Softgoods VS Fashion designer, how to help differentiate?

Hello, I am looking for advice.
I am a 25 year old product designer who is primarily focused on working with eco-friendly softgoods, you can check out my portfolio if you’d like: Taryn Zychal, Owner/Designer Recycling Zychal in Portland, OR I work mostly with upcycled materials.

I started my company, Recycling Zychal earlier this year as a means to provide myself with experience, fun and of course some cash, but it is not enough to sustain my lifestyle financially, so I’ve decided to try to go into this mess of a job market. The problem that I’m having a really hard time conveying to people is that I am indeed a softgoods designer as opposed to a fashion designer. I like researching fashion, but have no training in it, I have simply translated my product design knowledge from hard materials into use with soft material and I get very frustrated when people throw me into the fashion design pile. :angry:
I design for purpose and function and it just so happens to be stylish.

I am looking for advice from people in the softgoods industry as to what I can do to avoid this confusion, suggestions as to other types of softgoods products I should include in my portfolio, resources, or even if you can recommend any companies that are strictly softgoods related that I can talk to about doing some freelance. My school skipped right over the softgoods aspect of industrial design and I just need some direction as to how to start off going in the right direction because I feel like of all the aspects of industrial design, I am most in-tune with this part.

Thank you!

Good question.
I would suggest showing more process work in your portfolio, specifically how/why you came to the form factor results you did. What purpose / what problem do your products solve? Did you do research on demographics/human factors/trends/materials? Show anywhere from 5-20 different 2d renderings illustrating the process that led you to that particular form and aesthetic. Did you discover an opportunity through your user research that led you to an “aha!” moment, that you then began to explore in 2d? This way it doesn’t appear that you had the idea, then sketched it for yourself in order to make in in 3d. You’ve got to find a balance in your portfolio between your super nice finished product photos in the real world, along with photos of the sketching and process that got you there. Without that, it is just fashion. That show ‘Project Runway’ makes me insane because they have “20 minutes” to sketch. They are picking one idea from their head, whatever looks best at the moment, and making it just to make it. Thats the difference- fashion is for looks/awe/aesthetic, it doesn’t solve a particular issue, or multiple.

Taryn_ have you done a search of soft goods portfolios on coroflot? I’d be curious to see from your perspective which feel like fashion portfolios and which feel like soft goods designers? You should also check out Caffeine’s work. He posts down in the footwear and softgoods section sometimes.

Hi Taryn!

I think there is a fine line between fashion and softgoods. In a lot of ways they are one in the same. The one thing that separates “pure fashion” from softgoods, in-my-non-design-educated-opinion, is technical design. I search through coro on a regular basis and I’d like to think I could separate the fashion designers from the softgoods designer just by looking through their portfolio.

You have really great photography in your portfolio and only a few sketches. I’m not saying that is wrong, but look at some of the other softgood designers on coro. The people that have been in the industry have a ton of products they’ve designed, the newer designers have a lot of sketches and renders. I would venture to guess that the answer to your dilemma lies somewhere in the middle.

This is a stab in the dark, so to speak… but maybe you need to include some technical drawings or put together a few design sheets (I’m not sure what they are called in the outdoor/pack industry) like this;

If I was hiring a designer for a pack, I would really like to see something like these as a deliverable. Again, I’m not sure how its done in all cases… I only know what I’ve been exposed to. In the Fire garment world, 99.999% of the design pack comes as a 2D CAD drawing with stitch lines, call outs for notions (velcro, snaps, buckles, etc.) and dimensions. Good luck!