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Fashion Design Inspiration: Where to Begin

Lesson 7 of 10

Why Narrow Your Focus?

Jay Calderin

Fashion Design Inspiration: Where to Begin

Jay Calderin

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Lesson Info

7. Why Narrow Your Focus?

Lesson Info

Why Narrow Your Focus?

In the earlier segment, we spent a lot of time exploring inspiration and resources and we collected a lot of ideas. As well as imagery, and that process can be a little overwhelming because there are so many things we can fall in love with through our research and we're getting to a point now in the design process where we want to start to edit, where we want to sort of narrow our focus and it's a hard thing to do because we can like I said, sort of fall in love with a lot of the aspects of what we're doing and what we're finding and we need to figure out what speaks to the collection we're planning on doing and to the customer because a lot of people forget that although fashion is this incredibly creative process. The flip side is that you are actually designing for someone and you need to keep them in mind when you're designing because it's more of a dialogue than a monologue. So we're gonna talk about your focus. There are four different things we're going to approach in this class...

. The Icons and the Influencers; and this is talking about who do we follow. We have The Street - from the sidewalk to the catwalk In the past 10-20 years, we see more and more designers going to how their fashion or how fashion is general is interpreted by the people who are actually wearing it. And then Trends - On, Off and Adjacent That's a little reminder I have that we don't always have to follow trends. And then finally, we talked a little bit about this earlier in terms of forecasting and thinking about what some strategies for forecasting and what are some of the ways into forecasting because forecasting is really an industry unto itself. It's sort of a science so we want to figure out as a designer, how can we adopt some of those ideas that will help us narrow our focus. So let's start off with the Icons and Influencers. We have here images of two First Ladies and they definitely influence the generation that they were in. And I want to ask the room; we'll get you guys right back into it; in terms of who would you describe as an icon? Cause we all have people that we picture, and it doesn't have to be a famous person. It could be your mom. It could be someone in the community. It could be absolutely anybody but who is one of the people who kind of really inspires you? (mumbles) do you want to start us off? Is there anybody in particular? Well there's a few people, I mean history obviously, she's always just so, just amazing and beautiful and really admire her. Another person is, actually she's not, she makes things herself but she's more, her name is Lucy from Lucy's Corsetry again. She basically reviews everybody but I admire her a lot just in her taste, things she wears and just her in general. Just her personality, I find- Like how she approaches the whole process? Exactly. Yeah, She's just so welcoming and warm and it draws you in -[Jay] yeah and it makes me, you know Definitely pay attention to Personality what she's doing. And how someone approaches how they interpret fashion, - Yeah. - is a strong factor because it may not be the actual designs even, you know what I mean, I'm sure that's a part of it but it might be the fact that you connect with them on that more personal level. [ Dark Haired Woman] Mhmm Cool. I'm going to say Iris Apfel because she puts together things, all sorts of things from ethnic things and her sense of pattern and color and texture is just wild and crazy and she doesn't let that fact that she is about a million years old stop her. (laughing) In the least, she's really inspiring to me. I had the good fortune to meet her (gasps) when she came up to Peabody Essex Museum in Salem for her exhibit and she is exactly how you'd imagine her to be and it's funny because there is this conversation around that being an influence and she talks about doing your own thing, expressing yourself and she definitely has that sense of more is more. It's not like take one accessory off, it's add one before you go. And I think it's funny because personally when I met her, I wanted to up my ante, so to speak and I wanted to push the envelope in terms of what I'd wear when I saw her and it's funny because I think that means different things for different people. She was a big influence for me but not in the terms that I'm gonna walk around in, I don't know, a boa? (laughs) You know, not pushing the envelope theatrically but there are little things. So I think it's more the spirit of being free to experiment and play. And adding energy to everything, I'm sure that when she goes anywhere she energizes everybody that she meets and I think that's fantastic. Yes, she's amazing. My icon's probably not someone anyone would recognize, it is a costuming person. But God Save The Queen Fashions I believe she's in Georgia. She is a fantastic costumers and pattern maker and seamstress and is fairly transparent with the materials she uses and the technique she uses she's always super helpful in the community with answering any questions that people have, she'll post high detail shots of the foundations of her garments and she's one of the first people to really make a business out of this and I just really admire her. And I'm curious because two of you already spoke about industry people who are actually making fashion but I'm curious because you mention cosplay earlier. Is there a certain type or genre within cosplay that kind of inspires you in terms of a direction for the style of the kind of things you do? Sure. Obviously, with Marvel and D.C. really pushing their films lately, that's a huge source of inspiration for a lot of people and with those movies still coming out multiple times a year, people are always, even the first concept arts or the first three second trailer, are already saying how can I make that? So it's really cool to be in a community that is so excited about what they're doing. I think that speaks a lot, you mention Marvel and D.C. in particular, that's a certain style versus, let's say anime or things like that. That's important to realize too because it may not be a particular person but it might be this genre or certain style that really speaks to you and it leads the way in terms of how you interpret it. [Brown Cardigan Woman] Yeah, Definitely. When you talk about an icon, are you talking about somebody who's in the industry or just kinda in general? Anybody who influences you, either personally or as a designer, as someone who's creative. For me, there really are two people just influence me as a person and what I would like to emulate at some point. One is Katharine Hepburn and the other one is Jane Fonda. - [Jay] Love it. Because they are two women who have absolutely lived on their own terms. Both amazing, yes. Yeah and they have been trendsetters if you will, in their own periods in time. Definitely. I think they're both very strong amazing, amazing women who basically did things the way they wanted it to be done. Exactly, and again just working from the world of film, but their lives carried on outside of film. [Green Glasses Woman] Right. -It's about what they stood for. And again that sort of I'm doing what I want to do. [ Green Glasses Woman] Yeah, it's not the film part of their personality. Right, the spirit of the women behind all that. [Green Glasses Woman] Exactly, yeah. Excellent. Thank you, and I just wanted to chime from Bandowade at home who says "Kate Middleton comes to mind off "the top of my head as well as Jennifer Lopez "pulls off some crazy outfits really well too." (laughs) We have Lilth who says "Frida Kalho" Oh Which is fantastic. Fashion Time says " Grace Jones." Awesome. Kenzie, how about you? It's funny, I was gonna say Frida too, I think I've been having a few friends who are out just recently visiting her home and seeing all the images of her paintings but also her bright vibrant color and how her house looked even. It translated through everything she had and also I think I come back to Alexander McQueen a lot because there's stuff that can be translated and toned down into more day to day wear but I think also I think like you were saying earlier, everything looks like art work and very extravagant and avant-garde. Kind of pushes the boundaries of what you define as fashion. Definitely, definitely and we kind of see that it's a range of industry people but also people just out there in the real world who are maybe in the public eye but where it's more about who they are and how they're expressing themselves. We mentioned not just the icon but who influences our choices. Now we go to the street. This is a fun silly picture but you could very easily be sitting in a cafe having a cup of coffee and see this group of colorful kids walk by, right? That is a really important, I almost call it like an exercise that I try to do myself and it might be at a cafe, it might be riding the train and it's to really try to start to observe how people are wearing clothes. There might be a designer who's designing very classic all american button downs and khakis and yet kids in the city might be wearing them in three sizes too big; at least from the designers perspective; but for them it's perfectly normal. So you wanna ask yourself, how is that being interpreted? The clothes are still the same, they haven't changed, they really haven't been altered. But how it's put together and I always call it my napkin exercise, cause if I'm having coffee; we think we have to have proper sketches on proper paper but so much of my doodling, if I don't have that little notebook with me, can be on napkins. So that's kind of an old tradition that I like to bring back every once and a while and to really allow yourself to see how it's being interpreted because it's a good reminder that the user is part of the whole design process. They take it a step further. So here we have a trend. So the skinny jean. So we have to ask ourselves, how do these trends come about? Because it's not always top down, right? So we ask ourselves, what is the influence behind this? Why is this an alternate? I myself have sort of a narrow jean on but a couple seasons ago it was all about the bootcut jean. Like that's just what I wore, it was my uniform all the time. And then it slightly changed the silhouette still the same materials but just that slight modification. And that can be a trend in itself within your own wardrobe strategy, how you modify as you go just to keep it interesting. And then a warning from Karl Lagerfeld (laughing) "Trendy is the last stage before tacky." So a little humor, but sometimes true. And we have to remember that where we stand in the scope of things in terms of how we approach the whole idea about trend. And I mentioned earlier in the bullets that I always think about: Is it on trend? And what does that mean as a designer? What do you need to think about? Is it off trend? Is it trend adjacent? The way I would describe those would be that if you're on trend, you're really trying to be thinking ahead. You're trying to lead the conversation and really researching and like I mentioned earlier about what films are coming out, what things are coming into the public forum, the following season or the following year and I'll just say, that's a really hard place to be, to say that I'm going to predict and influence these trends. But a good part of the industry, that's a big part of it that's why you see the media always talking about what's new for fall. The question I always hate the most when people ask me that, cause for me, it's a lot of different things. But stylists and TV presenters always have an opinion because they have that particular narrow focus. So that's really be on trend. So that you're anticipating. The off trend is a real strong choice. Like it's basically saying I'm not following what's happening in fashion, I'm doing what I'm doing, right? Because this is the product that I love, and this is how I'm creating it. Now the funny thing about it is, often those designers will turn into the next trend because they're so off trend that they become the exciting new thing. So always keep in mind that sometimes sticking to your guns and saying no this is what I wanna do, it may not have as broad an audience originally but things come around and eventually you're going to be the flavor of the month. And then trend adjacent is kind of the middle strategy which I can describe best by an example when I first started designing or learning about designing one of the strongest trends was neon colors. And as fun as they were, I just couldn't get my head around designing with highlighter orange and green and pink. So I designed a collection that would serve as a canvas for those trends. So instead of designing clothes that were those colors I designed clothes that would be great with accessories in those colors, or jewelry with those colors or shoes with those colors. So if the latest trend is a particular color that you don't like, you can adapt that into the fashion design process in terms of what would be a great match or a great alternative for that woman who doesn't want to wear that color or wear that pattern. Employ that strategy for the trend. When you talk about trends and especially the street trends, from talking to my youngest daughter, and I'll be talking about a trend out in the street and she'll say no, that was so last year. (laughs) So basically what she's saying by the time it gets to the main stream, it's over and done with. Yeah. How do you guys deal with that? Well it depends on what your business model is I think because I think if you're talking about mass production and you want to be delivering stuff to the mass then it is gonna be slightly watered down because we're not talking high fashion where it originates, but I think it gets a bad rap once it get into the masses because I think a lot of things can be really fun to adapt in that way where it is more watered down because it may not be your cup of tea to do the full on. But we gotta remember that there are stages, sort of a life cycle and that's okay. And to figure out where you wanna be, because if you wanna be in the Atelier doing couture and setting those trends then you can be there and that's your focus. But I think it's important not to leave out the value of all those other stages because it's like that famous scene in The Devil Wears Prada talking about the cerulean blue color and it's importance. I show that to my students all the time because although it's really fun and funny and dramatic it really tells a story about the fact that someone's gonna respond to that idea but it could be at a different place, at a different time and we wanna value that. Alright, so another thing to think about when it comes to forecasting and predicting, we touched on it a little earlier. And that's to talk about season. So I matched up literal actual pictures representing a season with a design and it doesn't have to be that literal but thinking about season in terms of where people's heads are at. So not so much that that designs incorporates some of these colors but more so that how you feel when you look at that picture of the tulips. Does it feel hopeful, does it feel exciting that spring is coming and what does that mean in terms of your design process. And then same thing with all the other seasons thinking about summer, thinking about fall and this one's particularly interesting because of some of the things we talked about in the mood board when it comes to texture and finish. I may not originally have though of that metallic leather as being particularly fall but when you see it all together you really see that particular little slice of fall that she found inspiration in. And then winter, right? So these are very literal but keep in mind that it doesn't have to be an exact representation and say winter to you because she may be going to this image for a summer collection you know. It may be because she wants to shake it up and she's saying, like I mentioned earlier about the pastels right, how you may be seeing pastels, they're popping out at you constantly, but it may be time to do a fall collection. That could be the one thing that sets you apart and you're giving another choice to the customer.

Class Description

Fashion Design Inspiration: Where to Beginis your roadmap to turning your dream of a career in fashion into a viable reality.

Jay Calderin is the author of three top-selling books on Fashion Design and the founder and executive director of Boston Fashion Week. In this class, he’ll pull back the curtain on the entire design process. 

You’ll learn about:

  • Creating a moodboard for inspiration
  • The nuts and bolts of starting a fashion line
  • Specializing in specific styles
  • Crafting a coherent collection
A career in fashion design is possible. Learn about the essential first steps in Fashion Design Inspiration: Where to Begin

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Andrea Leggett

I think this is a super taster for anyone considering fashion design as a career or hobby. Jay is a great teacher who brings knowledge and experience to the students in a really nice calm manner. I learned a great deal and Jay has expanded my horizons. Involving the students in the studio was helpful and was the questions from the presenter were useful too.