You Are What You Wear: Making Garments To Reflect Your Identity With I AM Patterns
Our Designer of the Month for March 2022 is I AM Patterns - so we sat down for a chat to find out what makes their patterns so special.
Since 2015, I AM Patterns have inspired thousands of people around the world to cut, pin and sew beautiful clothes that truly represent them.
Hi there! What are you doing today?
Hello, today is a very busy day for us at I AM Patterns. Firstly, we had to check what happened on our social media channels over the weekend and answer all email received as well. Then, we finalised a few things for the upcoming Spring-Summer 2022 collection. And now we’re taking the time to unveil a bit our indie pattern company to you.
Can you tell us a little bit about how I AM Patterns came to be?
After studying something different altogether, my passion for sewing and the desire to create took over and I decided to enrol in a fashion degree. After graduating, I left France to teach pattern drafting at an international fashion school in Shanghai. A few years later, I came back to France and opened a sewing studio with the idea to help, in my modest way, change the clothing industry. Seeing my students struggle to find patterns they like and that suit them I started thinking of starting my own sewing pattern company. I set up I AM Patterns and started sharing my creations and knowledge with a growing sewing community. I am so happy that I did.
Where did the name come from?
I wanted to have a name that would suggest that you can find and show your identity through clothing and even more, through handmade garments. It is a very powerful affirmation to say “I am”. With I AM Patterns I want everyone to be able to define their identity and dress according to who they are regardless of what is trendy or not and what the fashion industry dictates. In fact, we are in complete opposition to the textile industry. With our patterns sewists can choose the garment and the fabric they love and make a garment that will truly reflect who they are.
Who is in the I AM Patterns team and what does each person do?
We are two sisters working together. Blandine, my little sister, has been involved in the business since the beginning (helping with translations and communication), and her involvement grew with time. I do all the creative work from thinking and drafting the models, planning the photoshoots and finding the names and Blandine takes care of all the logistics, communications and customer service. We also work with freelancers whether they are seamstresses, models, photographers, graphic designers, writers… We could not do all this without these amazing people…
What is your favourite thing about working in the sewing community?
Having worked in China for a few years, I visited a few textile factories, I can confirm what we often hear: the working conditions are appalling. These human beings behind the machines are modern slaves. They are barely paid and live well below the standard of living in their country. It’s only one example of what is wrong with the clothing industry. But for us, working in the sewing community and help grow that community is one step towards changing the clothing industry. The more people will sew the better the world will be. It’s more complicated than this obviously but it’s very important that we don’t forget about it.
What has been your biggest challenge as a company?
Finding the time to bring all our ideas to life. People might think that having a sewing business is all sewing and glamour but in reality, it’s also a lot of logistics and problem solving. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great fun but it means we can’t do everything we would like to.
And what has been your biggest achievement?
You know what, it’s funny because every time we launch a new collection, we always think this is our biggest achievement so far. But truth be told, I think our biggest achievement was last season when we launched our first pair of jeans. The I AM Sunshine jeans come in two different styles and we’ve published a sew along to accompany sewists. Since the launch, we’ve had only good feedback on this pattern whether it be the instructions or the fit. This makes us proud as if sewing a pair of jeans is demanding, drafting a pattern in two different styles that a lot of people are happy to sew and wear is no small feat either.
Where does the inspiration come from for your patterns?
I mainly take inspiration in my daily life. You know, the small insignificant things of everyday life, the world around me. I would hear a song or someone will say a sentence or a word and it will make me think of a piece of clothing. I always carry a notebook on which I put down all those ideas. Sometimes it takes weeks, months or even years to define all the features of one pattern completely.
What is the process from idea to finished pattern?
Once I have defined all the features, I make a technical drawing. This helps me draft the model. I sew as many toiles as is necessary to find the right fit. Then I write down the sewing process and create the illustrations. It needs to be as precise as possible. Blandine translates everything in English. Once this is done, I grade the patterns in all sizes and we send them to testers in all sizes. Nothing helps us more than testing the patterns. We are always so grateful for the precious help. When we get the feedback, we make the necessary changes. Then the fun part starts, sewing the prototypes and shooting the garments for the launch. In parallel we prepare all the pattern files and the website pages for the launch. The day of the launch marks the beginning of a new adventure. That’s when the pattern stops being our own only and when people imagine themselves in them and sew them. This is always very exciting.
Do you find that the French-speaking and English-speaking dressmakers are different from each other?
Yes, definitely. English speaking seamstresses are more demanding. It’s a good thing for us. It helps us improve. We always take feedback seriously and work on it as much as possible. We always try to do better than the last time.
I love your sewing planner – how did that come about?
Thank you. We’ve worked on it for a while. It started as a side project. Something that would help us, the I AM team, get better organised and then when we saw everything we had created we thought that maybe other people would use this tool. We refined it to create a sewing planner that had everything sewists could need to organise their sewing projects, pattern library, fabric stash and last but not least their ideas, best addresses and time. Organising ourselves make us better sewists. We buy only what we need and we go through projects in a more efficient way. This tool is a big part of our life now and we sometimes use it for other crafts as well.
What’s the best piece of sewing advice you’ve ever been given?
It might seem quite boring but the best piece of advice I have been given is to test everything. And I mean everything (pressing, stitching, overlocking, topstitching, new techniques etc…). Testing also includes making a toile to check the fit on your body. All bodies are different and a pattern that will fit someone else well might need a tiny adjustment on your body. It’s a step that seamstresses often skip but if you test at the beginning of a project there’s less possibility that it will go wrong once finished. And this way you won’t waste fabric and precious time.
What can sewists expect to see from you in the coming months?
We’re working on the final touches of our Spring Summer collection right now. It should be out in the next month. We are also planning on publishing a few pattern hacks on our blogs. We love publishing hacks. Either with the help of seamstresses or ones that we imagined at first but didn’t include in the final pattern. It enables someone to reuse a pattern they already have rather than buying a new one. And finally, we’ve already started working on our Winter collection. It’s not out before September but it takes a long time to get it all done.