Detailing a project from graphic idea to global distribution

Abercrombie & Fitch

Project Duration
9 Months

This project is one that I consider my most successful at Abercrombie & Fitch. As a member of the Kids Division in charge of the swimwear category, I was tasked with creating several different graphic icons. The first step in the process was the creative direction meeting – in which the design and business teams would meet together to discuss trend research, previous selling, liability materials, and themes for the season.

Swim trunks are a core item for spring and summer. Because trunks sell good volume each year, they are important to the overall financial comp for the season. This swim trunk project was unique in that a risk was being taken – the new approach would make them ‘conversational,’ or something that has enough personality and energy that people readily notice the pattern.

A tricky hurdle that first presented itself was balancing Abercrombie’s brand identity and previous history of swim trunks with a style that was still eye-catching. As with most graphic projects, I took the business and trend research and began sketching different ideas.

Trend Research, Sketching, and Ideation

As I began drawing, my supervisor directed me to try several different marker types and dryness levels. Slightly drier markers added a subtle feather and texture to my linework, something I hoped to replicate in the screenprint when production went to global scale.

Drawing requires a lot of ideation and combination before an idea is ‘right,’ and once I got the green light for the subject matter (it was agreed upon that ‘fun foods’ was the general direction) and shapes, it was time to scan the drawing, and transfer it into Procreate to add color and vectorize my ideas.

Above all, this project reflects a broad understanding of commercial graphic production.

Digitizing the Idea, Adding Stylization, and Limiting Color

Digitization for this project was difficult to finalize, as it demanded I take the final screenprint process and its cost into account. For this swim trunk package, we couldn’t afford more than three unique colors for each graphic, so my goal in this stage was to intelligently limit color to distinguish each icon from one another. At global scale, even cents added onto the average unit cost can make or break the margin. This fact is certainly a major takeaway from my time working there.

This project is one in which my personal drawing style was really able to mingle well with Abercrombie’s brand. Ultimately, we didn’t want the icons to look ‘perfect’ like a clip art graphic. Rather, they were meant to feel like a doodle that a kid could have drawn.

A key piece to this project’s success is juggling multiple software programs and maintaining image quality for the next stage.

Scaling, Sourcing, Technique, and Cross-Functional Partners

After the digitization process was complete, the project called me to work heavily with our CAD department, responsible for arranging our garment patterns. Countless back and forth discussions led us to the green light from our leadership, and the digital file is archived and sent to our factory partners, which for this project was in Thailand.

The factory vendor then produced some sample fabric, washing it to ensure ink fidelity. After a few weeks, I received these patterns in the mail and made adjustments to the scale, color, and ink technique. The file is then resent to the factory until the fabric is approved for quality, color, scale, and print accuracy.

Color accuracy and graphic fidelity are the main focus of this stage. The final product was intended to match the theme of the rest of the collection.

Production, Staging, and Global Distribution

After the fabric is finalized, my role in the process came to a close. Following one final approval, we give the order to start cutting and sewing, which takes several months to complete.

Staging is the final part of the process before distribution. Photography and visual merchandisers worked with me to present the product in the most appealing way and in the most productive part of the store. Finally, after nine months, the swim trunks transform from graphic concept to global product.

The final product is comfortable, sturdy, and above all, trend-forward!