“I’ve never done this before.. Please help.”
We’ve got your back! Not every customer who walks through our doorways is a Parsons/FIT student or big-name fashion design intern with teachers and guidance. Not everyone knows what the heck they’re doing — they just know they want to do it, and to possibly explore a potential future. Located in the fashion district (or garment district), we get the little people as well as the big; the recreational designer is the lifeblood of this industry, and we must never forget that. They appreciate the beauty of what we sell, what their idols design for international Fashion Week(s) and everything this industry has to offer. There would be no industry without their support. One of the frequently asked questions we hear runs along the lines of the customer’s lack of experience or knowledge when buying hardware for a specific project in their minds.
Am I going to mess this up? I have no idea what I’m doing. Should I even do this, when I’m not a professional? I might as well just buy some finished product; this is too scary, too much of a hassle, too unknown.
Stop right there, prospective designer. You don’t have to be a professional to design your own clothing or customize your attire. Not every blogger is a professional writer, not every painter has made a sale, and not every fashion designer has artistic roots. We all want to create something with our own hands, and you have nothing to fear. We all started somewhere.
Am I good enough? Is it too late?
One of our newer customers, taking their time with our selection and chatting with the rest of the clientele, eventually worked up the nerve to ask another one of our frequent shoppers, “am I good enough for fashion design?” That’s quite a broad question, and truly is subjective in this line of work, or any artistic endeavor for that matter. Fashion design is in a state of constant evolution! Here’s a prime example for you: the world renowned Fashion Week, which runs during the Spring and Fall season every year, are simply to update the fashion world about what is catching on and what is falling off. One of the trends set last year revolved around sneakers on the runway, and blew up. Headlines were springing up everywhere in the industry, yet come 2015, the headlines have changed a little.. and by a little, I mean a complete 180° turn. The new headlines are asking, rhetorically if not literally, if the sneaker bubble has burst already, and it seems like it has. So coming into the industry, every individual designer is like a small stitch in a garment. Seemingly insignificant, but powerful in large numbers, and every new designer can be a breath of fresh air in this ever-shifting world.
The thing about fashion design and art is that there is no set routine. No rules or point systems judged fairly by a referee on the court; the only thing that matters on the runway is well conceived designs, their fit, the passion exemplified in your creations, and your model not tripping. Three of those four are completely under your control, and the latter can be debated. What this all means is simple; not everyone will like what you do. Aim to please yourself and your target audience who’s opinion you actually care for. The market is too volatile to worry about every consumer’s style.
So are you good enough to be in fashion design? To sell? Perhaps, and your odds increase with time in the game. Are you artistic enough for design? That is a definite yes. Throw out any comparison you’re making to yourself and Gucci, or Giorgio Armani, because you’re only going to do yourself a disservice by comparing old-timers to a new-timer. In any field, you either believe it takes talent to make the top 10% of companies, or it takes hard work. The reality of the situation is that, regardless, that leaves 90% of the market! Not everyone is able to afford name-brand, top of the line apparel that is running in the thousands of dollars. Quality goods still flourish in the market, and this marketplace comprises of people like you and I, the upstarts and the autodidacts.
Students & Self-Starters
Why is a gross called a gross, when referring to 144 pieces of something? These are the types of things you pick up in the industry. I once overheard an FIT professor tell our showroom supervisor the difference between her students and his salesmen: she teaches her students why a certain quantity is referred to as a gross, and that the supervisor and the other salespeople learn what it is. Of course, the FIT students will come to learn that the term gross equals 144 individual pieces of product (usually buttons), while our salespeople will come to learn the “why” later on (the complete opposite from one another). Yet, both require a commitment to understanding the nature of the fashion design world, and that is something which can be imbibed with instruction at any age.
This means that you are indeed able to come into design “late.” Teenagers that decide upon a path allowing them an opportunity to pursue a career, in any line of work, are often celebrated as prodigies when most simply started young, with all the time in the world. But the world is a big enough place that even adults learning through trial and error for the first time, as well as middle aged autodidacts, are still in high demand. Sure, those intimidating youngsters have a huge head start on you in specific knowledge, but you have years and years of experience on them when it comes to how businesses work, how strongly advertisements affect your sales, the psychology of the consumer or anything else that they missed out on while sitting in the classroom copying text from a book. Do not underestimate this variable! There are trade-offs for starting young and old alike; don’t squander your initiative if you want to pursue your passion, whatever your age may be. You can certainly teach old dogs new tricks!
I don’t feel like I’m artistic enough for fashion design..
You are artistic enough to surprise yourself. Think back through your week, and reflect on anything you had an opinion on, even if you feel it has little relevance to fashion.
That commercial sucked, and they should have incorporated this into their product statement to make a lasting impact. That guy sitting across from me on the train’s glasses clash terribly with his hair, not to mention his shirt isn’t a pleasing combination with those pants. That is one hell of an ugly car, do people actually like that? That’s a nice phone case…
If you are capable of forming an opinion, you are drawing on your experiences of design and aesthetic elements, which is critical, yet attainable. These examples denote a degree of aesthetic awareness that is able to be nurtured and learned and although you may not be able to sell your product on an H&M rack immediately, you can still pitch your concept to see what bites, and at the very least imbibe any critique into your experiences. You’ll want to draw upon what you do have and know, but also keep your mind open for what you can learn and experience.
Everyone started from somewhere…
Sure, it’s an old cliché that’s repeated in all aspects of life, but some things need constant reinforcement for those still begging the question, can I do it? Yes, so do it already! Reach out, converse and connect with other shoppers, other designers on blogs, or via email. The veterans of the field constantly reach out to prospective hires, and are also usually open to giving a little guidance to lost souls — they remember their own humble beginnings. This is the cycle of artwork, and fashion is no different. Consumers will be on the constant look out for fresh and inspiring designs, and it doesn’t ultimately matter if the new kid on the block creates it or an established company. Everyone started somewhere, and you could be the next big name in fashion design if you allow yourself to be.
Image Credits: Header by PandaOnDA