Archive for the 'creativity' Category

Theories on Vancouver’s fashion industry

August 24, 2009

One of my daily reads, The Business of Fashion, came out with a post earlier this month, Vancouver’s new Fashion Cycle. I thought, cool, an article about Vancouver and fashion! Turns out the article had slightly more to do with lifestyle than solely fashion, but put a lot out there for me to think about. As part of my program, we have to design a collection in 4th year based off a niche market. In other words, we can’t just design what we “feel like” designing – we have to prove that there is a viable market and an underserved niche. A few years ago, this may seem more like a hindrance to students who think that all they want to design are pretty dresses for “real women”, and by real women, they are thinking women who look and dress like celebrities and socialites. When I first applied to the program almost 4 years ago, the concept of a niche market was foreign to me, a criteria for a school project, at best.

There is a lot to say and observe when it comes to Vancouver’s fashion scene, one that I think links a lot more to lifestyle than the traditional fashion capitals do. Vancouver seems to be starting to make an appearance on the list of “hot” cities on the international cultural who’s-who and what’s what. We’re young and have so much to build on, with tons of creative energy. What I’ve really noticed is lacking are the resources to really harness that creativity and create a strong industry base that could rival New York or London or even Toronto or Montreal (though organizations like Fashion West, formerly Apparel BC, and Fashion High are bravely trying to change that around). We don’t have a centralized location for apparel businesses. You can’t just walk out the door of a fashion company and pop down the street to look at fabrics or get retail inspiration. Everything is so spread apart in this city. I guess that’s because our infrastructure was built primarily before we even had an apparel industry to speak of. Our main purpose as a city is its convenience as a port location between North America and Asia – we weren’t built for manufacturing, we were built around trade. Of course, out of that comes what we are known for now: our beautiful landscape and natural environment. Though, when it comes down to it, what we have is, in my mind, not that unique. We’ve just marketed it well and as a city, have the right balance between an urban setting and a natural, clean, fresh environment, all due in part because of the fact that we are not a very large city in the grand scope of things. And because of this, we’re just the right size to be able to take on the new creative model. And this all leads to my theory, that we are well poised to become a big player in the fashion world not by competing with the traditional model of a fashion capital, but by paving the way for a new one: one that makes sense for the new knowledge economy focusing on holistic aspects of living, not just aesthetics. Gregor Robertson, mayor of Vancouver, is a big advocate of not only sustainability, but creativity as well:

“A world-class city needs to foster entrepreneurial and artistic creativity, and attract innovators from all sectors around the world. It’s time we ditched the red-tape, ‘no-fun city’ label and embraced a culture of creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation, to help our artistic and small-business sectors thrive in a competitive economy.”

I’m interested in how Vancouver’s fashion industry will play out as this city makes strides forward where many cities have already plateaued. Our fashion industry is not at all big, but yet, we have many internationally recognized companies based out of here. As the article on BOF pointed out, there is huge potential for a niche market in lifestyle apparel for fashionable cyclists in the city. It’s interesting how Vancouver was singled out for this – as I was saying, we are seen as a fresh city with room to grow, and our international presence is about to get bigger with the 2010 Olympics slated to take the city in just a short 6 months.

I am excited to see Vancouverites making a splash on the fashion scene through innovative ways of looking at design, fashion, lifestyle, and marketing. Fashionable cyclist wear is one idea, but there are so many others to be dug up in this city that have to potential to percolate internationally. Plus, the only fashion degree program west of Toronto has as part of its criteria that the 4th year collections be based off a niche market. It’s not just a coincidence; someone was smart, and recognized that doing this was crucial in moving Vancouver fashion forward and creating careers in a city that isn’t known for Veras, Calvins, and Karls. I myself am examining niche markets in deciding my market and vision for my grad collection. Hmm, hmm, food for thought!

My Response to Valentino in 2008

July 13, 2009

Valentino 2008 Response

Revisits, Retakes, and Reintrepretations Galore

June 23, 2009

I am always fascinated by spins, reinterpretations and juxtapositions. Although I think there is the idea out there that remakes and retakes are less creative because they are using old material and simply giving it a new spin, I believe that taking stories and concepts that are so ingrained in society’s consciousness and refreshing them is simply another facet of creativity, one that already has a built-in audience and has the ability to reach and affect more people (and also generate more money). Plus, isn’t this what we are doing with our clothes?

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This novel seems interesting to say the least. It could conjure up nightmarish fashion images (long white nightgown stained with blood) but I have to give props to whoever came up the idea.

Sherlock Holmes

Who’s this? Why, it’s Robert Downey Jr. as none other than detective Sherlock Holmes, also starring Jude Law and Rachel McAdams. Coming Christmas 2009. Can you already start to see the influence this movie will have on fashion trends?

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Tim Burton’s films are always a treat. Up next he’s revisiting Alice in Wonderland, a classic children’s story, and giving it his trademark. I could say so much about this story, but I’ll leave that for another post. I can’t wait to see the costumes in this film.

Creative Sketchbooks/Journals: Tips on the Process

June 10, 2009

Sketchbooks, journals, whatever you want to call them, are so important in a designer’s life. I find actually that so many disciplines could benefit from a creative record like it. It hasn’t always been an easy process to build and maintain this, so I want to share what I went through and some things I learned from my own journey.

Pre-Fashion School
I liked to draw as a kid. I liked fashion. I had determined at age 7 that I wanted to be a fashion designer. Throughout my childhood I did manage to pursue many different disciplines and explore a little bit of each before returning back to fashion. Throughout this period, I never managed to maintain an ongoing sketchbook. I drew some sketches now and then on paper and had them scattered in random places. I did, however, keep a journal for most of these years until grade 9. I’m not sure why I stopped, but I did. When I decided for certain that I was going to pursue fashion, I started keeping a sketchbook of fashion drawings. It was more of a way to practice drawing than it was to jot down creative ideas, in hindsight.

Fashion School: The Early Years
Keeping a journal was a part of the curriculum for design class. I think this time was an eye-opener for me about what sketchbooks/journals could be. It was more than just drawing clothes. It was about analysis and observation. I tried hard to keep my journal filled and useful, but soon it became a very limiting process, and I felt uncreative. My natural style in communicating my ideas is very organic. The example below (from my first semester) looked pretty, but it led me toward the path of analyzing other people’s work and what was going on around me without delving into my own creative well.

After a few more semesters, my design journal became more and more unstructured, which suited me much more. But, I realized that I had become lazy. My design journal started to fuse with my life and I couldn’t keep the two apart, further blurring my creativity. Soon, it became less a documentation of creative process and visual inspiration and more a dumping ground for random, uncreative thoughts.

I knew there was a lot going on in my head that could contribute to my life and work as a designer, but I couldn’t seem to get it out in a concrete way.

Now
I’m not sure when it happened, but eventually I realized a few things about sketchbooks and journals that I feel are helpful to share with others who may have struggled with the same things I have.

  1. If you are a goal setter who plans and writes a lot, think about keeping a separate journal for that purpose. I found that once I kept my day-to-day life and my creative life separate that I benefited from the clarity.
  2. Keep your mind open to ideas outside of your discipline. Everything influences fashion. Write about whatever seems interesting, but don’t write about your own life. Because I am a conceptual person, I analyze fairy tales and connect their themes to fashion. A great way to fuel creativity when nothing is coming is going back to one of your favorite things and connecting it somehow to your discipline, or figuring out the metaphor behind it. Remember, art is all about metaphor.
  3. Experiment with size. I went through many sizes and formats, finally settling (for now) on a 11×14″ coil sketchpad for my creative journal and a smaller 6×9″ notebook for my separate journal.
  4. Focus on your senses. Observe and analyze in the moment, it is always better than doing the same thing while looking at a magazine tear.
  5. Switch it up. Keep the pages fresh, try to add something new and different so that you are settling into the same creative boundaries. Even the way you record becomes a creative process. Near the front of my current sketchbook, I have a list of possibilities. Add to this list.
  6. Be messy. I’m messy on paper until it comes time to get everything together. I don’t have the time to care about neatness.
  7. You don’t need to finish work. Sometimes, the pressure of just having to complete something hinders your creativity. I have no problem now leaving work undone. This documentation is meant to help your creativity, not to come out necessarily with a book of finished drawings and studies.

I read An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory, a great book that shows the inner workings of current artists, illustrators, and designers through their private sketchbooks. It was a helpful tool in allowing me to see how unhindered other creatives are. I aspire to that level of committment.

The only way to get good at something is to do it more. People tend to do things more when they are interested, and that is how experts are made. I’m sure that I’ll get better at finding my creativity through my sketchbooks and journals the more I work at it.

Inspired! / Angel Chang

May 4, 2009

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For my inaugural Inspired! post, I decided to focus on inspiration as it comes through at a cross-meeting of influential ideas and material goods; not one or the other, but both, and I didn’t have to look far, as I decided to look to one of the designers who most inspires me.

Being human in nature, we always respond to visual stimuli, making pretty clothes a lure and fascination. It is almost too easy to make pretty clothes now, but yet we still respond with the awe and greed that has become the fuel for our society to be mass consumers. One of the designers I greatly admire is ANGEL CHANG because she has not only found the answer to this issue, but is trying to do something about it with a line that aims to bridge fashion with technology. Her eponymous collection makes me want to do something more for fashion other than make pretty clothes, and that is why I find her so inspiring. I have admiration for people who aim to make a difference in a way that moves forward and may not be readily accepted as a deviation of the norm (most interpretations of “haute tech” conjure up images of neon spacesuits, 80s fashion fads, and distaste – not exactly ready-to-wear for a woman who wants to look fashionable, not ridiculous).

A few pieces from her collections:

From her bio: “Angel Chang is a New York-based fashion designer who creates versatile dressing solutions for worldly women on the go. Her namesake collection, ANGEL CHANG (founded in 2006), grew out of a vision to offer women wardrobes that could actually “do things”—beyond just looking good. The collection’s use of innovative materials—including color-changing prints, light-up fabrics, and self-heating linings—was a first for the American luxury designer market. As a result of these pioneering efforts, the company received the coveted Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award and the prestigious Cartier Women’s Initiative Award within the first year of launching.

The collection’s initial aims were to inspire innovation within the fashion industry and to simultaneously stimulate deeper collaborations with technology companies. Each design was created in collaboration with a range of experienced technologists to offer women versatile designs to compliment their fast-paced and multi-faceted lifestyles. The ANGEL CHANG collection will continue to balance future novelty with everyday practicality as the label grows into a global fashion lifestyle brand.”

What is fascinating to me is that her work incorporates textile design techniques and traditional inspiration with technology, so she really is fusing two worlds. Each piece has something unique and artistic about it – I would expect nothing less of a label that is in the luxury realm, so fashion and art must be in equation, which they are. I love reading about concepts and inspiration behind tangible items, so having a concept for each piece as Angel Chang does on her website resonates with me, and allows further for material goods to be seen as having meaning, utility, and worth (not just the $$ kind).

I encourage everyone to read her manifesto, available for download in PDF format here. This is where it first clicked for me that fashion isn’t just aesthetics and identity. Angel Chang is, however, the only designer off the top of my head who is doing this kind of work – technology-infused fashion for the luxury ready-to-wear market, although other companies are dabbling in it I’m sure. To me, this type of market is more than just a niche; it’s a segment for the more advanced consumer that will one day transition to the mainstream (at least, that’s the hope these “haute tech” designers have, that their influence reaches beyond press and interest, and into actual sales and people wearing their clothes on the streets).

As a young, emerging designer whose ideas have helped shaped mine, Angel Chang is a designer I try to keep up with. Many designers find inspiration from the fashion greats, the 20th century designers who, for the most part, have built fashion empires that are now run by business execs and are no longer bringing fresh ideas to the table beyond aesthetics. I like to find inspiration with young and vibrant creatives, as they have the ability to bridge worlds in a way that previous generations don’t.

FOR MORE…
Angel Chang will be on the new Bravo series THE FASHION SHOW, premiering May 7. I will definitely tune in that, if only to see how her ideas translate to the cutthroat entertainment-focused nature of reality TV.

Visit www.angelchang.com. For updates, she also has a Facebook page.

Have a good week! Thanks for reading.

What’s in a name?

October 9, 2008

The name Fashion 2.0 is a reference to Web 2.0, “a term describing changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, secure information sharing, collaboration and functionality of the web.” The world is changing as it always has, but technology is doing so at a much faster pace than fashion. Why? Fashion has so many dimensions and is directly related to so many sociological influences. All dimensions must work in collaboration together for mainstream fashion to move forward, and it is difficult to achieve that overnight.

I will repeat this statement over and over again, something I hold to my values: We do not need more clothes in this world – we need better designed clothes, clothes that foster community, growth, and changing values.

And that’s where this new direction is relevant: we are combining industries, harnessing our creativity to become more productive, and using productivity to become more creative. Technology serves us so many purposes – one of those is that we are given so much more leisure time. What have people done with this time? We’ve become a consumer-driven monsters. Tsk tsk. This past year I went on a 4 month shopping ban, and I did well on that, but consider this: my original plan was to last a year.

So 2.0, the next step in fashion, one that goes beyond aesthetics just as the web has gone beyond purely information.

I’d love to meet people who share this philosophy.