I was contacted by Tamar Daniel of Hokey Croquis and asked if I would be interested in reviewing the Hokey Croquis, a pre-printed notebook to be used as a tool in fashion design. I had run across the website a couple times before and was intrigued so I took Tamar up on the offer.
Despite it being December and the fact that I live on a different continent to the company's offices, the book arrived quickly. I was impressed. The book arrived in a plain padded white envelope and inside the envelope the Hokey Croquis was actually wrapped in gold and brown striped wrapping paper. Very classy. Plus it served to keep the book from getting scratched upon my vigorous opening of the envelope.
The presentation of the book itself is quite nice. It's coil bound so that you can flip the pages completely over and has a stiff thick cardboard front and back. Both the front and the back are embossed with shiny gold designs and there is a ribbon closure so that you can be sure the book will not flip open by accident and ruin your pages or drop additional pages you've loosely inserted as part of your research.
When you open the book up you get an instruction sheet explaining how to use the book and giving you a brief lesson on what a fashion flat is and why fashion designers do them. In addition to the instruction sheet you will also see a little package of stickers (who doesn't like stickers?). Their purpose is that you can put your initials on the front of the book without using pen and there are also some non-letter design stickers for you to use also.
Now for the book itself, what IS the Hokey Croquis, anyway? It's always best to go to the source for these types of questions and on the Hokey Croquis website I found the following quote:
"Musicians pull sheets of staff paper when they want to score a tune. Mathematicians use graph paper or number lines. Architects and interior designers have their own specialty gear as well. But fashion designers use a cumbersome mix of tracing paper, light boxes and other tools to create fashion sketches that can ultimately be transformed into chic clothing."
Boy is Tamar right on that one. Doing technical illustrations by hand is a real pain. It's not hard but it's a pain. The standard method is to take a template of a human body, at realistic proportions and to put a piece of paper on top of it. You then use a light box so that you can see the template through the top sheet, or you use paper which is thin as the top sheet so that you can see through it to the template below. Then you draw your technical flat on top. This will give you the right proportions and a clean finish. But it is a pain. Sometimes that paper slips and then you have to start again. Plus, wouldn't it be nicer to just have ONE tool, rather than multiple sheets of different thicknesses and possibly a giant box just to make a flat drawing?
So you might be wondering "Why can't I just photocopy the templates and draw on them?" And the answer to that is, sure, go ahead. No one is stopping you. But here's the thing, professional flats can not show the template, only the clothing. Not only does it look bad and can be distracting, but all those lines could make it difficult for the patternmaker (the person who desperately needs your flat to be accurate) to see the seam lines clearly. Plus thick lines can make it difficult for you too! Especially if you are not a pro at drawing flats yet, which I'm guessing if you're reading this that you aren't...sorry for the assumption but I'm right, aren't I?
The lines on the Hokey Croquis are thin and light. In fact I had to darken the photo that I took quite a bit so that you could see it clearly on the computer monitor...I really need to learn how to use my camera better but that is another topic entirely. The Hokey Croquis claims that the lines are light enough that they will not show up on a photocopy. This means you keep your Hokey Croquis with all of your original flats and produce copies, minus the lines, for your portfolio and to give to patternmakers and other professionals you are working with. If you really must give out the originals the pages are perforated so that you can rip them out with clean lines and avoid the messy look that spiral bound pages would normally give.
Probably the most important feature of the Hokey Croquis is that it uses thick paper suitable for pencil, pen, light paint or markers. This is the number one reason that I would choose to purchase it rather than use the other methods I described above. This allows you to do coloured flats and to use the notes area or the blank opposite pages for colour research. You would only be able to use this thick paper for a flat if you were using a light box, which can be extremely limiting (namely limiting your creative location to only where there is a box you can use).
I'm feeling less than artistic today so I decided to yank an image off of the Hokey Croquis website rather than draw my own. Plus, let's face it, their photography rivals mine in so many ways. In the image below you can see how the Hokey Croquis is meant to be utilized. The garment is drawn on top of the light figure, both the front and the back. Then in the notes section fabric samples are collected, design details are noted, buttons and other trims are glued in or drawn, the title of the garment is there (or style number if you prefer).
Now, you might be wondering "uh...but I want to design, I don't want to do flats" and what you probably are not aware of is that many designers design on the flat. They do it for many reasons:
- It could be faster if their drawing skills are not very good
- It saves time because the flats are already done. Every garment which will go into production needs a flat done no matter how beautiful the illustration is or how clear the sketch is.
- Many (most?) designers in the real world are not very good at art and while they may be able to read their sketches, noone else can. Designing on the flat is the only way for many to be able to communicate their ideas.
- The vast majority of designers are working at companies which have a set of styles and silhouettes repeated from season to season. All they do is find the new colours and change small style lines. It doesn't make sense to do pretty fashion sketches during the design process for these types of companies because most of the design being done is not in style but rather colour and fabric. It is a waste of the company's resources to pay it's designers to draw when they could be sourcing fabric and using flats to communicate the style-line changes they have decided to implement due to the current trends and customer research.
- Usually the only person that really appreciates the sketch is the designer her/himself. Some designers find their ideas flow better to draw a person in their clothing, in poses and situations relevant to the target customer but if a designer is not working for themselves, they may do only their initial ideas via sketch and then move to flats for the finalized designs which will be shared with others on the team...unless of course they're the head of a big company where they have an assistant and another person dedicated to flats. In that case the designer usually does what they want.
Either way, chances are very high that at some point in your career, you will have to design on the flat so you might as well learn how to do it now and the Hokey Croquis is a great tool. I definitely recommend it. And I recommend it for those who design by sketching but need to produce flats to share the designs in a professional way with others, or to include flats in their portfolio. The Hokey Croquis sells for $15USD and it's my personal opinion that considering the high quality of the paper, and the fact that is a pre-printed speciality item it easily rivals blank sketchbooks which sell for the same price (or more!).
Now to be fair, it's important to always cover the negatives of every product. In my opinion the only negative would be that there are only 40 pages. This is limited by the thickness of the paper and the price point which the product needs to meet for consumers to be willing to spend money on it. I wouldn't recommend the Hokey Croquis for sketching if you are not really focussed about what you want to draw because you can go through 40 pages pretty quickly and you probably won't use more than half of the designs anyway. But then again that's not really the point of the Hokey Croquis, it is more for people who have whittled their designs down and know which flats they need to produce or for those designers who are experienced and focussed and won't waste. It would be my advice, if you are concerned about costs, to keep a Hokey Croquis for your good flats and to do all your rough work on loose paper...much the same way most of us do not use our $20 sketchbooks for doodles and playing around but rather for proper researching, collaging, and working through our relevant and applicable ideas.