During the week, I had a really inspiring conversation with an experienced academic from San Francisco working in the Fashion Design area. Among the various matters we touched upon, an interesting perspective arose on how Fashion Design – and its successful execution – is constituted by two parts. So what is good fashion design?
The string of thoughts started with talking about how fashion, as a creative expression like any other art form, is rooted in intuition. Of all the designers, I’ve worked with, and myself included, design almost always originated from a feeling, intuition or conviction of what a certain object should and could look like. I’ve always experienced it as a very natural and almost immediate sense of just having that intuition. It’s hard to put a finger on more precisely what it is, but another word to use would be talent – which is actually equally intangible. This is where you find the true value of creativity, the wauw factor which a piece or collection either has or hasn’t, and the the approach of people working as designers or product managers.
Product managers carry an incredibly important role, and more so every day, but it’s a different profile from a designer. A product manager will know the markets, the clients, the sales figures and about production, but there will never be the magic, the wauw, or the vision that a designer adds. For this reason, needless to say, these two roles are very strong together. It can be very hard to evaluate and measure the value of creativity, and it’s also an entirely different discussion, but you especially perceive the value, when it’s either very strong or very weak. Then it’s just like pasta without salt – something life is too short for, and which makes you very tired.
But back to the subject; we spoke about intuition as being the one part, the creative part. The other part is the analytical part – using the other side of the brain. Just as the combination of a designer and product manager work well together, so does creativity and intuition with an analytical approach added on top. Adding this to your immediate love or inclination will allow you to evaluate if your work is relevant. To me, the universal question of whether something is relevant, is something I always ask as a way of testing an idea. As fashion designers, we fall in love with our babies (which in academic language is called researcher bias), and it basically means that you are so into your own idea that you don’t realize that it doesn’t resonate with anyone else.
If you don’t mean to sell anything and just do ‘art for the sake of art’, then you can do whatever you want. But if you do wish to run a business, whether your own or working for someone else, then you need to be more realistic. Also, I would argue it’s more fun, rewarding and successful to do something that resonates with at least some people and gets consumed.
The analytical part are questions like ‘who will this piece or collection matter to’, ‘who will wear it’, ‘is it strong enough to compete on a certain market’ and ‘would people ultimately fall in love with it’. It’s being the Devil’s Advocate, but it’s a good way to test your idea, your baby. It’s a skill of asking critical questions, and like all other technical skills, it can be learnt. When used in combination with creativity, the real talent, it’s a bomb, and the road leading to good fashion design. Now go and conquer the world making products that matter.
Have a good Saturday.