Fantasizing is a very important part of creative fashion design - but how to make sure not to go too far, and to create Thoughtful Style?
In a focus group I conducted in Midtown Manhattan back in 2016, shortly after the pop-up store, we gathered for a lovely Sunday brunch. Including me, we were 10 ladies, in our 30’s to 70’s, who all appreciate quality & style.
We had a vibrant 3-hour discussion about habits, preferences, fabrics, wardrobe needs and more.
One of the wise ladies around the table, JE, answered one of the questions by saying:
“Our clothes are our immediate-environments”.
I was wowed by this answer, and as a Thoughtful Fashion Designer you can already guess that these words were like beautiful music to my ears!
And although it might sound superficial at first - it is true.
There is a big difference between how your day goes when: Wearing an itchy sweater vs. wearing a soft comfortable style. Or between wearing a dress, which flatters your figure while ‘leaving room for imagination’ vs. wearing a dress that makes you feel subconscious and therefore limits your movement, and by that it also limits your freedom of thought.
Wearing soft & flattering clothes is also a great way to uplift your mood.
Have you noticed your feeling when wearing what you love, as you’re bringing your A-game?
This means that in addition to supporting good mood, a supportive textile environment can also help us (or interfere in some cases) with achieving our daily goals.
I believe a thoughtful designer should aim to make daily clothing decisions easier for the customers & for the outfit to look fresh throughout the day or night.
So, where to start?
1. Listen To The Customer
Whether you design fashion, interior, or other - understanding the customer is essential when aspiring to create relevant, desirable products.
Getting to know the customer by listening carefully & identifying their needs - can take your designs to the next level. It is essential to be open-minded to customer input, and to evolve with their modern needs.
When we opened the store in Soho, I was happy to hear customers appreciating the thoughtful design, quality & extra value details. A lot of the feedback was similar, and mostly positive. I was happy to receive suggestions and followed up accordingly.
There was significant value to hear customers’ thoughts in person. It became excellent ‘food for thought’ for me to plan future styles.
But here and there would also be some contradictory feedback - one customer suggesting that a certain dress should be longer, while another customer wishing the exact same dress was shorter…
At first, cases like this got me feeling frustrated, because I was hoping to please them all.
But then I accepted the fact that due to different body shapes, heights, personal preferences, etc. I cannot realistically please 100%.
Later on, I came across a helpful meme:
‘You cannot make everyone happy - you're not an Avocado!’
At the same time, I did find it extremely helpful to provide varying style options & innovative versatility!
2. Do Your Best To Avoid Victimizing The Wearer
Sounds dramatic - doesn’t it?
But fashion victimization happens to people around the world each and every day! When they choose styles which bring unnecessary discomfort to them – while accepting this as a given.
When designing apps, there is huge awareness to the ‘user experience’, but what about our daily clothes? Why do designed clothes often bring such discomfort to the wearer?
In case you were thinking that being thoughtful is an obvious tendency in Fashion Design, here are a few points to think about.
‘Fashion Victim’ examples, which may sound familiar:
- Wow these pockets are so shallow; I can only fit the tip of my fingers in them.
- This hoodie is so small it barely covers my head…
- This jumpsuit is the most comfortable thing…but such a hassle to use the restroom!
- I love this beautiful sweater, but it is so itchy I cannot wait to take it off!
- OMG my phone fell out of my coat’s pocket in the Uber!
- It’s not that my dress is uncomfortable; I just can’t lift my arms!
- I do love these jeans! I just don’t love needing help to put them on…
- Uh oh, I do not think I can sit with this dress…
These examples are all based on true stories!
As a designer, my personal goal is to increase the wearers’ self-confidence. So I take it quiet harshly seeing and hearing cases of fashion victimization.
If you or someone you know is a victim of fashion, it’s not too late to change this and take steps to significantly improve your daily life! By wearing comfortable, flattering clothes that will allow you to focus your attention on the important things - interaction and productivity - rather than physically maintaining your look. ‘Where Focus Goes Energy Flows’ - your outfit should not take away your own attention and energy.
Also, there are wonderful personal shoppers out there, one of them is actually a fabulous customer of ours, whom I got to know personally. Her name is Scarlett De Bease. Scarlett can help you find styles that look good & feel good. Styles which would work for you & not against you! www.scarlettimage.com
Throughout my career, I’ve attended fit meetings of a few international brands. In many of these meetings, I’ve noticed that the fit model is presenting the garment by simply standing like a mannequin, and is not asked to provide any input about how she/he feels in the clothes. Moreover, very often there is no body mirror placed in the fitting room.
The discussion would be based solely on the looks of the style, as perceived by others only – not by the wearer. I remember finding it strange, considering the one who is wearing the garment would likely have more to say about how it feels & what can be improved.
It is highly important to have a good fit model!
We often worked with Ms. Sheri Green, who is an experienced fit model, and in great shape. Knowing how she feels in each style, and getting her honest feedback was an essential part of our fit meetings.
Asking Sheri to walk around wearing a development style, sit to test comfort, as well as checking the waistband height or hem length while seated, in addition trying to lift a leg as if walking stairs or entering an SUV. For occasion garments even trying to dance to verify everything stays in place.
It might feel funny in the moment, but these are practical steps to take when aspiring to reach ergonomic design & true comfort in motion.
I really enjoyed working with Sheri. She played an integral part in our development process, and brought extra value & professionalism to each meeting!
Many times a prototype-sample would be off from the intended vision for it… yet with imagination, one can see the potential of the style - and know which direction to evolve it.
Do not give up; often it takes a few rounds until the garment reaches the level where it is ready!
3. Keep Educating Yourself & Explore Your Curiosity
Design school provides you with excellent knowledge; creative process, technical tools, theoretical market knowledge, and more - but it is not until you ‘step out’ that you realize you have a lot more to learn.
I studied at Shenkar, the top school for fashion design in Israel. It was a very valuable experience. Once I graduated and moved to China, there was a constant flow of new info which I needed to learn in quite a fast pace - terms to memorize, industrial techniques to understand, how to bridge cultural communication differences, and more.
I had a series of notebooks, which were constantly being filled with new learnings. I continued reading relevant books, enrichment articles, and watching fascinating industry documentaries. I was also fortunate to be in a supportive environment, with truly wonderful people around me.
To be candid, I felt a beautiful sense of support in the creative process working with the team in Dalian. Constantly encouraging the team to create innovative mock-ups, and experiment with different materials to bring fresh styles. The design studio became an innovation lab. The team’s eagerness to create newness was energizing!
Dare to try new things. In some cases, there will be people around you questioning why you are doing something so different, usually because other big fashion houses have not done it before. But if you want to truly innovate – ignoring others’ doubts is part of the game.
In NY, at an early development stage, we hired a consultant who predicted that a dramatic puffer coat from the collection would not sell well, because it is ‘too special’ – that same coat became a best-seller in both the pop-up & the flagship store, and it sold out 5 times.
It turned out our customer was looking for the ‘Special’.
Interacting with customers in the store, I learned that it takes confidence, and a certain comfort level about oneself to wear ‘oversized-styles’ - not feeling the need to hold an hourglass silhouette. It’s really not about the size or the height of the person; it’s purely about the attitude. A certain approach of fabulousness, celebrating style, and seeking nothing to prove. That fascinated me, and encouraged me to explore a whole realm of playing with extraordinary volume.
4. Aspire To Generate The 2 C’s: Confidence & Compliments
As humans designing for humans, we should always consider how the customer will feel when wearing the designs.
While fashion is perceived as superficial at times, it can actually be meaningful and help us in many ways. One’s wardrobe is an important part of one’s self-expression - when meeting in person, it’s the first impression that people get of each other, before they even get a chance to speak.
It is a great tool to know how to let your style represent you well - when wearing clothes which are simple, yet special.
I find the style of dressing relatively modestly to be very attractive. Leaving room for imagination. In other words: attractive, yet mysterious. When you would like the other half to fall in love with who you are, beyond your physique.
But that of course is not a global conscious, some preferring to show more skin… and that’s ok. As in the 1st tip - one cannot design for everybody, but find the right niche who connects with one’s work.
There was a case in the very early branding stages, when a consultant said she did not understand why I like designing long jackets that cover the butt, because she thought women want to show off their butts.
I remember finding that statement a little disrespectful, but to be honest, it did not change my view.
Because a strong part of my personal vision for the wearer has to do with elegance & self-respect.
Moreover, in the pop-up when a customer turned around while trying on one of our jackets, the lovely customer asked me if it covers her butt, I felt sky-high when replying ‘Yes!’ and the customer then exclaimed ‘Sold!’
I am a huge fan of ergonomic design truly thinking of all the details of the human body in the creative process. Aspiring to create designs which flow effortlessly like fresh water in a clear river; heading to the place of least resistance - It is important for me that the styles I wear are ‘on my side’, making life easier.
Modesty and elegance in fashion design is not only about the covering layers; it is also a matter of how tight or loose a style fits, which part of the garment can be sheer, etc. And these should also be considered in daily actions - what happens to the garment when one sits, drives, dances, or bends over to pick up after the dog…
As a thoughtful designer, to increase the wearer’s confidence, you need to pay extra attention to a few commonly sensitive areas: Upper arms, lower back neck, belly, calves, love handles, and private parts - to have proper ease in fit and not to become a focal point.
Giving proper attention to these, and finding creative solutions to make these areas look good, may give you extra points from above ;)
An additional element generating confidence through clothes is the hand-feel of the materials; I like to call it “Love at First Touch” fabrics, a ‘cozy luxurious’ feeling, creating a protection layer, a huggable cover.
The next important element of confidence is: Pockets!
Yes, ergonomic pockets at the right height, size & angle, can do more than carry essential items, they also increase the wearer’s confidence!
Ergonomic pockets for the hands can allow the wearer a cool attitude posture, and they especially come 'handy' in those situations when one isn’t sure what to do with the hands.
In addition to standard pockets, a thoughtful designer can add: Inner pockets, hidden outer pockets, specific-purpose pockets.
In most cases, people do not leave home without: Keys, cards, cellphone & these days a mask. Create sufficient pockets to secure these and allow the wearer the freedom of being bag-free.
Rather than chasing temporary trends, aim to create timeless and sustainable pieces that people can enjoy for many years. In each style, aspire to achieve that delicate balance between dramatic and practical.
The wearer will feel great, and the thoughtful style would generate beautiful compliments to complete the look ;)
5. Extend Your Creative Freedom By Bringing ‘Calculated Humor’ To Your Creation
At the early years of my career I often found myself being the youngest in the meeting room. It was important for me to be professional, and serious - cracking a joke would not even occur to me at the time…
But later on, I learned that humor is important & healthy.
In fact, humor is also healthy for the creative process.
Incorporating humor & playfulness in the design and development stages can help the mind to overcome fear of criticism and doubts. And therefore make you more comfortable to try new things!
The humor can also live inside the garment, such as embedding fun unexpected messages to enrich the wearer’s experience.
Extending your creative freedom will help to innovate and to design things that your customer doesn't already have!
Parallel to that, adding a “wink” to a basic style can lead to a fun conversation starter for the wearer.
Adding smiles to the customers and their surroundings is a gorgeous extra value in design. You want that smile to be genuine, and you want to keep it respectful, and preferably not awkward.
A soft touch of humor helps to make things a little lighter.
Not too long ago smiles used to be an essential part of first impressions;
some even called it ‘a business card’.
But now, while smiles are hidden… the clothes and accessories are taking on more weight of creating these first impressions.
Aspire to create styles which assist the wearer to stand out in a positive way, and create a good memorable impression.
In conclusion, understand your customer and be thoughtful in terms of both Fashion & Function. Beauty & Comfort. Not compromising, but aspiring to achieve both.
Knowing who is your customer is - is like having a compass.
It is important to know who your customer is, as well as who your customer isn’t. Apply that filter properly & work well with the feedback.
Be passionate about creating relevant design; taking inspiration from everyday life to create thoughtful fashion.
I will close this month’s blog with a paragraph I wrote approximately 5 years ago describing The Eight Senses customer:
Time is passing by, our age is what it is, yet our age-in-spirit is what we make it. We are the women who appreciate beauty. We are very specific about things, and we know it. We respect traditions, yet are intrigued by newness. We value the material yet aspire to the spiritual. We are modest, yet we enjoy having a noticeable presence. While loving ourselves, we know there is always more we can improve. No one is perfect, we all have things to show and things to hide. We want to feel comfortable, we want to be flattered. We desire to project toughness, while maintaining internal softness and love.
I invite you to share this month's blog link with family & friends who are passionate about thoughtful design & interested to know more about fashion :)