I'm deep in designing for my next collection right now and pondering the creative process we were taught in fashion school.
So much of my creativity now is wrapped up in creating successful ideas, ideas that are profitable, repeatable and cost efficient. My day to day life now depends on whether I can consistently think up new ideas that I think are firstly good enough to put out into the world and secondly that other people will want to own.
At college and university, we were taught the old fashioned way of being creative. It starts with an idea, or a piece of inspiration. That one thing every designer is asked in every interview or every drinks party when the conversation is running dry.... "so where do you get your inspiration from?". And, if you are a natural creative, you usually don't know or can't pin point exactly where it comes from. It comes from the feeling you got reading under the covers with a torch when you're a kid, it comes from one tiny piece of art from a museum you visited in Europe last year, it comes from a bird's feather pattern, it comes from a line of a poem. It comes from being a human living a full and eclectic life.
Of course, you can't put that on a piece of paper and hand it in along with five shoddily sewn un-ironed garments to your lecturer and expect anything other than a complete tearing down of not only your work but your entire being. So you learn how to extrapolate that spark of inspiration. You create mood boards, you go off on research tangents, you read essays, you clip magazines and bits of drawings. Eventually you see patterns emerging. They might not have anything to do with the first spark - and that's often why it's so hard to explain your process to a lay person, not only do you have to bare your creative soul you have to explain the messy path that got you from there to this bra you'd like to sell to them.
And so you design, and re-design, and develop, sample and cry, and design and sample again. You try all the little design elements that caught your eye while researching, all the different colour combinations and eventually you come up with something that you don't hate - not something that you love, please note, just something that doesn't make you want to immediately throw it in the bin.
You show it to your peers, of course they love it, they want you to say the same thing about their designs. You show it to your tutors, they love it, except all of these huge design elements that you deem crucial to the main themes of what you were trying to explain with fabric. You hand it in, get your mark and move onto the next project.
And it's fine. It teaches you a creative process and developing of ideas, how to handle feedback and to explain your work. But that's not what happens in the real world, or at least in my world.
Typically at university, over three terms we would complete six projects, now I barely have enough time to complete two projects (collections) a year. And yes I know I also have a business to run now but let me tell you I worked 30+ hour weeks whilst I was at uni and partied as hard as I worked. I definitely had less spare time then than now.
And those collections, gosh do they drag! Now, after I've spent months working behind the scenes developing, steeling myself for the feedback coming not just from lecturers and peers but every person who stumbles across my homepage on insta profile, now I have to spend the next 3-6 months staring at these designs. Trying to promote them convincingly with "constructive criticism" ringing in my ears and noticing all the little details I would have discarded or changed or included if I'd just had three more days/months/years. And it's tough. These designs need to be fresh (more than once I've seen criticism of a brand for *only* bringing out new colour ways for one season), they need to turn a profit, they need to be original (nothing worse than producing a new design and realising your "inspiration" for it was accidentally your competitions best seller last season) and they need to be something you can stand to recreate over and over and over again with at least a modicum of enthusiasm - or what is even the point - until it's time to do it all over again.
So here I sit, staring at my Pinterest mood board. Trying to forget all the bad creative thinking I've picked up since creativity has had to pay the bills and get to a place of true inspiration. Not clouded by money, practicality or anyone else's opinions. And I think I have something beautiful for you all, it's not the beautifully created collections from my college days but it's also not a cold hearted profit driving regurgitation of what I know works. It's still the spark of inspiration but there's also already a full collection of garments. I've let the creativity take over this time and while I try to pull it all together into some sort of cohesive collection to present to the world, I invite you to think about what you might create, what kind of story you might tell with your own creative skills if time, money and necessity were no object?