Writing reviews for new pattern releases used to be one of my favorite parts of posting to this blog. I know a lot of people would read specifically because of those reviews, but at a certain point it got to be too much for me. It was a combination of several things; burnout, for sure, but also a reconsideration of who and what gets promoted in the sewing space, and what I want to be promoting on my blog. Plus, with everything else going on in 2020, looking at pattern releases really wasn’t a priority. I haven’t written about the regular pattern releases in over a year now, and I have to admit I really don’t miss it. I’d like to say that I’ve missed out on talking about a lot of interesting patterns, but, honestly, I haven’t. I still follow the brands out of curiosity, and I’ve taken a look at a lot of the new releases, but I really don’t feel inspired by the pattern companies like I used to. I know the pandemic has shaken up a lot of industries, and I’m sure the pattern making industry is no different, but it after taking a break from this line of thinking over the last several months (and piquing my interest in the paper pattern industry by reading about its history), I think it might be worth pondering the state of some of the Big Name pattern brands and considering the pattern landscape as things seem to be attempting to approach some sort of a “new normal”.
Based on information on the social medias, it appears that Mimi G. has been hired as VP for Design and Patterns for the Big4. With Mimi G’s line for Simplicity, I have to say there are some patterns that I love and some that are definitely not for me. And that’s cool, because there need to be things for other people too! But regardless of if it’s a pattern I love or not, I’m always at least intrigued by what she releases, and the styling at least generally looks like things people would wear. That’s more than I can say for much of the Big4; honestly, there has been very little released over the past year (with a few notable exceptions) that I’ve even been remotely excited about. There have been a few cool Vogue patterns, one or two McCall’s patterns of note, and the Inauguration Knock OffTM looks from Butterick, but not a whole lot else to get excited about. Simplicity and New Look have been unforgivably boring, though there are some possibly interesting patterns with their latest release. Even if these brands head in a direction I’m not personally interested in, I’m still hoping that Mimi G can help breathe some new life into these lines. At the very least being not so terribly boring would be a good start. But expanded size ranges, a wider selection of styles, and considerations for updated instructions wouldn’t be bad either. Regardless, it should be interesting to see what happens, and if the Big4 can turn things around before the remainder of their lines goes the way of Kwik Sew (which had a buy 5 get 5 free, with everything for $2 sale recently; coupled with the lack of new releases, my bets are are that this brand name won’t be a part of the sewing landscape for much longer). Regardless, one can at least hope that the “Something Delightful” website name might change at some point, though I expect that might be too much to ask for.
As far as pattern magazines go, I just have to ask – Burda, are you ok? The magazine has done a nice job of styling in the past few issues (some of the photography in the October issue is just stunning), but I’m pretty sure the past several months they have been re-printing (with slight modification) a majority of their magazine patterns. I’d gotten used to seeing reprints between the magazines and the envelope patterns, the regular monthly issues and the special Burda Plus or Burda Easy editions, some styles being graded up or down, and even the special vintage reprint patterns making their way to several different formats. But I can’t remember a time where nearly every pattern of note in the regular monthly issue was a reprint from a former monthly issue, and apparently I’m not the only one. I don’t want to take the time to go through every pattern, but here’s a quasi-comparison of some of the more obvious reprints:
I do understand that with the pandemic, there have been a lot of disruptions. Notably, the paper quality in the magazines has dropped dramatically. It’s hard to say if this has more to do with cutting costs or supply chain issues, but regardless it’s a bit sad to see really vibrant photography on such dim paper. It’s hard to know if the issues of the pandemic have also impacted the ability to draft new patterns. I’m sort of willing to hope that Burda has just had a lot of delays and issues regarding creating new patterns, but if this trend of reprints continues well into 2022, I’m going to start to be really concerned. As a tangential point of interest, I did a bit of investigation to see if it looked like Burda was having any sort of major employment turnover, and it does appear they are hiring for the Burda International financial department. At least they seem to be doing well enough to be hiring? It’s a situation to continue monitoring though; I’m sure there will be more to say on this matter as we start to get more magazines and patterns as data points.
As a complete contrast to this, somehow Patrones seems to be making the best of things? I have to admit I actually really enjoy their phone app – you can preview the line drawings before buying an issue, it’s easy to purchase, quick to download, the photos are gorgeous and zoom-in-able, I don’t have to worry about water damage to the pattern sheets as it travels halfway around the world. And it’s only $4 for 40 patterns (which is significantly less than the $15-20 I paid for print issues to be shipped to me). Plus, you get the full Pattern Magazine ExperienceTM because they still use overlapping pattern pieces on the PDF printouts. No matter how big your garment is, you only need to print and tape 9 pieces of paper together. But you don’t have to deal with the overlap of 5 other pattern’s pieces, just the one you want to sew. It’s really the best (or worst?) of both worlds; you still have to do minimal PDF taping and you have to trace, but the taping is significantly reduced and the tracing is significantly easier. So if you, like me, really hate taping PDFs because *gag*, I can confirm it’s not so bad. And if you hate tracing patterns because of all the crazy overlapping lines and colors, it is much, much easier where there’s only one pattern of overlapping lines and colors. Anyway, I have to say that I think Patrones went digital at the right time, and I have to admit that their recent patterns have been pretty fantastic.
Other Magazine Brands
I’m not much of a Knipmode connoisseur, but I have a few issues from back when my sister was able to do study abroad in Europe. Things may have changed, but I’ve never found it easy to get ahold of copies of this magazine in the US, and I certainly don’t have the encyclopedic knowledge of this publication in the same way I do for Burda, which I’ve followed in-depth since 2011. Interestingly, Knipmode seems to be showcased as “Burda Extra” editions on both the Russian Burda site and the German site (listed as “Burda Fashion Style“). I’m not sure what this means for the future of the brand long term, especially if it has the Burda quasi-re-branding, but I at least appreciate that it’s a lot easier to see the patterns in the magazines now that they are on the Burda websites. It’s also interesting to note that both magazines have utilized the same fabric; though it’s hard to know if this is intentional or accidental. I can’t really compare if Knipmode has been re-printing patterns the same way that Burda has, but if anyone else knows it would be great if you could share in the comments!
My Image Magazine is another publication I have followed since it started, but I have to admit, I’m sort of over the designs. I don’t think anything really comes close to what they produced back in the early 2010s, and I’m finding everything now a bit too basic for me to want to add it to my collection. I think that it’s a fantastic value for the cost to pattern ratio, but I only need so many basic top patterns at this point.
This isn’t so much of a health check up, but just a side note of RIP Manequim. It was challenging to get ahold of the Brazilian fashion magazine, but they had a fantastic sense of style that none of the other magazine brands even comes close to replicating. I didn’t buy many issues because of the cost, but I am really happy with the few I have managed to get ahold of via EBay.
My take on the Indie pattern landscape is also probably not so observant since I wasn’t that into indie brands pre-pandemic. I haven’t heard of any of the major brands shutting down, and most seem to be producing new styles or updated size ranges without too much disruption during the pandemic. Granted, these brands do tend work at a slower pace than the Big4 or Burda. In general, collections are typically smaller, or more spaced out, or one new pattern is released at a time to a certain amount of fanfare. Although I’m sure some of the larger indie brands have larger teams working for them, even those companies (like Jalie, for example) have been producing new patterns lately. Perhaps one benefit for many of these smaller businesses is that the shift to “work from home” wasn’t much of a shift at all.
Overall the status of the paper pattern industry feels very in flux right now. Of course, I think the pandemic has had a massive impact on fashion in general, and I’m sure we are seeing some of the effect of that in the paper pattern industry. It was not uncommon that many of the designs were typically inspired by styles that were popular in the mainstream, were showcased on runways, or had some sort of celebrity influence. But with the world largely in a holding pattern, 2020 didn’t really provide a lot of inspiration, and 2021 has really felt like this weird extension of 2020. It should be very interesting to see how things progress into 2022 though. Of course, the current state of the pandemic won’t magically change with the calendar, and 2021 has been sort of a weird year all around, and probably is a very transitional year for a lot of companies deciding how to move forward from the pandemic. Regardless, things definitely feel like they are changing in this industry, and it should be interesting to see how things progress over the next year.