Trudy Hanson and Hot Patterns
The brand Hot Patterns was created by Trudy Hanson to bring fashion to the forefront for sewers. Today the company goes from strength to strength and still upholds this philosophy!
Tell us about yourself and the other people behind the brand?
HotPatterns is myself and my husband and business partner Jeremy, plus a revolving cast and crew of various assistants both online and in the office. We’re a small, 100 per cent independent, family-run business and that’s how we like it!
My experience is mainly in design and garment production, Jeremy’s is in sales and marketing, but we both worked together for a decade in our high-end wedding gown business in the UK, so between us we’ve a lot of garment and pattern experience. More importantly, we get the work done but we have some fun too!
How do you keep patterns fresh and inline with what’s happening on the Catwalk and High Street?
Research, a LOT of research! Both online and in real life. There’s no substitute, we look at runway collections, fashion magazines and style blogs, as well as trawling the stores when the new season goodies hit the racks.
It’s a constant for us, we’re literally researching on a daily basis. We also look really carefully at the sale racks-what didn’t sell, what wasn’t so popular? I like to get Jeremy’s take on styles too, and we love the customer feedback that we get with style suggestions. It’s all super-important and helps us build our range.
Which designers from the past and present do you admire?
I’m really focused on wearable garments, so whilst for pure eye-candy I love classic Chanel, Dior, Givenchy and Balenciaga, I really admire old-school ‘modern’ designers like Clare McCardell and Oleg Cassini.
For present-day design inspiration, Celine is brilliant, Chloe is gorgeous and I love the quirkiness of Marni, but for sheer design genius you simply cannot beat Dries Van Noten. He’s always about 2 or 3 years head in terms of colours, silhouette and trends, but always wearable and never costume-y.
How many patterns do you currently have in the range?
We usually have around 100 patterns in the range at any one time, we’ve found that to be a good amount. Of course, we’re also constantly refreshing the range, dropping older styles to add new ones. It’s fashion, we have to keep up!
What’s your favourite pattern you’ve ever designed?
Ha ha ha, my current favourite is usually the latest one! My all-time favorites are those that are in constant rotation on my cutting table. In a hot climate like Florida’s, I live in white-pants-black-T combos, so my copies of the Marrakesh Drawstring Pants and the Tummy Taming Trousers have had some major use, and I can make the Plain & Simple Relaxed T-Shirts and the La Strada T’s almost in my sleep. Having said that, I’m looking forward to sewing up a ton of our new Plain & Simple Woven T’s, and I do have a rather nice slouchy blouse in the works that will rock. So many fabulous styles, so little time…
How do you decide on new patterns and what’s next for the company?
We’re really finicky about this, we start with the question, ‘What do we need?” We work to this fantasy mental scenario where a sewist needs a whole new wardrobe, what would she (or he!) pick? She’d need simple basics, a few classic pieces and some trend-driven items. Something for work and something for play, for casual and for dressy, and probably a cool bag or two along the way.
We’re also conscious of making our styles wearable and make-able in the real world-are they bra-friendly? Can you have the sleeves or hemline longer or shorter without wrecking the style? Can you easily tweak the fit over the bust line or waist to get your perfect fit? We’re always looking closely to make sure, for instance, that all our tops, T’s and jackets could be worn with jeans, or that all our skirts and pants could work with a simple T and maybe a jacket. Dresses need to be fabulous on their own but they also have to work under a jacket or cardigan, or over trousers. That’s how clothes are worn in the real world so that’s what we do!
We love your pattern envelope illustrations – who’s responsible for these lovely line drawings?
Just like the ‘big four’, we use a team of super-talented illustrators to create our envelope artwork. It’s really a collaboration, I send them my roughs for the technical details of the garments, and an idea of the mood I want to convey in the fashion sketch, as well as ideas for colours, textures, prints and accessories. Between us we work out how to show the style off to its best advantage, so our customers can really see what’s going on, and get ideas on how to style each piece.
It’s really very much like styling a model for a photo shoot (but without the behind-the-scenes drama!). Everything has to be just right so the technical sketches are correct and the style really pops on the envelope.
What would you say makes your patterns different from other sewing patterns?
There are a few factors that make HotPatterns unique; apart from the heavy paper we print on (these patterns are hard to wear out!), we’re certainly more fashion driven, but with our backgrounds in the garment industry, we’re able to mix the best methods from factory production, couture construction and classic home sewing to get a really great result.
We’re also really focused on making sure that our customers can achieve a very high-end, ready-to-wear finish to their outfits-when I first started sewing I was really frustrated with the finished look of a lot of the garments I made, they didn’t have that hot-off-the-runway look and that’s what I wanted. In the best traditions of crafty people everywhere, I decided I could do a better job myself-and I have!
Why are you a keen advocate for YouTube and sharing your sewing exploits with the sewer through sew-alongs?
We love doing YouTube tutorials, sew-a-longs and show-and-tell videos for our patterns. It’s a great way to show the patterns actually made up in various fabrics, and we can give the back story to any style, explain why it’s so good and why it’s so wearable. We show techniques we love and sometimes, some tricks we’ve developed to make our sewing better and faster. Also it’s nice to be able to chat to our customers, we really want to demystify the whole process of creating a fabulous, self-sewn wardrobe.
We also have a Facebook sewing group which is where HotPatterns sewers all get together to share ideas, projects and tips. It’s really a more interactive extension of our YouTube videos. I hate to brag but our customers are very cool, very stylish and really the nicest people!
Have you seen a change in the way sewers buy patterns since the invention of print- at-home?
Yes and no. Sewists like the idea of print-at-home patterns, especially when the midnight sewing bug hits and you just want to make something right now! Also, some of our customers live a long way from the US; instead of waiting and paying for shipping, which can get expensive, it’s great to be able to just hit the ‘add to cart’ button and download. But, it does depend on each individual-some of our customers prefer the classic paper pattern, so we’re happy to provide both whenever we can.