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Pattern cutting, pattern making, pattern engineering.

At EHC pattern engineering

At EHC pattern engineering

Whatever you call it, is interpreting a design with an eye for detail, making pattern templates used to cut the cloth before any construction can begin. We often get approached by outside students of fashion and designers alike asking for theses pattern making skills.

We still draft patterns by hand at Ecole Holt Couture, an essentially combined science and art form without the aid of CAD programs, specifically for haute couture and bespoke tailoring – which is what we teach. Pattern engineering is integral and essential to a successful business as a couturier and tailor whether you work from home or operate a studio or boutique.

Every pattern is based on an entirely unique set of measurements first to create a mock-up or toile for design and fit adjustments. This ensures perfect fit, efficient use and adequate quantity of expensive and specially made fabrics for the final garment.

Interpreting the designer’s ideal fit and flair is what sets great pattern-makers apart from the masses and enables them to command high salaries. Being detail-oriented, style-conscious, perfectionistic, and hard-working, enables pattern-makers to earn upwards of $100,000/year in New York or Los Angeles as of 2013. Freelance pattern-makers may earn up to $40/hr or more in LA. Pattern-making services usually charge more than this, however. The time it takes to make any type of pattern is extremely difficult to predict, and few predictions are accurate.

The importance of having the skills to make original patterns cannot be understated. The following are comments made by professionals in the fashion design and production field.

Pattern engineering is at the cutting edge of design, processing flat designs into 3D form is as important as the design itself, and fundamental to the success of any design. Without the technician the designer cannot produce. Pattern cutters are equal to the designer and are crucial to success.

Even though pattern cutters work in collaboration with designers for many years, the credit normally goes to the designer. However, no famous designer would ever claim that their design was created without a great team behind them as they work hand in hand on every function to achieve final goal.

Cutters understand and are interpreters of what is in your head as a designer. Behind every designer is a very creative pattern cutter, a sort of marriage between art forms and expertise. They provide many more options than the obvious ones to achieve a design.

Pattern cutters are just as creative as the designer, but perhaps more practical. However, not enough technical people being trained for the fashion industry as the actual manufacturers move into other countries. There are plenty of designers around, but not enough technical creators.

Pattern cutters are open-minded and know the foundation rules, and understand how to break those rules. They can turn tailoring ideas on their head, are methodical and use good sense.

We live in a fairly celebrity obsessed society and perhaps most people want to be the high profile designer. But maybe you are the type that will follow your love and spirit for cutting. Pattern cutting is actually a highly respected career that you can make a decent living out of. (See: Canada. USA. UK. )

As a pattern cutter you won’t be on television or have a famous name, the same as if you’re a football coach or in the pit crew of a formula one race car – you are the support team. Pattern cutters are the unsung heroes.

It is very satisfying seeing a project through from the concept, its procedure of cutting and fitting, all the way to the runway or see someone wearing it, or in the shops.If you become a top pattern cutter you will become an even better designer, the best training ever to become an even better designer.

They are real gold to a designer, who needs to create what people want to buy and what they want to wear. Imagine if you are a designer and find pattern cutter you absolutely love, then you can feed all these wonderful ideas to them to be interpreted.

Imaging doing something you really enjoy for 8 hours every day. Pattern cutters understand you before you’ve even said something, even presented with a vague sketch. You don’t want to get rid of a good pattern cutter – ever!

Designers will come and go. That’s just the way it is. A creative pattern cutter will have great job security. If you are good, then you become in some ways, the mainstay of a successful creative studio.

You work with someone else and add your input to create the final garment. You turn great ideas into reality. There is a huge need for creative technologists in every single area of fashion design including pattern cutters, seamstresses, etc.

The fashion industry has changed, certainly from local manufacturing, but the front end part is not moving anywhere – business always need to be very close to the market that they are operating in.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough publicity of the icons of the past – we need more publicity of these very creative people. Careers for pattern cutting and sewing are still very much alive; you just never know where you will end up working – for a high street shop or next to a designer.

Comments condensed from video:
Sally Smith, one time Design Director, Coats Viyella
Michael Terry, Design Director and one time Executive Director at Dewhirst Group based in the UK,
Amanda Wakeley, Designer
Betty Jackson, Designer
Nicole Fahri, Designer
Ren Pearce and Andrew Fionda, Designers recently well known for their innovative cutting techniques for British Fashion Council.

Many books are published on the subject, but it is rare for a pattern-maker to become a professional through teaching oneself. Apprenticeships are almost unheard of in North America, but would serve well to improve the transition from student to professional status. Because this occupation is relatively unknown outside of the apparel industry, there is a serious lack of pattern-makers who can accurately interpret designs in LA, and possibly other fashion capitals.

pattern cutter


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Couturiers and Tailors Jobs!

EHC is training Couturiers and Tailors – specialists in fashion production

According to a 2011 Canadian Labour Market Information Study, prepared by Milstein & Co Consulting Inc for Apparel Human Resources Council in March 2011:

The (Canadian) apparel industry could require possibly as many as 7,000 trained production personnel in the next 18 to 24 months (Production means the various jobs in making or creation of something – and of that group are fashion Couturiers and Tailors). Considering the impact of the various demand scenarios (as well as the retirement challenge), the industry will face serious labour demand challenges over the next several years, and could be required to hire between 6,000 and 21,000 new employees (excluding normal turnover and excluding the need to replace retiring executives).  

The challenges at the moment are:

  • Vocational programs for skilled apparel production workers have, by and large,been discontinued;
  • Students in post-secondary institutions seek service jobs in the industry as opposed to production jobs;
  • There is an overriding sentiment in the country that apparel production has largely moved offshore and as a result, is not a viable occupation to pursue;
  • Immigration policy is not focused on attracting skilled apparel production workers;
  • Provincial employment programs often encourage displaced apparel production workers to retrain into other occupations

Parents of young people wanting to enter the fashion profession are very skeptical about their futures in the business. Fashion as a viable career, has received some valid criticism – no thanks to TV programs such as Project Runway and the overabundance of ‘fashion designers’ out of work. ‘Fashion’ is hard work requiring a spectrum of expert skills. The jobs are indeed available locally, not all fashion related jobs are in retail sales or overseas.

From an article in The Association of Sewing and Design Professionals April 2012 members newsletter, (an American association which includes Canadian members) written by Mimi Jackson, a MSDP Board Member

Couture sewing is indeed a worthy profession. Constructing clothing by hand has a future, and as those with couture sewing skills are retiring, passing away, and leaving the profession, new hands are desperately needed.  As the owner of, I have my finger on the pulse of what skills are being sought across the United States.

In New York City, I can assure you, the search has become frantic. At the highest levels in the sample workrooms of the top design firms (whose names we all know), there are empty seats where sample hands once sat. One very well established Madison Avenue boutique can seat (and would hire) 30 tailors in their alteration room and only 12 of those seats are filled.

A high end women’s custom clothing firm in New York City recently placed an online search ad for a women’s tailor/fitter and has not received A SINGLE RESPONSE.  Movies which are shooting in other parts of the country scramble to find willing, capable, flexible, and custom sewing professionals whose skills run the gamut from simple to complex. These jobs can pay quite well, since much of the work requires expertise and a willingness to be “on call”. Yes, even in this (USA) economy!

While people simply willing to sew are not quite as hard to find, locating those who know the value, beauty, and techniques required to turn a delicate rolled hem on bias chiffon properly, fortify a corset, invisibly join pieces with delicate hand stitching, understand proper zipper insertion, develop a pattern, and skillfully fit a figure have become like trying to find needles in haystacks.  As anyone in this profession knows, this work requires your head, your heart, and your hands. It is a talent, requiring years of practice and education.

Ecole Holt Couture offers a 4 year program for Couture, Ladies and Men’s Tailoring.

Resource for posting and finding fashion related jobs in Canada and abroad.
Online portfolio advantage for fashion graduates.


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