Designing During a Pandemic

In these changing times, we provide an insight into how designing during a pandemic panned out.

Words

Torsa Studios
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The past and the present

In September 2020 we launched Torsa after 4 years of sourcing, conceptualising, designing and developing. Back in 2016 – 2019, the concept of working with a designer was far more simple than it is these days. You were, of course, able to sit down and brainstorm ideas, sift through fabrics and trims together, and talk through the nitty-gritty of design elements.

Things have changed.  

We are very excited to be working with a new designer on two new styles, which are scheduled to be released later this year. Daniel reached out to me after seeing the brand in Monocle Magazine last July and we hit it off straight away. At that time, we didn’t have plans to design new products until mid-2021, but sometimes you meet people that you just know are a perfect fit for the brand. At the time, Daniel was currently on contract with CDLP in Stockholm, having previously worked at Rapha, IWC, and Orlebar Brown.

We kept the conversation going for the next 4 months, keeping an eye on the travel restrictions in hope we could start the project in person. However, travel bans were shortly followed by domestic lockdowns and the realisation that we wouldn’t be able to work on this project in face-to-face became a harsh reality. 

Nonetheless, having gained experience in the 4 years since starting the business, I’ve learned when you get a chance to work with the best people for your brand, take the opportunity. And with that, I gladly agreed on a contract where in which Daniel would work remotely, by this time, he was living in Denmark. 

The project would include the design of a 5-piece capsule collection, in which we would move forward with two of the styles for development. The intention from my side is to revisit the other three styles further down the line. After knowing Daniel for months, I know we shared very similar ideas on product direction and brand aesthetics, so I let Daniel get to work on designing the collection without a strict brief in mind, but with the Japanese design principle of Shibui a key consideration.

What is Shibui?

Simply put, Shibui (渋い) or Shibusa (noun) refer to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. Shibui objects appear to be simple overall but they include subtle details, such as textures, that balance simplicity with complexity. It’s said in Japanese culture that people do not tire of a shibui objects. Instead, it is treasured for generations to come, spotting new elements of interest each and every day. This design principle spoke perfectly to our brand values. The idea of expression through quality of fabric, textures and minimalism over attention-grabbing logos and slogans runs true to our core design principles. We’re excited to further understand and develop this identity throughout our products moving forward.

 

Designing in action

Unlike many designers, Daniel works completely from hand, utilising free hand drawing as the foundation for his work. Typically, designers would work from a previous block or shape, but this unique approach allows for a level of creativity often overlooked in the design stage. It was the first time I’d seen it done and fascinating to watch the product come together in this way. You can check out snippets from his free-hand work below.

sportswear design

    

 

Choosing fabrics

Having design meetings over Skype is challenging enough, albeit, the process went as smooth as I could imagine it going. The idea of fabric choice posed a different challenge. In an ideal scenario, you would sit down with the designer and run through fabrications and trims in person, sharing that instant feedback you get when you touch and feel a material. In this case, this was nearly impossible. This is where my experience learning, sourcing and understanding fabrics for our Core Collection came to use. I’m by no means an expert, but felt I had a level of knowledge through the previous product development stage.

Fabric is the backbone to a great product, it lays the foundation for everything else. Fortunately, it’s also something I have taken a huge interest in learning and understanding. Through this, Daniel was able to share his fabric recommendations based on his many years’ experience, and I was able to understand his thinking behind it. The fabric, including composition, weight, and technology was something I had a strong enough grasp of in which to base my opinion on. That, coupled with references from products currently using certain fabrics helped us push the designs to the next stage.

Fabric is, of course, subject to change. Sometimes you think a fabric is going to be perfect, but when you get the first sample, you realise it just doesn’t work. That’s where product development comes in (more of that to come in the future).

 

schoeller

I am excited to say that I have started sourcing materials for the two new styles this week, and look forward to showcasing the fabric(s) in more depth, as and when it develops. Working with the best fabric mills has always been my intention from the start, and for these two styles, we’re doing exactly that.    

 

 

 

A final note

Times have changed, and although these circumstances won’t be around forever, my experience designing during a pandemic has been unique, but thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding. First and foremost, it comes down to working with the best people, and Daniel was exactly that. A huge thank you to him for taking on this project, all whilst moving from Stockholm to Copenhagen to Helsinki in the last three months.

sportswear design

We're very excited to bring you more details of the new styles in the months that follow, and an in-depth look into their progression and development.