People often ask how I create my products. I’d love to say that it comes in a moment of inspiration, followed by a frenzy of productive designing and a smooth production process. The reality is much different. Designing new products is a constant process of inspiration, research, testing, and refinement… followed by more testing and refinement. With the recent launch of my travel wallets, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share my product development process with you.
Why did I decide to design a range of travel wallets in the first place?
The initial inspiration for a new product can come from anywhere. As someone who's always on the go and loves to travel, I struggled to find a practical travel wallet that could fit my passport and essentials and also looked stylish. I often get requests for wallets so I thought it would be a good idea to experiment with a new product that combines my own observations with the needs of my customers. Once I have identified a new product to explore, there are two main aspects to consider - the surface design of the prints and the technical design of the product itself. Both aspects are equally important and have to work in harmony to create the perfect balance of beauty and function.
Where did my print design inspiration come from?
My mind really opens up in new surroundings and I find so much inspiration in nature. I visited Mauritius in 2018 for my honeymoon and fell in love with the scenery and local wildlife, in particular, the shaggy palm trees and beautiful seashells.
Palm photos from my trip to Mauritius.
Observing seashells at the Shell Museum.
Above are images of the key inspirations for this collection. I came away from Mauritius really inspired and full of ideas, but it's only through lots of design work after the trip that a collection started to form and designs clicked into place.
Photographs from my trip to Mauritius.
I photographed lots of natural forms on my trip - flowers, landscapes, corals and fruits. Keeping the essence of my trip in mind, I decided to hone in on only a couple of key inspirations (palm trees and seashells). This helps to really explore and further my design work and not lose focus on too many visual references. I started to play around with my photographs, layering them up in Photoshop and digitally manipulating them to create unique designs that feel more in keeping with my brand.
Comparing design swatches and fabric quality.
How do I begin the process of designing a new product?
I work in tandem, developing my print designs and sketching up product shapes.
When I have selected my favourite print designs I then apply them onto fabric (in this case cotton) to check the colour and print quality. The cotton has a slight texture and I need to make sure that I'm not losing too much definition of my print designs.
Having my designs on fabric then allows me to manipulate the material into wallet shapes, which really helps me to visualise my designs as 3D objects. This is a really interesting and vital part of the process. What looks great as a flat print doesn’t always translate to a product shape. These early tests can completely change my preference of a print design, allowing me to refine each design in terms of colour, scale and details.
Printed fabric swatches.
With a rough idea of print selection, I can then start working closely with my manufacturers to develop my products. This way of working really pushes the product to the next level, and it’s great to collaborate with experts who have the knowledge and experience of how different materials and fabrics behave.
There are so many challenges with product development and the simplest of products can often be the most complicated to design. This is a lengthy process where I explore many variations of size, fabric weight, material textures and design details such as stitching and fixings.
I decided to use cotton and leather in this product as I have used this combination in my crossbody bags and it worked really well. However, my crossbody bags have different dimensions so I needed to tweak the weights of cotton and leather used to make my travel wallets which are smaller products.
Travel wallet sketches and ideas.
My first prototype had the right look and feel, but it was too small. I then increased the size, but I found that the materials I chose weren't working well together at a larger scale, and the wallet became flimsy.
Varying travel wallet dimensions using different leather weights.
I then tried using a more rigid leather inside the wallet and on the outer flap to help maintain the product shape. This combination gave the perfect rigidity and size to fit passports and boarding passes and allowed the wallet to fit comfortably inside my popular crossbody bags.
Comparing fabric weights and rigidity.
How do I decide which products to launch and which to cut?
With final prototypes working, I then like to engage with my customers to gather their feedback. I held a focus group and also released polls on Instagram to gauge interest in each design. It was a close call on a few but I whittled it down to the top two designs and decided to add in a best-selling print to the range.
So finally, after much development, the travel wallet collection was launched and looks like this :)
To view the travel wallets in store, click here.
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