Call Yourself a Designer?

February 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

What makes a Designer?

According to the fount of all knowledge Wikipedia, ‘a designer is a person who designs’.

Really… you don’t say…

More formally, a designer is an agent that “specifies the structural properties of a design object.” Traditionally the main areas of design were Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, which were understood to be the major classical arts. The creation of clothing, furniture, and other such artefacts or objects, was left to artisans.

But things change. I’d hardly consider Architecture a classical artform any more, the masses of hideous high-rises and identikit suburban homes, not to mention pretty much anything built in the 70’s, have managed to basically drain any artistry from that discipline and also far outnumber the buildings that could be considered works of art.

Fashion too has changed, no longer an artisanal craft, but rather an industry that churns out millions of products (and dollars) each year. Most of which products, like 70’s Architecture, are damn ugly. It has become the sad truth that in the face of consumption designer’s no longer truly design, but rather recreate or restyle what already exists.

When I walk through a store, or look at the designer collections on the runway each season, a softly nagging doubt plagues my thoughts. There is something wrong here it says to me. And then recently, I realised what that ‘something wrong’ was.

Nothing was new. There were no challenges being made by most of the designers, no questions asked or statements made. I hate to point this out, and it may just be the obvious, but deciding to do cropped cable knits in “citrus” is not designing. It barely even falls into the realm of styling. If anything it’s the sort of decision that the consumer can make, without paying a bomb to do it.

Of course it’s mostly high street and lower level brands that are guilty of this sort of methodology, which in some cases is fair enough, their customers aren’t looking for exciting, interesting, or particularly creative or innovative clothes.

Though they aren’t looking for landfill either, or are they? do they even know what they are looking for? would they know a garment destined for landfill if it hit them in the face?

That said there are definitely “Designer” labels who are guilty of just endlessly producing the same wardrobe in different colours and fabrics. Just because the fabric is nice, and that particular shade of mint green is so ‘in’ this summer, does not mean your customer needs the same pair of jeans she already owns. Especially not considering said customer has probably already been sucked into buying more than one pair already. (Thats right, I’m looking at you Mr Jacobs).

Of course it doesn’t help that there are people like Anna Wintour breathing down designers necks to make sure they’re making what the retailers want to be selling.

Of course customers are smarter than we think in most cases, and the industry and consumer in my opinion are equally at fault. The designers make to meet demand, and the consumers create the demand. However the demand is something else altogether. who tells the consumer what they need is the guilty party. It’s a vicious cycle, and  if The September Issue told us anything, it’s that Ms Wintour is in control of just that, telling us what we need, which translates into demand, which translates into pointless trend and fad products produced by inspired-less designers, which in the end adds to landfill.

I guess what I’m trying to ask, is what happened to the days when designers just did what they wanted and if people didn’t like it then too bad, they could go somewhere else.

I guarantee if Wintour had told the Coco Chanel that her collection seemed a little too heavy for the season, she would have copped some heavy to the face. Why do we now allow what we do to be dictated by trends and sales? And more importantly by business? It seems almost worse that the true driving force of the Fashion Industry is now a group of faceless CEO’s and investment bankers who understand only bottom lines and profit margins.

That’s business baby

Fashion, in fact, ALL Design should be fearless and groundbreaking. If the ‘right’ people don’t like it, is it fair enough to say that there is sure to be someone else who will, somewhere…


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