How to: Create a surface design inspired by Marc Jacobs Fall 2015 Collection

A guest blog from the author of Surface Design for Fabric, Kim Irwin, with step-by-step illustrated instructions to create your own Marc Jacobs-inspired surface design!


Kim Irwin is the author of Surface Design for Fabric and a fashion design educator at Savannah College of Art and Design. She also works with a fashion start up called Trunkist, which helps independent fashion designs get their ideas to market. Kim is an avid squished penny collector who lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her three-legged shih tzu named Peggy. You can preview her fantastic book here.
Instagram: kim.a.irwin
Twitter: @_kim_ai


One of my favorite collections from New York Fashion Week was the Marc Jacobs Fall 2015 collection—a sentiment I haven’t felt in quite a few years. Perhaps it’s my obsession with surface design that rekindled my romance with Marc Jacobs this season. Perhaps it’s clean silhouettes with dramatic streaks of color and just the right amount of glitz. Whatever it is, I don’t care; I just want to try my hand at this technique.


Image © Gianni Pucci (, Marc Jacobs Fall 2015 Ready-to-Wear Collection as seen in New York Fashion Week 2015

Whenever I take on a project like this, I never try to make it look exactly like the original, but to use it as inspiration. There is no point in copying Marc Jacobs. He did it first and will probably do it better. Instead I allow the piece to inspire me to create and design.

I have decided to work with a medium-weight leather hide that already has a hint of glitter throughout. My color way is slightly different but still retains some 80’s influence seen on the Marc Jacobs runway. I decided to add glitter because (lets be honest) hand-stitching tons of sequins is tedious and time consuming without an atelier. That doesn’t mean that I won’t include some sequins, just sparingly for added effect.


Materials Needed
Glitter, sequins, paintbrushes, awl, cork, thread, glue, acrylic paint, leather


1. Lay leather on a clean surface and mix acrylic paint, fabric ink or thickened dye—appropriate to fabric choice—in the desired colors.
(Check out Chapter 3 in Surface Design for Fabric for instructions on thickening dyes.)

2. Since I am working on leather I will use acrylic paint. (See “Printing on Leather” in Chapter 3 for alternate ways to add pattern to leather.)

3. Apply the ink thickly and allow the brush to skip across the fabric’s surface. Also, be sure to vary the width and thickness of the strokes. It should look sketchy not robotic.


4. Allow the first layer of ink to dry thoroughly before applying another color or unwanted mixing can occur.


5. Once the ink is dry, start applying glitter glue. Lightly squeeze the bottle to apply glue to the edges of the ink strokes. Vary the thicknesses. A paintbrush can be used to for more control or to smooth out the glue if it becomes clumpy. (See Chapter 7, Foil and Glitter, on page 231 in Surface Design for Fabric for complete glittering instructions.)


6. While the glue is still wet (or white in color), lightly and slowly tap the glitter from the plastic pouch or plastic vile onto the glue and allow to dry completely.


7. Once it is dry (the glue will be clear), shake off access glitter, which can be stored and used again later.


8. For additional sparkle, add some sequins. You can use glue to secure the sequins before stitching to make sure that every pieces stays in its place.


9. Once the glue has dried, thread a needle and secure sequins, using tiny stitches, onto the leather’s surface. If the leather is thick it may be necessary to puncture it using an awl so the needle easily passes through. (See Chapter 7 in Surface Design for Fabric for detailed instructions on securing sequins to leather and other fabric.)


10. Once all of the sequins are attached, secure loose threads and take a step back to admire a super cool surface pattern.



For more info and advice on creative techniques for fabric and leather, check out Surface Design for Fabric by Kim Irwin (Fairchild Books, 2015). You can preview the book here. Or watch one of Kim’s video tutorials here.