I start with research and from there I build the muse, the idea, tell a story and develop a character, a look and then a collection.
Ah yes, who hasn't done this? I took the above from the book I mentioned on Wednesday. When I read that sentence, I found that, for all of its complexities and peculiarities, the creative process of a visual person can be quite similar to the one of the wordsmith. I discussed this in one workshop I ran last year. We went off on a tangent and decided to create two scrapbook-like pages about one specific character that had been sat at the back of our minds for a while. This is something I've done for many years and I still enjoy it; it takes the thinking about words out of the proverbial box.
You should definitely try this: build the muse, the idea, the look of your character in two pages only. Use images, scraps, items, colours, fabric, trinkets...