When working with my students to develop their design lines we focus in on the demographics of the clientele they are aiming for. Who makes up their market? We flesh out the demographics and define that character. Then they pick an inspirational theme to guide a particular season. Franceline Pratt, an Editor at French Vogue said, “Always remember the great characters you meet in your life, they will inspire you later on and you never know when.”¹ This character development becomes a beacon of light focusing and informing their design decisions along the way.
Inevitably there is so much overlap with their lines and their own personalities’ as people tend to design what they love and in turn for themselves. As Janie Bryant, costume designer for Mad Men, says,” Knowing your “character” is the key to cultivating your style.”² Fashion at its best is storytelling. So it occurred to me, what if I had my students define themselves first?
A while back I applied for a job with an intense questionnaire in which we were asked to define our core values. In the process of illustrating my character I came that much closer to fully expressing myself. Photographer Tamara Lackey says it is vital to “define who you are because in business YOU comes up a lot.” She suggests you start with a succinct description of who you are stripped of profession, roles, geography and associations. Tara Gentile discusses this concept in Character Study: how understanding you-as-business-owner helps you to weave a story of success.
So flesh out your own character. This intimate understanding will become the central message in everything you do within your creative business. Fashion enjoyed a rich period of more personal story telling, starring creative forces like Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Yohji Yamamoto, Hussein Chalayan, Martin Margiela and Helmut Lang. All of whom found tremendous inspiration in their own life stories.³ Today the best fashion visionaries are storytellers. Once we become connected to ourselves, acknowledging the layers that create our unique life, we find the path to sharing our story.
So do your own character Study. Ask yourself:
- What are your core values/beliefs?
- What are you drawn to constantly? What makes your soul shrivel?
- What skills, abilities and limitations do you have?
- What are the successes and failures that have shaped who you are?
- How do you communicate who you are? What language do you use?
- How do you present yourself? When you look in the mirror do you recognize yourself?
- Are you consistent with who you are? Or are you living someone else’s storybook version of you?
- How have you made it to where you are now?
In design, creative businesses and in life you are the central character and narrator of your story. Vogue editor Debra Scherer writes, “Our own life stories will always be, for fashion, the strongest and most powerful reference of them all.”³ So I say know thyself, this is your story. Once you embrace your creative spirit and share your gifts with the world you are bound to thrive in this masterpiece called Your Life.
Images: (1) Christian Dior by Steven Klein– Omstiletto (2) Querelle Jansen photographed by Ben Toms for October Issue Dazed & Confused–Fashiongonerogue (3) Autoportraits, la couture Editorial by Karl Lagerfeld-Omstiletto