like rope to bring a fresh twist to the season. And of course what would summer be with out little white dresses perfectly paired with a BRIGHT Murfee scarf for chilly evenings and some fab gold jewelry?

Where is your favorite place to hang out in the Pink Palace?
When I have the time, I jump at the chance to lunch in the commons with co-workers. It is so nice to have a space that makes you feel like you are on a vacation from the office.

I enjoy spending time talking with my designers, who work at the other end of the building, about their new ideas. We are so fortunate to have an incredibly talented design team at Lilly and it is fascinating to hear them talk about all the visions that are created in their heads.

I am sure that no one would ever guess though, that one of my favorite hang outs is the Lilly Gym! Yes that’s right we have a gym in the Pink Palace!! Sometimes a lunchtime yoga session or a post workday run is the perfect thing to lift your spirits and of course when you are all done to get to walk back out into the commons and be surrounded by palm trees it’s half bad either!

What's your favorite Lilly item from Spring and why?
I don’t know if I can pick just ONE favorite – especially from spring which is usually our biggest line!

I adore the Mira Jumpsuit for multiple reasons. First of all – have you tried it on? It is just gorgeous! I love that the fabric is so light and soft it is comfortable and glamorous all at the same time. I also see it as a HUGE success story as there are so many factors to consider when developing a jumpsuit! I needed to make sure my design team was happy and at the same time that the style would look great on the body and would deliver in time so it could make it into everyone’s closet!!

What is a technical designer?
I am absolutely in LOVE with the Whitley skirt in Hotty Pink Love me or Leaf me (shhh! Not even in stores yet!) I am obsessed with hotty pink – it just sounds bright and fun and the Whitley skirt is TDF. It is high waisted which is great because it accentuates the slimmest part of your middle, the fabric has a fabulous burn-out print, and it has a little bit of shirring to make it flirty and fun.(Photo is in ‘She’s a Piston print)

If you'd like to hear more about Sara and her adventures in the Pink Palace, you can follow her on twitter with this link. It's so interesting to see what she's doing from day to day. As a special aside, Sara is a runner who is training for a big run. It's also pretty motivational for me to read about that, too!

Be sure to sign up to follow Lilly Pulitzer on facebook ~ there are lots of promotions for fans and it's a great way to interact with other Lilly Lovers. I love Lilly Pulitzer clothes, but I feel like I have a real relationship with the company and that people at Lilly truly value my opinion. It's people like Sara who make Lilly so special. A million thanks to Sara for sharing a little piece of her life with Maryland Pink and Green.

Enjoy your day, lovely readers.


P.S. Sara confessed to me that she loves colored ink pens – more specifically PINK and GREEN! She has a separate jar on my desk just for pink and green sharpies, pens, pencils etc!


  1. this is QUITE the coup, in addition to being a fabulous read! congrats and thanks to you both!


  2. It's so interesting to read about this aspect of Lilly! It's obvious she puts so much work into each piece. I'll say though, the best news of the morning: farmer's market pieces this summer??!!

  3. Thanks for bringing us that interview.

    Sooooo interesting!

  4. That was a great interview, Bethany! I Love that people who work for Lilly actually love what they do and love their customers! And what about her pens? How fun is she!

  5. That is awesome - thank you for the cool post!

  6. Great post!!! So interesting and I loved the sneak peak of the adorable skirt!

  7. What a great post. Thank you Bethany and Sara!

  8. I just want to move into the pink palace and never leave! Thx for sharing. xoxo


  9. What a neat glimpse "behind the scenes"!

  10. This is a fabulous read! Thanks for sharing your interview with Sarah with us! The Mira is my favorite and most wanted on my wish list. I am really looking forward to the farmers market inspired pieces. Thanks Bethany & Sarah!

    xx Sue

  11. One day I'd love to be able to tour the Pink Palace! Love the interview with Sarah--what an awesome job and how sweet that they have a gym at Lilly HQ!

  12. bahaha I love the pink and green pens! Sara, what an amazing job! You are wonderful and so blessed! heart you and lilly! xoe (thanks for interviewing bethany!)

  13. I loved this post! Thank you! I've been following Sara on Twitter for ages, & it's so nice to learn about her! So cute!



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