Portfolios speak languages of their own. Their architecture and content can be driven by cultural and social aspects as diverse as the nations of our planet. The level of introspection and surrealism in the portfolio of a Japanese designer is on another planet compared to the organization, order and rigour of a German portfolio, for instance. This has nothing to do with the quality of their creativity.
This is to say that preparing a portfolio is one tricky task. How could we not be aware, with several thousands housed under the ITS Arcademy roof. Throughout our 19-year history we’ve seen so many different kinds of portfolios, going from the more artistic ones (portfolios nestled inside blocks of concrete or ice, for example) to the “no frills”, neatly organized ones.
And rightly so, since - we can’t even remember how many times we’ve said this - there are endless ways to prepare a portfolio that works. Vice versa, there is no “perfect” step-by-step way to nail it. Let’s take the concept, for example: it would be useless for us to tell you “include reference images that inspired your collection” if your inspiration is a line from a poem by P.B.Shelley.
1. TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED
The best way for you to start is to picture someone who knows nothing about you or about your work. That’s who you have to convince. You don’t want to create your portfolio just from YOUR point of view, otherwise you will increase the risk of taking for granted information that is essential to understand your project. Go even further: put yourself in the position of explaining your work to someone who knows NOTHING about design, fashion or creativity in general. If you can convince them, you can convince anyone!
2. YOU'RE NOT WRITING THE ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA
Which easily translates to: don't prepare a hundred-page portfolio! Again there's no fixed rule here, just common sense. Imagine a jury that needs to go through hundreds and hundreds of portfolios to decide the next generation of ITS. Time becomes a serious concern and flipping through huge portfolios makes things worse. We often see young designers fitting into their books EVERYTHING they have about their collection just because they are unable to make a selection. The jury will think you lack the ability to select the strongest elements to communicate your work, and will have to go to the bother of piecing together huge streams of information to get the final picture.
Be CONCISE. It will be appreciated, it will look professional, you will communicate that you have a very clear idea of your work and that you don't waste time on additional information that adds nothing to the clearness of your presentation. It's not about taking out information, it's about putting in all the information AND NOTHING ELSE...
3. FOCUS ON WHAT IS REQUIRED FROM YOU
If you are applying for a job position, a contest, an interview, etc. you want to know what is expected from you. Always read the requirements first! If you need to send your portfolio for a job position, take your time to study your potential employers and what they are looking for. Adapt your portfolio to those requests. From this point of view you need to consider your portfolio just like you would your CV: ideally, you will need to tweak it slightly every time you send it, to match exactly what is required from who receives it.
4. GIVE THE COMPLETE PICTURE
What you really don't want is to get jurors hooked on your project and then leave them with no pictures of finished outfits/pieces. And this opens for a debate, because your timeframe (particularly if you are in your graduation year) for the development of your collection might simply clash disastrously with the ITS 2020 deadlines to apply: by March 15th you could still be in a very early stage of development and all you can include in your portfolio is research, concept, sketches and... that's it.
In such cases, contact us directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if there's possible alternatives. Another solution is to strive for technical drawings which really give an idea of what the final collection will look like, adding a selection of photos of your strongest past work to convince the jury that your technical abilities are unquestionable and that you KNOW how to produce what you claim.
5. DON'T BE MESSY!
The best way for your portfolio to be discarded is to arrange your material in a messy, incoherent way. Organize your material as follows: present yourself (CV), tell us about your concept and what inspired it (research material), show us a lineup, then dive into each piece/outfit showing us how it’s constructed and which materials you’re using. Include samples of fabrics/materials so the jury can touch and feel what you will use. If you have out-of-the-ordinary techniques (weird or unseen stitching, revolutionary knitwear, jaw-dropping material bonding) you might want to include samples of that too. Finally, include pictures of finished pieces (see above at 3 - Give the Complete Picture).
6. DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE ARTISTIC... IF THAT’S YOUR WAY!
Provided you do your best to follow all of the above, don’t be afraid to come up with an artistic portfolio, if that’s how you want it to be! Some of our most special treasures stored in the ITS Creative Archive are true pieces of art that communicate the collection they describe at a glance, right from the cover. There has to be purpose though, it can’t be art for art’s sake. Let’s say your artistic side makes you want to make your portfolio pages out of knitted yarns you’ve knitted yourself: there has to be a connection either to the concept of your project, or to the overall aesthetics of your pieces.
Now you’re good to go for application! Consider these as general rules for any portfolio you will prepare in the future, and don’t feel like these are limitations to your creativity: real creativity thrives around rules that appear to constrain it!