WIW: One coat, four ways

In limbo between designs in draft, works in progress and completed prototypes, I’m taking a breather for a couple of days while I work out what to do next. My therapist encouraged me to take the pressure off this flurry of activity and focus on planning my daily routine. Wise advice.

In the meantime, here’s another prototype. The germ of this idea dates back to AM’s awesome saddlebag wrap, which made me want to wear faux fur again. I stalked the fabric back then and finally went back for it at the end of the summer by which time there was almost nothing left on the roll. I bought what I could comfortably afford and took it home.

My original sewing plan for the winter was for two garments: a fur vest I could layer over jackets and a plain black coat in something else. Then at some point I realised that the blouse that became a bomber jacket could also be a reversible coat which would convert into a wrap, filling both of these criteria and then some. You get the idea.

Mixing up the fur on one side with a piece of alpaca (miraculously found on Amsterdam’s Monday fabric market) and a black nylon shell on the other gives a garment with many applications. I like the glam meets boho meets urban vibe of the thing and it seems to go with almost everything. It’s comfortable over a tee in milder weather and I expect to wear it later in the season over a leather jacket. The waterproof fabric means I can flip it and wear it in the rain without drenching the pelt.

Here’s the thing though. It’s a design with potential and I want to make more like it. But unlike the bomber jacket there’s a problem with the economics - materials alone are expensive and fur is challenging to sew. This leaves me wondering how I can make this coat happen.

As ever, your thoughts and comments are most gratefully received. 

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25 Comments

  • rachylou replied 3 years ago

    Have just looked at pics... But what a fun coat!

  • Isabel replied 3 years ago

    WOW !  I love it !  

  • Beth Ann replied 3 years ago

    So creative and luxurious!  Would it be possible to find a small design house or manufacturer that could mentor you in the business aspects?  Having a team to support you can make it easier to make decisions and problem solve.

    So enjoying your posts!

  • tulle replied 3 years ago

    Make it to order, and charge more!  There are plenty of $2,000 coats on Net a Porter without half the pizazz of this one.  The faux fur is really sumptuous, and the protective nylon shell/lining is practical and sleek.  One quibble:  the view of the vent in pic #5 worries me. Would it be possible to have some kind of flap or placket in the nylon to cover the furry edges when the coat becomes a raincoat?  It's a super-interesting piece.

  • Elle replied 3 years ago

    Wonderful design. Such an interesting coat and I love all the possibilities.  It would be really fabulous if it could be worn in the rain..

    Because of the materials & construction time, you are going to have to aim at the luxury market.  I'm not sure what your business model is, but can you break into the made to order business?  Or could you do a prototype, exhibit it somewhere and take orders.

  • Firecracker replied 3 years ago

    Make a down-market version using Minky--that furry fleecy type fabric. It's really soft, and not as expensive as your gorgeous faux fur. And it comes in funky colors to play up the So Not Fur aspect of it. It's also thinner, and I think this faux fur version looks a bit bulky, though very cool and interesting.

  • Deborah replied 3 years ago

    I think you are about to become my favourite designer! This is gorgeous and I love it:). I would love to see something like this at an affordable price but I am not sure how to do that:). Again the fact that this can be worn various ways makes it's a very appealing garment and worth paying for in my opinion. In #5 I think the back could sit smoother without the bit of fur popping out at the top but otherwise I truly adore each variation. You a very talented:)

  • Firecracker replied 3 years ago

    approprio, here are some photos of a vest I made out of Minky fabric. I made it as a test for a faux-fur vest. It's maybe not quite as cheesy as it might sound, though you may not want to go in the funky/quirky direction. 

  • replied 3 years ago

    This is completely amazing -and while I've studied all the photos, I've also had 2 glasses of wine and it's now late. I don't know what to say :)  I'm coming back to this tomorrow with my manufacturing hat on. 

    p.s. I would really like to meet you one day 

  • Adelfa replied 3 years ago

    love it.

  • skylurker replied 3 years ago

    So, that's what I see with my practical, classic dresser eyes : a coat with 3/4 sleeves and open to the elements on both sides?
    But that won't keep me warm!
    I hope I don't sound too harsh and I certainly don't want to discourage you, I just think varied feedback from different corners might be helpful.

    Practicality aside, I like the look : it looks kind of kimono with the fur inside and kind of nordic barbarian with the fur outside.

    It would look even better with real fur.
    Just kidding :)

    Re fabric question, I echo Beth Ann, sounds like the kind of questions designers ask of their manufacturers. Do you plan to make all your clothes yourself ?

  • approprio replied 3 years ago

    Ladies, you really are the best! This is so, so useful.

    Beth Ann: that's a good point. Right now I'm getting very useful support and feedback from my friend over at ByBrown, who has plenty of experience with these things. I'll also be putting out feelers in the fashion department at the art college where I teach.

    tulle, Elle: true, I do have to aim for the luxury market because there's no way I can compete with high street prices. But I don't want to be inaccessible. I'm aiming for the kind of prices I myself could pay for something really special. It's a very difficult problem which I know many ateliers struggle with. Made to order is a definite possibility. 

    Deborah, tulle: I was a bit doubtful of the back view myself to begin with, but it's actually pretty fun in real life. My neighbour compared it favourably to an animal with hackles raised, and it got a spontaneous shout out from a hipster dude I walked past yesterday.

    I like the placket idea. It has a small snap fastening on the back vent just now, which keeps it from flapping about (vital on the bike ;) )

    I do agree that it could hang better. Very late in the process I figured out a time saving construction method that I think will solve this. Two birds with one stone, but I was in no mood to unpick by then ;)

    Firecracker you could be right that it will play better in a less bulky fur. I like the vest you posted and I've been looking at something very similar to the Minky material as a partial lining for the jacket. I suspect the ideal might be something in between. I'll keep looking. 

    lisap: oh please do come back with your manufacturing hat on (hard, I trust!) And yes, let's try and make that meeting happen!

    skylurker: heh, it's just as useful to know who the customer isn't as who she is :P

    Yeah, I know this might look impractical to some, but my original requirement was to replace an oversized sleeveless topper which I've found extremely useful as a layering piece. As I said above, it's comfortable in transitional weather and I'm expecting to wear it over a leather jacket or with long gloves when it gets colder. I'll let you know how it's going come February ;)

    And yes, I'll be making things myself to begin with, but if this is going to scale up I'm going to have to subcontract at some point. Meanwhile, there's going to be an industrial sewing machine in my future. That should speed things up a bit. 

    Anyway, it's all good. I'm learning as I go. A lot.

  • unfrumped replied 3 years ago

    No practical advice here, but just, wow, how cool is that, and cheers, keep the faith!

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    I think it's incredibly cool. I have no real suggestions except sell it in the right neighbourhood! I WISH I could wear something like this. I don't think I would, though. Like Skylurker, I'd worry about practicalities (in my climate/ life). And I'd also fear that it would overwhelm me. But scaled in the right way, I'd absolutely want to give it a bash, esp. if I lived in a milder climate. 

  • Word Lily replied 3 years ago

    I really like it! I echo the concerns about how the back vent lies, and I probably wouldn't wear it (much) in the shrug/upside down iteration, but it's really fun.

  • Angie replied 3 years ago

    I love the way the coat looks from the front in #1 and #7. Very creative!

    Practically of course, it's really more of a poncho worn that way because it doesn't have a back, and won't keep you very warm (short sleeves too). 

    FWIW, I think that the design as an actual coat - #2 - needs tweaking and tailoring. That way you'd probably sell it better. As someone who dresses bodies for a living, I have learned from experience that the current silhouette is hard to wear on most body types: very bulky fur bodice, no collar, short sleeves, absent structure, black = unflattering. I know you're not after a flattering silhouette, Liz - and I certainly don't want to stifle your creativity. It IS  a very clever design! I'm not your target market, but I am trying to give my 2 cents from a value point of view, since you are looking at this piece from a commercial point of view too. 

  • approprio replied 3 years ago

    So I swung by a couple of our local independent designer shops this afternoon with the coat and the jacket. The ladies in both places were very positive (enthusiastic even!) and gave me some excellent feedback on product and pricing. 

    Angie: you're quite right that it needs tweaking. Given the seasonal cycle, it will be hard to bring this garment to market until next winter anyway, so the smart thing to do is focus on the jacket and pants in time for spring and take my time to get this one right. I'll wear it over the winter and work out what adjustments I should make.

    But I don't feel the need to be universally commercial with what I'm doing. I can't please all the people all the time and there won't be many of these pieces to begin with. Doesn't need to be for everyone, just a few.

    And don't worry about stifling my creativity. Feedback is a vital part of the process. It's what I'm here for. 

  • shevia replied 3 years ago

    Wow! On you I like it every way, but 4/5 the least because the way the button is in the back makes it look like a coat lining worn inside out a bit. Maybe not so much in person. Yes, it needs the right weather and right person. Yes it would be possibly too bulky with that particular material for the shorter among us. But with a different fur or even something like a thick brocade or sort of lumpy material (I have no fabric vocabulary clearly) I could totally picture it. Also it would work in my mild climate during the winter. Impressed as ever.

  • Style Fan replied 3 years ago

    It is very creative.  I like the idea of the fake fur being on the inside next to me.  I have a fake fur coat that I love but it is not that warm.  Not for a Canadian winter.
    I am enjoying your posts.  You have so much talent as a designer and seamstress.

  • Janet replied 3 years ago

    Oh my, how did I miss this until now? That is too cool. I like Firecracker's suggestions. I will have to take a closer look later when I can get a better look, since I'm on my phone now.

  • Sal replied 3 years ago

    I missed this one too!  It is very cool.  I look forward to seeing where this one goes  with your tweaks. 

  • replied 3 years ago

    I keep coming back to this, and I'm still confused (and it's not the wine).  Are all 9 pictures of the same piece?  I love it in pictures one through four  but I don't like whatever is going on in the back in picture 5.  I find this kind of collarless coat really great - I think it is absolutely flattering to some figures , and who cares if the sleeves are bracelet length and that there is no collar? This is a fashion piece, not something you buy for your one commuting coat for the winter.  In terms of the production of a piece like this - I agree that using a lower loft synthetic fur will reduce both cost and bulk, yet still provide that element of unexpected luxury.  Colours other than black?  Why? Maybe a taupe or grey, but getting into mainstream colours for the express purpose of appealing to the masses isn't your gig, is it?   You won't be selling your pieces on the Shopping Channel, so no need for colour in my not-very-humble (apparently - lol ) opinion.  Getting back to your other post about flattery - I will repeat my idea that this is indeed JFE and I 'd wear it in a less bulky interation .  And without the back venting thingamajig.

  • tulle replied 3 years ago

    Shorter sleeves on a cold-weather coat should not be a problem, unless the weather is truly Arctic.  An obvious and elegant solution is pair of beautiful long gloves.  I have some vintage ones that I wear with a  3/4-sleeved jacket, and I really love the look. Maybe you could show your coat with with elbow-length gloves next year? Meanwhile, I think you're wise to concentrate on marketing your jacket & pants for Spring.  Good luck!

  • replied 2 years ago

    Superbe manteau sous votre belle blouse blanche très élégante 

  • torontogirl replied 2 years ago

    How clever and creative ... 7 & 8 look so luxe!!

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