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working as a freelance pattern maker + tips on starting your own brand

SFD122 Working as a Freelance Pattern Maker with Shilo Byrd (+ Tips on Starting Your Own Brand)

February 01, 2021

Shilo Byrd has been in the industry for a decade and a half, and she knows her stuff. She’s a freelance pattern maker, product developer, supply chain & production consultant, and a contributor at Vogue Business. In this episode of the SFD Podcast, Shilo chats about everything from understanding fit and the best way to learn new skills, to networking in fashion and her advice for starting your own brand. Whether you’re a freelancer, starting your own brand, or even just curious about the fashion industry, this episode has something for you!

In the interview (which you’ll love), we will cover:

  • How she got her first jobs when she set out on her own
  • The difference between permalancing and freelancing
  • What she learned about pricing her services as a freelancer
  • How she paid the bills while she was establishing her freelance career
  • Shop talk about fit and the ins and outs of patternmaking and development 
  • How her freelance work evolved into a production house (and why she closed it)
  • The lessons she learned as a fashion entrepreneur
  • The most important thing you can do to be more successful in your fashion career 
  • And more!

Press the orange play button below to listen here, or listen on Apple Podcasts:



Fashion wasn’t her passion

Shilo Byrd didn’t want to work in fashion. Having grown up sewing with her mother, a custom bridal dressmaker, Shilo wanted to branch out and do something different. She knew she didn’t want to be a creative designer. But after a few years of working in other industries, she still hadn’t found what she really wanted to do. 

Surprisingly, it was her time working as an auto mechanic that helped Shilo define the kind of work she liked. Working on cars made her realize how much she loved working on a project basis, analyzing information, and solving problems– skills which she later discovered lend themselves perfectly to product development and patternmaking.

When she took a part-time job doing ladies alterations for a tailor shop, Shilo was fascinated with the master tailor’s process for making men’s suits. Far from the ruffles and ribbons of her mother’s dress making work, she started to see clothing as a puzzle that she wanted to solve. So she worked alongside the master tailor, asking him every question she could think of about the process. 

“At one point, he told me, ‘You’re asking all the right questions. You’ve got a tailor or a pattern maker’s mind, but you don’t have a tailor’s patience. You should go study pattern making.’” 

And that’s exactly what she did.

Working as a freelance pattern maker

In the time since she studied pattern making at FIT, Shilo has worked with brands from midsize to brand new startups, in pretty much every category. While she’s done the bulk of her work in elevated or luxury markets, she has a huge depth of knowledge on how clothing gets made. 

All the info she shares is valuable to freelancers, startup brands, and anyone who’s interested in how the fashion industry really works (hint: it does not involve weekly trips to Mood!). This interview touches on all of that and more. 

If you loved this episode, make sure you check out Episode 43: Build Your Career as a Freelance Pattern Maker (From Anywhere!)

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