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September 7, 2019

Interview with CAD For Fashion

By: Luke

Dashes Graphic

In conversation with designer and CAD For Fashion entrepreneur, Erica Horne.

When you’re a designer, you need to constantly develop your skill set. Whether this means getting savvy with social media or figuring out a new fabric, there’s always something new to learn.

If it’s software your struggling with, you’ll be delighted to know there’s an awesome studio where you can enhance your design capabilities. Tucked away in the iconic Olivetti Building in Derby is CAD For Fashion. A place where designers and makers can get to grips with all things technical.

We caught up with its founder Erica Horne to discover why CAD software should be a part of any successful brand.

Erica Horne, Founder of CAD For Fashion.

Hey Erica, thanks for chatting with us today. To start, tell us about your journey into the fashion and design industry:

“Inspired by my mothers dressmaking and costume skills, I decided to do a BTEC in Fashion and Clothing, with the idea of starting a costume business of my own. I loved the technical and creative challenge of design and my dreams got a little bigger when I decided to go to university. 

After graduating with a First, I worked with a childrenswear supplier and was given the opportunity to teach a CAD for Fashion Design short course at Nottingham Trent University. I was extremely lucky to get this position – it pays to be nice to your lecturers!”

Can you give us a little introduction into what CAD software is?

“CAD is short for ‘Computer Aided Design’. It’s used to describe all sorts of software in lots of different industries. In Fashion and textiles design,  Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign are the main programmes used. 

Although most industries have functioned for years without CAD, it’s now used to speed up, simplify and encourage collaboration in the design process. The software allows us to clearly and accurately demonstrate technical details, design features, texture, colour, print, and pattern all whilst adding your own creative style.”

CAD For Fashion offers specialist courses for designers, makers and brands.

What sparked your idea for CAD for Fashion?

We had a little teaching on CAD software at university but it was difficult to pick up and not really valued as much as the rest of our work, so most people would ignore the software as much as possible. I personally really enjoyed using it! 

I persisted and played with it to get the results I wanted and started to help out friends with their work. This is what started the idea for tuition!

Then when my peers didn’t have the confidence to apply for positions that stated ‘must be proficient in Photoshop and Illustrator’ I thought ‘something is missing here’. And once I actually got into industry and witnessed the huge skill shortage and high demand for CAD skills, I had to do something.”


How does your company support people working in the industry?

We run courses, events and workshops that support fashion and textiles designers – from students and graduates to design managers and managing directors. 

“The courses on our website are for all levels of ability, in both Photoshop and Illustrator including our popular Tips, Tricks & Efficiency Workshop

CAD for Fashion also offers Saturday courses, which offer a great resource for those who want to improve their skills on the side or start their own brand.

Whether it’s mood boards, technical sketches, design flats, print design or illustration – we have a course for you.”

What’s the most rewarding thing about your business?

“It’s amazing to give graduates the boost they need to apply for their first roles and provide training for designers who never even had the software whilst they were studying!

We also offer tailored training whole design teams, ensuring they work in the most efficient and effective ways – creating artwork that’s high quality, accurate and looks good!”

Why are CAD For Fashion courses so essential for designers?

I can’t stress enough how vital it is that designers get the right help! 

I’ve heard countless stories of freelancers spending hours more on a project than they have invoiced for, or junior and senior designers alike working at home after hours to hit a deadline –  purely because they are self teaching their way through the software. 

Design teams will know the headaches of having to decipher the code of another designers files and having total CAD envy when they see the amazing standard of the ones we see on WGSN or Pinterest. The truth is that it can be and should be super simple! 

With the right help, CADs can take mere minutes and design teams can work seamlessly and really get the most out of this software they pay so much for. 

And just by getting to grips with CAD software, you can get your foot in the door in the first place! If you’re a student or graduate without these skills it can be hard to find your first role – but don’t let it hold you back, we can help.”

Before starting their own brand, what do designers and makers need to consider?

“I actually moonlight as a freelance designer and product developer, working with start-ups and small brands – I have so much to say on the subject. 

The thing that breaks my heart is when a brand has not given enough thought to how they are actually going to sell their products. You can have the most amazing product in the world but if it doesn’t end up in front of the right people if wont sell.”

Why is branding so important?

It’s essential to truly understand what underpins everything your brand does. You can do this through your visual assets and brand storytelling. 

Photography is especially important. With portrait mode and super charged cameras in phones, we’re surrounded by great quality content. Anything substandard is not going to get anywhere. These images are going to be selling your designs – make sure they look amazing.”

Also think about your marketing. Just announcing things on social media will not work. Work with an expert, have a strategy and invest in the best!”

Learn about CAD For Fashion in Derby

What advice do you have for aspiring designers?

My advice would be to conquer CAD early on. It takes a long time to create beautiful work quickly. Start as soon as you can, and draw as much as you can. 

Don’t forget basic drawing practices like working from a product or image for reference, pay attention to the details and most importantly the proportions! 

In terms of making it in the industry, my main advice is to make as many friends as you can. It’s such a small world – fostering good relationships now can pay off big time in the future. You never know when that kind deed will get returned.”

What upcoming industry changes and updates do fashion businesses need to be aware of? 

“There’s some exciting stuff on the horizon for textile and surface pattern designers over at Adobe. They’re developing a new plug-in for Photoshop called ‘Textile Designer’ which allows you to repeat, edit, recolour and even separate screens almost effortlessly! 

It’s going to change things up big time. I think it will drastically reduce the amount of time these processes would usually take, making it way more accessible. 

The beta version is available at the moment whilst the guys at Adobe fine-tune how it’s going to work. CAD for Fashion and its learners have actually been part of the testing process, we held an event where we gave a demo of this plug-in and allowed guests to have a go themselves in our studio.

 The event was so useful to get feedback and we were able to pass that on to Mike Sutton who heads up the team developing the plug-in at Adobe. Mike was grateful for the feedback and in exchange showed us the next Beta version in all its glory. All I can say is make sure you are signed up for the latest release, it’s going to get even better!”

Which textile trends do you have your eye on for 2020?

“The biggest underlying trend for 2020 is going to be sustainability. The demand for sustainable options within fabrics, packaging and now trims has finally got to a point where manufacturers are offering more and more choices. And with the demand for transparency in the supply chain also increasing, these are all positive steps forward. 

I believe the real future is in minimising waste by recycling, repurposing and also embracing the incredible scientific and technological advances in textiles. There are some really interesting things happening with bio yarns, fibres made from plants like banana by-products, pineapple leaves, flax and hemp stalk – and waste created from crushing sugar cane. It’s very exciting.”


What’s next for CAD For Fashion?

“We have an exciting new course to shout about – Adobe Illustrator for Lingerie Design. And our watercolour course with Jess Priest is making a welcome return.

Most importantly, we want to create a community! It’s daunting being a student or graduate, isolating being a freelancer and you can feel closed off working for a brand or in education. 

If we can all share a little bit of experience or give someone a hand up, the industry would be a much more enjoyable and exciting place to be.”

Designers everywhere take note! If you’d like to update your skills with CAD For Fashion, follow them on Instagram, browse courses online or arrange to pop into the Derby studio. And if you need an awesome designer, don’t forget to follow Erica on LinkedIn.

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