BP. Designer Spotlight: Tracy Griffith

Something we don’t talk about very much here on the BP. blog (though we should) is our talented BP. fashion designers. That’s right—we have our very own in-house design team, and we thought it would be cool for you to meet one of them and learn how each season’s new styles go from concept to your closet.

Tracy Griffith has been an in-house fashion designer at Nordstrom for eight years, and has spent the last two of those years designing clothes for you, our BP. friends. We asked her to describe the process of creating a garment, and she said it all starts with an inspiration board that she and her team put together with some help from our Trend Forecasting department. Once she’s got a solid feel for the trend, she starts drawing!

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After the drawing has been approved, it’s time to start looking for the perfect fabric. The design team receives fabric samples from all over the world, in every color and texture you can imagine. Tracy sorts through all the samples until she finds the perfect one.

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Fabric in hand, it’s time to take her drawing from a dream on paper to the reality of the dressmaker’s dummy. Now she creates her initial sample garment.

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That sample garment then goes to market with all the other clothes the designers have dreamed up for the coming season. Buyers from the BP. department will come to the showroom and place their orders for the items they want to see in the stores and online. Once they’ve placed their orders, the patterns get sent to the garment factory for a full production run.

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Tracy was nice enough to answer a few questions for us about how she found her career and what it takes to be a working fashion designer:

BP.: How did you get to be a fashion designer? 

TG: I decided at 13 that I wanted to be a fashion designer, I deviated from this plan a couple times along the way, I majored in fashion merchandising for a minute, and also worked as a costume designer for a year but ultimately ended up where I was meant to be, as a fashion designer.  A lot of my friends who are designers have similar stories.  It’s usually something you know you want do from a young age and then it takes a lot of work and dedication but you just work hard and make it happen.

BP.: What’s your favorite part about your job?

TG: My favorite part of the job is that each season there is something new!  I love how fashion is ever-changing, new trends, silhouettes, fabrics, even the change from designing Spring seasons to Fall seasons is an exciting one. It never gets old, it’s always fresh.

BP.: How long does it take between when you design something and when it hits the stores?

TG: It typically takes anywhere from 6 to 9 months.  There are many aspects; designing, sampling, meeting with the buyers, fit, production, and shipping. Each part takes time.

BP.: How do you know what’s going to be in style by the time your designs hit the stores?

TG: There is a lot of research and forecasting involved.  There is a whole part of the fashion industry that is dedicated to trend forecasting.  Nordstrom has their own team and they present to my team and then my Design Director drills it down further for the Juniors Market and presents to me and then I research from there.  I look at what is trending on the runway, in vintage, on the streets, and on blogs. Even though runway shows are more high-level and maybe it doesn’t seem like they directly apply to the juniors market, they do. It is important to look at Runway because it influences what’s trending next across the industry.

BP.: Who are your main inspirations or role models and why?

TG: There are a lot of designers I admire and feel inspired by. Like fashion, the list changes constantly.  My favorite designer right now is Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent. He has really updated the house to look super cool, grunge, and rocker, but he always references something from the original YSL looks in his collections to tie it to the house’s origins.  I’m a huge fan and can’t wait to see more!

My mom is my role model.  She is a very strong and successful business woman and has always empowered me to be and do whatever I want in life. That kind of support and example has been invaluable.

BP.: What’s your number one wardrobe essential right now?

TG: I am loving the combination of crop tops with high waisted bottoms right now.  It feels new, and so right.  A little gratuitous self promotion of a product I designed: this crop tank is great for wearing under cardies and button-downs, with a pair of overalls, or on its own when it’s warm out, I love it!

BP.: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring fashion designers, what would it be?

TG: Believe in yourself.  Being a designer requires putting yourself out there—your ideas, your creativity, it’s what it’s all about.  Don’t be afraid, go for it! If something you’ve designed doesn’t work out, don’t take it personally or get discouraged, just move on to your next great idea.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Erika April 8, 2014, 7:59 pm

    I love fashion. You have some good advice. It looks like designing to fit a trend is a difficult thing to do considering the changeability and mercurial nature of fashions. Do you find once you come up with a design the fashion trend as changed after it has gone to the factory for production?

  • R April 8, 2014, 9:17 pm

    This was so great to hear what happens behind the scenes.

  • Mary O'Regan, Blog Contributer April 9, 2014, 11:02 am

    Tracy, you are so inspiring! I love your style — both the clothes you wear and the designs you create.

  • Em April 9, 2014, 11:12 am

    This is so awesome! I had no idea how much effort goes into each piece! Also, I love Tracy’s sketches!

  • Amy Leigh, Blog Contributor April 10, 2014, 9:34 am

    Hi, Erika! Tracy says, “Great question! Yes, sometimes it changes during that time, or new trends emerge. Shortening the time it takes to get a design from concept to the sales floor is something we are constantly striving for. Things change so quickly in fashion, so the closer in we can be the better, and the more trend-right pieces we can offer. One great way to be more speedy is to make things in the U.S. We use factories here to chase the fast fashion pieces and get them to you even faster!”

  • Jenny April 10, 2014, 5:01 pm

    So cool to hear more about how much work it takes and how many people are involved in making each garment. (Also: Yay, Tracy!)

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