Saturday, March 30, 2013

A spiritual approach to progress in creativity.

For artists, chasing riches leads only to stagnation & misery. You will make a living from your work only if that is not your goal. Yet it is overly simplistic to say, "Just make your art, and you will lead a useful & contented life", the key is to not do it blindly. When you realize that your artistic gifts were not given to you, (you did not earn them, this is Grace), you begin to sense that your gifts and what they permit you to create were meant for your fellows. Therefore it is by listening to them that your sustainable path forward will be revealed. Pay attention to the reactions to what you make. Let those instinctive positive reactions that you observe create your touchstones as an artist. Those core elements that you will joyful return to over and over. Do not fear that this will make your work stale and never evolving, being self aware and honest will solve that easily.

You are not who you were the last time you put needle to cloth or brush to canvas. You can not stop yourself from growing and changing. What roots artists too firmly in their own pasts is fear of moving beyond something that once worked well. If you fully understand those artistic desires you need to express, those ideas that compel you like a fetishist back to them over and over you will be fine. They are your roots, they are what make you, you. You are the only you, you are essentially unique. It is only when you permit yourself to be driven by doubt and buffeted by the winds of opinion and trends that you become lost."Shoemaker, stick to thy last."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Yes you are a bad person.

When did we become an industry of sniveling cowardly villains? We look the other way and say nothing as the fashion industry heaps praise and prizes on brands and individuals who steal from other designers, use child labor, support the factory farming slaughter of animals for fur & skin, abuse their workers with constant violations of labor laws, and consciously deny people the right to make a good living because they're not part of the right crowd. In silence is acceptance. Please let's begin to say, "This is bad, and yes by knowingly doing it you are a bad person." We decry these abuses in made for the public statements & gestures but do nothing substantial. This awareness of evils but inaction against them makes us bad people too. Nothing will change till those in positions of leadership in the fashion industry say something, publicly. Waiting for them to come down with a severe case of ethics & moral courage is foolish. We who see the need for change, and the benefits of it need to turn up the heat. Call people out, by name and incident and offer positive alternatives that will work better for the offenders and their brands. They must be made to understand that you can't shake the  Devil's hand and say you're only joking...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How to tell if the person who is telling you about fashion actually knows anything about fashion...

Magazines & sites that write good things about people who pay them and bad things or nothing about those that don't. Bloggers who don't know the difference between silk & satin. Bitter, scowling ex-kings & queens with closed minds who hate everybody except those that they rose to prominence with. Angry young writers who carry multiple axes they wield any time they get refused entry to a show or event. Know nothing dilettantes who got the job because they're privileged & pretty. It seems that there are many layers of crud between designers, their designs, and the public these days. How does a fashion passionista who thinks the clothes are beautiful and wants to know more about the designer & the brand dig through the muck to find out what's really at the beating heart of the matter? How do you know who's worth listening to in the fashion press and who's links you should never bother clicking on? Below I've assembled seven clues that I've discovered I use sub-consciously to make this decision, and believe me as a branding & marketing rep I have to make it daily.

Clue#1 Can they actually write? The easiest way to determine that is to ask yourself one question. Do I find myself compelled to continue reading their work once I start? If a writer can't create that they should do something else for a living. Of almost equal weight is, do they let spelling, punctuation, and grammatical mistakes get published? If they do they're lazy and don't care about their craft and neither should you.

The next thing to do is recognize that a lot of what is written/shot is context dependent. It is not appropriate for a fashion journalist to ask "tough" questions backstage prior to a show. The designer and everyone else in a 50 foot radius is on the very edge of nerves. Asking a potentially controversial question then means you're either insensitive or stupid. That doesn't mean you can't ask a good question though and that's Clue #2. Does the person I'm reading ask smart questions? Does it sound like they did some homework about the designer and their body of work? 

An in depth piece is where the tougher or more probing questions belong and that's Clue #3. When appropriate does the person ask questions about topics that the subject might not want to answer? 

Clue #4 is one that has always mystified me about the fashion press. Does the reporter actually know how fashion is made? Do they talk about fabric & techniques? Do they understand the business at all? Fashion has to be one of the only industries I've ever seen where if the writer assigned has no knowledge about the topic at hand nobody bats an eye. Imagine a football announcer who doesn't know why gaining an average of 4 yards a play is significant and you'll understand the current state of the fashion press. 

Clue #5 is one of my old rules for my writers at Does the writer back up their opinions with facts or logical arguments? A good opinion is an educated opinion. You can write whatever you honestly feel but you need to justify it.

One of favorite lessons from my high school teaching days was on how to spot bias in writing. This is Clue #6 in how to tell if the person you're reading is a hack. How do they say what they say? The easiest way to tell is if there is an over abundance of adjectives & verbs. If a writer goes out of their way to be clever that's a tip off for sure. Another hint is how they structure their information. If the first paragraph has nothing to do with the designer and their work then no matter what the writer goes on to say about the fashion they are likely burying info and don't like the designer. Equally if they gush endlessly with lofty abandon that likely means bias. 

The final clue, Clue #7 is about the writer's character. Is the person I'm reading lazy? Do they reference research they did? Did they just copy PR releases and text? Do they reference fashion history at all? The only way to find this out is for you yourself not to be lazy. Look up what others are saying about the designer Look up with the brand and their representatives say about themselves. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Top ten self explanatory things not to do when promoting your brand in social media.

1. Don't make spelling or grammatical errors.

2. Don't cut & paste from platform to platform

3. Don't fail to test links.

4. Don't paste the same thing more than once every three hours.

5. Don't use, "text speak".

6. Don't fail to use tags that involve others, @ on Twitter, Names on Facebook.

7. Don't use your brand properties to have strictly personal discussions.

8. Don't post blindly, study what works & why.

9. Don't "try" to be clever.

10. Don't be LAZY which is what one through nine mean.

To summarize, take your time, edit, be honest, trust your instincts, study what works. Businesses don't "post" on social media they execute well thought out tactically constructed strategies with a specific goal in mind.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Referencing with skill & sense

I rarely publicly comment on any individual fashion show that I have not been assigned to review but I'm going to make an exception with an ulterior purpose for the "Saint Laurent" collection that Hedi Slimane sent down the runway yesterday in Paris. Let me be direct & clear about a few things; I didn't like it and the why has nothing to do with Yves Saint Laurent or the history of the house. I understand the need for reinvention, the value of a shocking change and the controversy it creates. That's all tried & true and I'm the last person in the international fashion community to oppose a brave risk. The reason I didn't like the collection was that the clothes were lazily imagined and void of any cleverness. Every piece has existed, unaltered, previously.

For reasons that I don't yet fully understand there is nothing that trips up fashion designers more consistently than referencing. The mental act of using someone else's art or style as the singular starting place for a collection of clothes is apparently akin to daydreaming while on a stroll in a minefield. More perilous still seems to be the act of referencing an era. The act of being inspired is intended to be a jumping off place only. The designer is then meant immediately to dive headlong inspiration in hand back into her or himself and run the inspiration through the marvelous creation that God made called you... Designers need to wrestle with the inspiration, struggle and sweat with it fashioning it into something that ONLY THEY COULD HAVE CREATED. As an example other than the lackluster copying that is "Saint Laurent" Fall '13 let's look at a recent trend here in NYC. There's been a lot of "Jazz Age" inspired work on our runways of late. If a designer says that the Roaring Twenties is their collection's genesis and then parades a bunch of below the knee silk velvet skirts covered by fringe down the runway they have failed. That's COPYING and not being inspired by. It shows a lack of effort, a lack of blood and sleepless nights. The great designers I know find the act of creating a collection exhausting and exhilarating simultaneously. Quite frankly when I see them in person during that time they look like hell. Show me one person who has held on to the mantle of "great" who doesn't work harder than everybody else?

Fascinatingly anybody at all can tell when this has happened to a collection. I mean almost any lay person can figure it out. All you have to do is read the fashion press and see if they talk about the reference more than the collection. Good fashion should be difficult to describe, it should make you work for an accurate vocabulary to capture it. Looking with a penetrating, incisive, and insightful eye the reviewer should be able to explain specifically what the designer did that was special. Hedi if your reference was "Grunge" and the reviewers spent more text on plaid and Courtney Love than on your fabric choices and techniques then you lazily copied, which Mr. Saint Laurent would never have settled for.

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