Thursday, June 28, 2012

Navigating art vs commerce

There is a very tangible tension that every fashion designer will quickly encounter if they enter the ready to wear market. The need to sell your designs is paramount to your ability to grow as a designer. Money buys you time, space, and resources to improve. You must sell your clothes and the way the market is now you must do it immediately. The fact that the majority of retail buyers will not buy a designer in their first few seasons, unless an overwhelming PR buzz has been purchased, leaves emerging designers and even some veterans in a precarious place. Contrast that with the truth that creative people need to be in a comfortable place in order to be at their most inspired and productive. Further, younger designers don't have a great handle on any aspect of their own aesthetic or even their creative process. The two opposing forces of creativity and marketability collide intensely and constantly as a designer is making their collection.  As I've argued in the past the fashion industry and the media that covers it must shoulder the burden of creating and maintaining the space for it's own future to develop and prosper. In fact to fail to do so is to create a future of endless retrospectively inspired and tired commercially motivated fashion.
Calvin Klein Resort '13

But even if there is the creation of an industry supported attitude or place for how we handle young designers that does not address the thorny issue of how every individual designer deals with the rigid demands of the marketplace and yet still creates unique and wonderful fashion that satisfies themselves. Every designer must solve that on their own, some to a greater degree and some to a much lesser degree. Many designers natural and genuine creativity is more acceptable to the market than others. That just makes the process easier but it doesn't remove it. Over the past eight years I have seen thousands of collections. Born of that experience the conviction has arisen that there is a sweet spot for every designer that can not only be hit but can over time be expanded. Every designer can and must find the space in which the needs of the market are perfectly balanced against the pure artistic vision that the designer was inspired to create. That is the meaning of a successful design; it both pleases the creator and creates a desire to be worn.
The promising Bach Mai from her BFA collection for Parsons

The only way for each individual designer to find that superior space that allows them to function at their best is to constantly create and experiment. Humans only improve by doing, creators only improve by creating. But the current market demands that you sell from collection one. Which means that with the notable exception of their first season every RTW fashion designer has a maximum of 26 weeks to figure it out to the best of their ability, and often on their own. There is no secret to this or brilliant pearl of wisdom I can offer. The fact that experienced designers actually get comfortable with that is kind of a miracle. It must be done, it can be done, and it is done well hundreds of times a year all over the world. Which means, yes you also can and will do it. Just put your head down and let it happen, struggles, triumphs, disasters, and all. Get to it and I and others will keep working to give you time and the space to do it in. If you care about fashion in this city and in this country, that's your job. At least that's how I see it and try to live it.
 Vivienne Tam Resort'13

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