July 2012

Visual Research Methods in Fashion

Berg Publishers

  • 50 Bedford Square
  • London , UK

44 0 207 631 5600


While it’s tempting to jump right into designing without first doing research, it’s unlikely that anything interesting would come of it. "To sit in front of a blank sheet of paper and be creative is virtually impossible," writes Julia Gaimster, author of Visual Research Methods in Fashion, which explains to those currently or aspiring to work in the fashion industry how to analyze, interpret, and use observations in order to create something innovative and unique.

Gaimster has been teaching fashion for twenty years and has tapped her extensive professional network for researching and writing this book.

She gives an overview of background research, an ongoing process of regularly collecting and sifting through information in order to stay in touch with what’s happening in the world. She explains the use of RSS feeds and social bookmarking sites for this purpose. Gaimster recommends carrying a sketchbook or journal, ideal for a visual/artistic person. Notebooks also come in handy when doing primary research, which can be anything from interviewing a speaker after a lecture, checking out a costume exhibition, or visiting a fabric store. Secondary research is the type traditionally done in a library, where books, magazines, newspapers, and the Internet are used. The general consensus seems to be, though, that current fashion students rely too heavily on search engines for their research. As one interviewee put it, "Everyone is born being able to Google now, and it is really dull; we all Google the same thing."

My favorite interviews are those with trend forecasters at Promostyl, Nelly Rodi, and Doneger, who demystify their process somewhat. For example, one interviewee describes how using a seasonal color forecast too far in advance might backfire because consumers might not be ready for it. She says, "…it will be just that wrong green and it just won’t sell."

Visual Research Methods in Fashion is an excellent guide for improving your research skills. Just as form follows function, great design comes from thoughtful research.

Reviewed by FIDM Library Staff Member Kirstie Harless