I recently purchased some fabric of different weight and finish than the fabrics I typically use. I started out in 2011 using quilting cotton because I could easily obtain it wholesale and it comes in such a great variety of colors and prints. However, this fabric has a limited amount of applications. I want to start making blouses as well as more pants and skirts and quilting cotton just doesn't work best for all of those things, for all seasons.
I remain attracted to vintage-inspired prints but the ones I chose this time also feel modern. I also chose some lighter weight cottons for blouses--these have finer weave and better drape. I did pick some sateen which, weight-wise, isn't much different than quilting cotton but has a wonderful sheen to it and drapes better (while still working for more structured designs).
My plan is to make purchase enough fabric to make a sample and at least one replica. I plan to wear all of my designs now--both for the marketing benefit as well as to test the clothing for myself and have a clear idea of how they feel and wear over the course of a work day. By doing it this way I can gauge what will be popular and if demand grows I can usually get more of the same fabric; if not I can offer to order the customer something different.
Having ordered fabrics based on what I want and need for my designs frees me up to continue to design based on what I want to design, not based on what I think will work for the quilting cotton I have in stock.
I used Pantone for inspiration as well. While I don't feel the need to adjust my color choices to fit each season's colors exactly, I do find this reference helpful for two reasons: 1) It breaks me out of my comfort zone and warms me up to colors I might not have thought to use; b) it helps me to understand what women may be looking for from one season to the next so that, if it works with my design ideas, i can offer that to them. This is also just one more way to get people in the shop "door"!
I'm also changing up a bit of my designs to make some styles that are more versatile for every day things, like office jobs. Hence this pretty sweetheart neckline blouse that I made. I've had a change in lifestyle since I started making patterns, insofar as I'm no longer making mini skirts and dresses to be worn without bras. I now want tailored, flattering and modestly sexy (sexily modest?) clothing that I can wear to work as well as out and about. Luckily my pattern making skills have improved as my needs have changed.