Why Fashionpedia is the visual dictionary that hopes to be a designer’s best friend

Founded in 2008 by Penter Yip, Fashionary is a notebook that’s developed a cult following for its beautifully designed pages that cater to fashion designers. In lieu of lined pages, they contain silhouettes conducive to sketching. It’s become so popular that it has made collaborative editions with designers like Peter Jensen, Sibling, and Henrik Vibskov.

Fashionary just unveiled its most ambitious project to date: Fashionpedia. Touted as “the ultimate fashion bible,” it began as a Kickstarter campaign, ultimately raising $156,018—much more than its initial goal of $20,000.

Vikki Yau is a fashion illustrator who works at the brand and edits their Hand blog. Now that Fashionpedia is finally in print, Yau talked to us about its origins, the resources it offers designers at all levels, and what you can expect to find within its 336 pages.


Tell us a bit about Fashionary. How has the company evolved?
The name “Fashionary” originated from “Fashion + Dictionary + Diary.” Penter Yip founded Fashionary in 2008, developing a wide range of functional stationery–from classic sketchbooks with menswear and womenswear templates, foldable sketch pads in various sizes, elegant notebooks developed in collaboration with fashion designers or issued in special editions. The best practice of Fashionary is for fast sketching, brainstorming and quick searching for references.

As the years passed, the Fashionary went from strength to strength, turning into a great practical tool for many people working at all levels of the fashion industry. We collaborated with various fashion brands including Alexander McQueen, V&A Museum, Colette, Kurt Geiger, Tory Burch, ITHK, Swash London, Yazbukey, Henrik Vibskov, Sibling, Peter Jensen and more. Working closely with stores and schools around the world, Fashionary products are available in more than 400+ retail stores globally and is recognised as one of the internationally emerging fashion publishers.


How did the concept of Fashionpedia come about?
The concept of Fashionpedia came to my mind when I was thinking about creating a book benefit to the professionals working at all levels of the fashion industry. We sent questionnaires to fashion buyers, fashion designers, merchandisers, editors, and fashionistas and noticed that fashion designers are constantly on the search for inspiration and design possibilities, but need to communicate with factories and buyers in technical terms. What fashion professionals really need is a simple yet practical handbook that contains all the technical information in a straightforward, user-friendly manner. 


What are some of the challenges facing modern designers today?
There is a big challenge against international brands and corporate companies that are competitively-priced, have rapid product turnover, and lots of retail locations. It’s difficult to make unique product that no one else has done before. And even you are doing things which are super new in the market, it’s easy to be copied by others or factories. It’s hard to make unique products, which at the same time, are difficult to be copied.

Will something like Fashionpedia serve as a good resource in today’s demanding pace of design?
Yes. Fashionpedia is a visual fashion dictionary covering all the technical terms from style to material to production with illustrations and infographics. It encompasses rich, extensive information, and yet is so easy to read.

“It improves the productivity of fashion designers as it serves as a fashion archive for brainstorming ideas and at the same time, a dictionary for all the technical terms to communicate with the development departments.


What’s the design approach to Fashionpedia, what informed the design language and aesthetics of the book?
The design approach to Fashionpedia is mainly focused on the visual graphic representation and the flow of design language. We aim to create beautiful infographics with charts, vectors, icons, and indicators to present the complicated and large amount of fashion information clearly, and in an interesting way. The minimal style of the layouts makes it easy to read and remember, while the gold and black colour selection on the pages are classic and solemn.

Does it offer as much for menswear as it does womenswear?
Main information (70%) like style, fabric, manufacturing are unisex and other information (30%) like measurement, style, history include both menswear and womenswear.


With all this talk of unisex fashion shows and mixing men’s and women’s collections, how does Fashionpedia fit into that shifting paradigm for collections?
We didn’t separate the Fashionpedia into women’s/men’s version, but made it as one book for both because we believe that fashion information like style details and sewing, printing and leather, and manufacturing information can be applied to all kinds of collections. And collections like couture, swimwear, lingerie, wedding, and childrenswear will be included in future volumes of Fashionpedia. 

What’s the importance of analogue and physical resources in an increasingly digital media landscape? Will there be an online component for Fashionpedia as well?
The digital world is endless. We believe it’s important to keep Fashionpedia as a physical resource. According to a recent study, physical material is more “real” to the brain. It has a meaning and a place. It is better connected to memory because it engages with the brain’s spatial memory networks.

Readers can flip through a book and look at more than one page at once, which makes Fashionpedia more enjoyable, more easy to understand, and more memorable. An online component is definitely an option, however we will look into the feedback from users and determine if it’s necessary. Maybe a multi-channel platform rather than all-digital, we’ll see!


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