Hands on approach of softgoods development

From an early age on, I loved creating beautiful things. Especially when I could use the sewing machine, like my grandmother taught me when I was only 8 years old. I could endlessly alter the garments or objects to improve them.
I would adjust the fit or improve the products until I was content. Years later, I rediscovered

this old skill of softgoods & development, and combined this with my years of experience in product design. The joy I found in this combination of old and new skills opened up new perspectives on my daily work routines. It is these type of opportunities that make my life as designer stand out.

Typically for soft goods design is that it is installed after the ‘hard’ parts are in place. Limiting the elbow room for soft goods design after the base is already in place.

Instead I would like to call for a new approach, in which value to soft and hard goods are equal and priorities are balanced. This would vouch for a more seamless integration of both parts in which one is not subsidiary to the other in terms of usability, look & feel, which ultimately improves to overall design quality.

An interesting trend to which such an approach would apply is humanized technology; adapting technology to human needs allowing technology to come closer to the body. Seamless softgoods solutions can really improve the quality and experience of these products.


We used this approach when we developed an exoskeleton for our client Skel-Ex. In this project the seamless integration of both mechanical parts and soft parts was very important to make sure aspects such as user experience, mechanical functionality, production, and overall quality perception were of topmost form as user experience, mechanical functionality, production, and overall perception of the quality of the product.

A good way to combat this is to have both skills in-house, and that’s how this article came about. Due to my freedom as a designer at VanBerlo to work outside of traditional design ways I was able to exploit my old skills and bring together with the new. I immediately brought a sewing machine into our workshop area, so I could make prototypes right away. This way we were able to quick test our preliminary ideas, and make prototypes and alterations fast and in house.

Being able to be working on designing, remaking, trying and optimizing helps you come closer to the best possible solution much faster than when you’d have to outsource the prototyping, promoting an agile way of working.

Designing and developing softgoods requires various skills. Besides the skill to design, you’ll have to know the materials and their qualities. Where would the softgoods meet the hardparts best? Which material would be most suitable for use case?