Meet our Technical Design expert
We’re introducing you to the team behind our new Valiant structural fire suit, which is disrupting the status quo in the firefighter technical garments market with its clever innovations driven by customer insight.
Working together for more than a year – mainly virtually due to the pandemic challenges of 2020 – our New Product Development team is a combination of experts in technical fabrics, product design and development, and pattern and garment technology, plus a member of the FlamePro sales team bringing insight from fire brigades across the UK.
Here we’ll tell you about Lorraine Costello our Product Developer, who is the second generation of her family to work in the garment industry. Her role spans the whole development process from the initial design concept, through prototype sampling to bulk production.
Garment construction in the blood
As a child, Lorraine’s interest in garment construction was strongly influenced by her mum who was a make-through sewing machinist (someone who puts whole garments together, rather than doing section work which is sewing component parts). Her mum also taught her to sew.
This interest led her to study fashion at college, learning garment design, pattern cutting, and garment construction. However, Lorraine was fascinated less by high fashion design and more by the functionality of how garments are put together.
Her first job in the PPE garment industry was as a sample machinist – a more involved machinist role which works closely with product development teams to advise what is technically possible in garment construction.
Lorraine’s experience in garment manufacture coupled with pattern cutting skills helped her rise through the ranks, becoming a garment technologist and later product design technician at some of the best-known names in technical PPE.
Lorraine’s approach to our new structural fire suit
Now having a 30+ year career spanning every step of garment design and construction, including 17 years working in fire brigade PPE, Lorraine was more than qualified for the challenge when we presented her with a blank sheet of paper.
“One of the most satisfying parts of this project was the opportunity to start from scratch with the design and most importantly with the pattern,”
“Often in new product development you’re iterating from previous pattern versions, starting with a block, as we call it, that has been graded already.”
“Grading is the process of creating a range of different sizes for garments to create consistency of fit. Done properly, garment design doesn’t just stretch things up like you would with an image on a computer. Each point on the body has to be carefully adjusted for each size.”
“Being able to go through that process has resulted in the thing I’m most proud of with this range – the fit.”
Starting out as a sample machinist, Lorraine has made all sorts of PPE garments. But working her way up from physically putting the garments together, to working with product development teams and always with an eye for ergonomics is what makes her input so valuable.
Clothing design, with a difference
Having worked on fire PPE since 2003, Lorraine appreciates the technical side of creating new garments for protective purposes.
“Designing technical clothing is totally different to fashion design. With fashion garments there are no limitations to design, but our job is to design something which primarily provides protection, meets all of the relevant standards, looks good and feels good to wear. That’s a totally different challenge.”
Lorraine credits her passion for problem solving (a theme in this team) for why she is always striving for the next change or adjustment. She also thrives on negative feedback, which she describes as more valuable than positive because it highlights where things can improve.
Lorraine’s obsession with pushing the boundaries of pattern manipulation and ergonomics is what has created the incredible fit and comfort of the new Valiant range. From taking out excess fabric in places that inhibit firefighters from moving, to strategic panelling to make sure they can raise their arms without exposing their middle (each Valiant suit sleeve contains seven panels to achieve this), every aspect of the suit has been carefully considered.
After a career with two other leading PPE manufacturers, we’re delighted Lorraine’s expertise is part of the FlamePro team. Read more about the other team members – technical fabrics expert Stanley, new product development specialist Adrian, and Reece, the person bringing fire brigade insight into the process.
FlamePro’s new structural fire suit – New technologies. New designs. New benchmark.
We’re confident that Valiant, our next generation structural firefighter suit is the most advanced and comfiest on the market.
To discuss your requirements and learn more about the range, give one of our friendly team a call on +44 (0) 1332 341030.