Be Ready for Change
Now we're going to be talking about change. Very scary for a lot of people. I know for me, you know, I always talk about how change is good but when it happens to me, it's always like, a little jarring and I have to remind myself that change can be very good. So I wanna talk about a couple of strategies and tools of, so that you're ready for change. So one of them is reframing. Questing your definition of what it is. So ask yourself, what the approach that you've been taking. What's the approach that you've been taking and how might you redefine that. It could be as a designer, you always work with the pattern first. You develop a pattern first or it could be, you always do a sketch first and for some reason you need to shake things up and you don't have that ability to do that, so it could be a matter of how do I approach this problem from another angle? Again, I don't like to use the word 'problem', more of challenge, because it's either design challenges that we're setting for ourse...
lves. So, questioning how we define things. Like is it really that? Or could it be this too? The evolution. We talked about with the customers sort of really listening, but you wanna be aware of the context of what you're putting out there, so you want to be able to look and then not just look in terms of identify, but then really see. Like go a little deeper. Like really go a little deeper as to, like we talked about reflecting the words of the customer back to them. You can do that, with imagery, sort of go deeper like why that image, and so that it's more than meaning behind it. And then you have listen. 'Cause you've really, as I've repeatedly said, this whole fashion design process is a dialogue, not a monologue, so this client becomes a very important factor. Even if you are working in a mass production, the client becomes a little bit more generic, 'cause it represents a lot of different people. But it's still that person you're serving. They're still going to that store for that particular product, for that particular reason. Diversification. This is huge in the fashion industry. Most big fashion design companies do not make the bulk of their money off the clothing. They make the bulk of their money off scent and accessories and so if you have that in mind and you're going okay, that's the nature of the business, are there things that are within your creative realm that either, or maybe aren't within your creative realm that you want to explore and bring into your creative realm, that could allow you to diversify and do something maybe, apply your aesthetic to something else. This is really, really valuable because these not only are diversification but they can be that entry into your world, that sort of, that really accessible piece. 'Cause we may not buy a whole gown from a designer, but we might buy into their aesthetic just a little bit by buying the necklace or by buying the bag. We all know the big designers all have these incredible bags. It's always the bag of the season, and that's our way in if we're either not able or not interested in investing in the actual clothing. Alternate platforms, new audiences. This is a constant thing that you want to try to do because you may not be hitting your right audience. I always tell the story of a designer who is based in Boston but has shops also in Palm Beach. And they design this great dress, this sweet little, sort of three-tier dress, it was adorable. Fit everyone, made everyone look great. Didn't matter what size or height or anything like that. But knowing his audience was a key factor in this because he made the dress in every color and so he had a range that as you know, blacks and navies and browns, very dark, and then lots of bright colors and white, and he sent all his stores all the colors. And in Palm Beach, at sale time at the end of the season, all the dark colors were still on the hangers. And then in the North, up in Boston, all the bright colors were hanging. So what he did, instead of putting either dress on sale because it's the top seller, is he just switched merchandise. So you wanna ask yourself and know that what your audience is even in a particular place, because you might have really loyal customers all around the country or all around the world but what are their needs in that context? Because they love the dress, they know it fits and it's flattering, but they're not in a culture that's going to be wearing dark colors, let's say. And they celebrate with the brighter colors. And then exit strategies. This one sounds a little sad sometimes but sometimes, it can be really exciting. And that sort of, what's the nature of your relationship with fashion or this creative process? And ask yourself how might that be different. If this is, it kinda speaks back to, if you couldn't do what you're doing now, how would you use all your skills and talents to do something else? I started out as a fashion designer, and realized part of the way into my career that I didn't want, selling to stores and clients and I just said, that is not working for me. I can do it, I'm successful at it, but it's not how I wanna spend my days, because it was demanding things that I didn't wanna do. And so I challenged myself and I said, I'm going to do what I call concept collections, and I treat them the way a gallery owner might consider, challenge an artist to do a collection of paintings for a show. So I do that for myself because I love the process and I miss it. It's like I always have to try a little sewing, a little pattern making because it's just a part of my nature and it gets me thinking in a real creative way. But I found a way to express myself, share my work, and it keeps me in that creative mode for everything else that I do. So that's a very specific and you definitely don't make money at that, I'll just say that, but it feeds everything else and it keeps me relevant. It keeps me, I can still talk to that student or that designer who's actually doing it for a living and relate. It's not this obscure thing. And it's important to me. And because my career has taken me in a lot of different directions. Teaching and with Fashion Week but it's all the stuff that I got out of the getting inspiration and researching, making the clothes, making the patterns, and then bringing us to this stage, all feeds that. So you have to recognize that you have these incredible talents and they are very transferable. I always challenge my students and say, especially students who've had a career or in another career, but have an interest in fashion, and say, what do you wanna do? Or no, what do you do outside of here? And they say that it's always relevant to fashion and this one woman once told me she's like, "Ah I got you". I can stump you and I said "What, what do you do?" She said "I'm a nurse". I said, "Are you kidding?" You are perfect for fashion. You are with people at their very worst and most vulnerable and you make them feel better." Fashion designers, hairdressers, that is all what they're there for. They are there to enhance your experience, make you feel better and she's a natural. She does it with really some of the worst times in her life. So fashion, not so critical. So it's gonna be even easier and more fun, but all of you have skills whether, whatever industry you're in to bring to another aspect of fashion. So exploring that I think is really important. So on that note, I am gonna bring out Margo. And we're gonna talk a little bit about these things. Alright, welcome.
And Margo if you'll just introduce yourself again, as well, thank you.
Hi, I'm Margo, and my interest basically is in not so much fashion design, but theater costumes and theater. (laughs)
Okay. (laughs) So, when we're talking about reframing and the definition, I'm sure, you've been in working costumes, you have a clear definition of what that means. Can you think of, I think the most obvious one that I can think of is, you're working in theater, and then applying those skills to film, right? Because it might be a slightly different approach. So, but what might be another place, what do you, well actually I think the best way to start is, what do you think the most valuable skills for the costumer are? What would you say the three most important things about being a designer, the definition of that, what do you think they would be?
I think the number one, for a costume design?
Would be the ability to research. And the ability to be able to take the information from that research and apply it to whatever play you're doing, whatever costume you're doing, whatever fabric you choose, 'cause it's all very important to make sure as authentic as you can possibly make it.
Okay, so the research. And what you do think two other things might be that define a good costume designer?
Yeah, I think basically in the end, for me, I don't work in a vacuum. Even though I may design and I may actually create the costume in a vacuum by myself. But you have to have really good collaboration skills. And part of those skills are, as an example, yes, you know what the character is, you have kind of an idea what the costume needs to be. But you also need to take into consideration what the director wants, the lighting, the performer that's wearing it. So you really have to be able to collaborate.
And your ego's gotta kinda stay out of the way. Because it's really not my vision. It's the vision and the integrity of the whatever piece you're doing.
Right. And if you pick a third?
I think a decent sense of humor. (laughs) I really do.
I think that's good all around.
Because there's a lot of weirdness that goes on around that so, you have to be able to laugh at yourself.
And take criticism.
I think those are all excellent. I mean, it really speak to, I mean, you specifically talking about costume design but I think we all agree that it kinda speak to almost any kind of clothing design that we will be doing. So, taking all that into consideration. What might be one element that, and it's hard to think of what you have thought of before in terms of that. But how could you reframe this? So that the definition of costume designer would include one more element that maybe wouldn't be expected of costume design. Like maybe something that you just think is taking it in a different direction. Like one element that we challenge you to kind of shake things up and not do things the way you would normally do. Like let's say, taking your research, for instance. Your process of research, what would be, or actually, I think more importantly, the strategy behind using your resources, I mean your research. Keeping really authentic and punctuating the costume with something that maybe isn't intentionally. You know what I mean? Like saying, how do I put my mark on something that has a twist on something. Just to use an example, just popped into my head. There's this TV show called 'The Knick'. It's about the knickerbocker hospital, I think late 1800s. And everything is super authentic. Like the costume, I've seen it, I don't know if you--
I have not seen it but I've heard of it.
It's exquisite and yet, one of the doctors, the main character, the costume designer decided to put him in white leather Capto boots. And it is the most striking thing on the screen. Because it's filmed very darkly and that sort of blue, gree, gray color. And there's this really strong aesthetic but throwing that twist into it was, I guess her way of identifying her as the costume designer, you know what I mean?
So, not that might not be your strategy, but just using that as an example of exploring how you might put your mark on it without undermining necessarily the integrity of the research. But saying, this is fantasy, this is play I want to maybe in certain instances, put a little exclamation point. Because I'll be honest with you, I just ordered those boots. (laughter) I fell in love with them and I was like, I don't know when and how I'm gonna wear them but I'm going to get them. It's just like, I think you wanna ask yourself maybe that's something that helps you connect outside of costume design with the world. Because it's actually an old company that makes them. It's this shoe company in here, very traditional shoe company. So, there maybe relationship and other places you can go with defining what your strategy is around research.
Well, actually, I think this is kind of odd ball, but I think where I would go with that, to put my mark on, is something you can't really see but it would be the inside of the garment and the underwear.
Okay, yes, I mean, in that, you're empowering the actor.
And this speaks to, with fashion design, that little special thing but in costume design, the actor's important. I think we spoke about, I don't know if it was on camera but about the beauty of the garment inside even with costume that that's very important to you. And I think that's because you don't want to feel like you're wearing something that's just thrown together. You wanna feel like oh wow, this is helping me believe that I'm this character and interpreting it. So, great, cool.
I think the evolution of things to look and see I think is case by case. Like the one, two, I think you already do that 'cause I think you have a real collaborative spirit. So I think that we've kind of covered. The diversification of alternate products. I know it may seem a little for costume design but what Emily said for instance of making patterns available because the audience she has is so collaborative. Is there anything like that you can imagine for costume design? Like something that you do really, really well. Yesterday, we had, for instance, Ryan with the corsets. And I think that's something that maybe, from costume design can go to the customer, there can be a whole side thing. So, is there anything like that in what you do that you'll, "I love making these."
Actually, what I really, really love is steampunk.
Ah, I love it, yes.
And I would love to be able to make, I'm a good hat-maker. Love to be able to make those funky hats and the... Or even that vest that you showed with the bells and stuff.
Oh, yeah, that very, yes.
Ah, love one of those.`
So I mean, making that kind of thing which could very easily be turned into a steampunk thing.
And that's like almost in the middle of cosplay and--
It is, I just absolutely love the steampunk look.
I love it, and I love that you specialize in the hats. Like that you'd be tapping off a design that can be a whole little side thing that you explore. And again, this goes in everything and it should be something that excites you like that. 'Cause the more personal it is and the more, I think, the spirit of it is really woven into whatever you're doing.
Yeah, I dressed my husband up in steampunk last year.
Yeah, he wasn't too happy but I loved it. (laughter)
I think, I just had to chime in because (mumbles) in the chat room has been with us for a couple of days, had earlier, so we started with conversation with you Margo in about applying your experience. Slorochi says, "My suggestion for Margo in terms of reframing is to look at cosplay and steampunk."
So, it was already, it's all everyone's into. (mumbles) The stars are aligning.
All right, and then, what about alternate platforms? I mean, it may not be, you're talking about theater and film and it may not be too far-flung from that, but we think about the different levels at the (mumbles). So is there a different place you can go, a different type of audience for your skills. 'Cause we think film, we think how we would. But maybe it isn't how would, maybe it's sort of indie. And when it comes to theater period pieces, is there a particular genre I guess, that you haven't explored that you wanna explore?
Not a genre, but where I would go with that would be, and this goes along with volunteering, was you'll be back to the high schools, back to the schools to volunteer. And help with costumers. And also a little bit of set designs so--
Love that. 'Cause I totally believe in that.
Yeah, I mean, that's what I would do, yeah.
And just a little side note because especially with students, I mean, one of the things that I find is where she high school service. Lately, I've been working with a lot of young people and we kind of, as we get older, we tend to kind of label them and just kind of write them off for a certain thing. And it's amazing how much they bring back. And I always feel personally that when you go back to those academic situations, you learn as much as they do. And they keep you fresh and relevant. So I think as a strategy, I think that's really helpful.
Well that's actually where I got my start.
So I'm going back.
Yes, excellent. And then two, to wrap up with this would be ready for change, I think when it comes to the exit strategy if you're saying, you know what? This isn't working for me anymore. Or I feel like I've done this and I'm ready to change. Kind of a nicer decision-making places to change. Is there any direction, another industry where you think you could apply what you do.
Or how you do it.
Aside from the actual creation of these costumes, I'm actually a researcher at heart. So I would go into research.
Very cool. And that's a huge talent. That speaks, to the very beginning of our process with the mood boards and the history and adding things into the mix, I love actually researching for other people sometimes because you feel like, look, what I brought you.
Well that's what I would be doing. (mumbles) And probably in an academic setting or for someone writing a book or something like that.
I just wanna chime it for you two. You probably also fit in very well to (mumbles). Because they are all about that historical accuracy.
And it's right in line with that you're already doing with Perry in--
And I could wear great clothes.
Excellent. All right, thank you so much. That was wonderful.
So, at this point, I wanna encourage everyone to kind of think about those three phases. They are I think vital in any creative process, is the thinking like giving yourself a time to think and to absorb and to just collect and just immerse yourself in content and inspirational materials. And to also, not forget to edit. 'Cause we don't wanna put everything in there all at one but we'll save everything for later. And then I think also, not forgetting that it's a maker business. You know what I mean? Or calling where you wanna get your hands in the process. I mentioned earlier with my exhibition collections, those things for me, again, keep my hand in it ' so I can not lose those skills. And we find them, and try new skills. Try to develop new skills. And then, so those two things for a lot of designers feel like we're where it wraps up. And that's why this section of communicating fashion is so important. All the different tools of connecting and story-telling. Why I personally think they're so valuable.
I have a question about organizations that one can potentially join to support the work, support in all sorts of ways. Do you have any suggestions about that?
Well, internationally, there's Fashion Group International. I am actually on the board in Boston and I was actually a regional director for a term. And that is probably the most recognizable large group that, and it also connects you with other cities. So it's a community that does communicate and I think that's really great. But then there are local groups too like (mumbles) and even groups that you might start up. And it maybe over, I always like make them around something, so it's like coffee on Saturday morning. We're gonna get together and talk about what went wrong this week, how we can fix it and support system. It's something as simple as that or it could be a project based where you kinda say, I'm gonna get a group together just to test out these ideas or just to explore this new skill. So, creating those support systems for yourself in addition to the practical support systems. For instance, family who support what you do and raising the money to do what you wanna do, all those kinds of things. But I think the other, the creative side, it's important to remember you want to cultivate support systems for that process as well. Great.
Well thank you so much Jay. I think that was really awesome about how you linked communicating fashion and the story telling and everything that we're doing as we evolve but again, back into that figuring out who we are consistently and what our brand is, who our customers are, it really, really all goes together. And that's something that we have to continue to look at. It's not a one-time. It's not finite at all. Especially in the fashion world, right?
Yes, I mean the whole nature of fashion, it changes. So, not that we have to change at that speed, where there's a collection every couple of months. But in terms of knowing, letting ourselves grow. And letting our experiences kind of take us places and not being really rigid about where we are.