By Harleen Kaur Chhabra, Fashion Designer
One of the biggest misconceptions about achieving success in the fashion industry is that creativity is everything. The competition in the industry has become so intense over the years that having talent just isn’t enough anymore. A very big part of succeeding in the business is networking and knowing people who can recommend you to someone who is hiring. The industry is so saturated that there are hundreds of unemployed designers all applying for the same jobs which leads to stacks of resumes for employers to go through. If you know someone who can recommend you and attest to your innovation, creativity or motivation as a designer, you’ll have a very strong advantage over the stack of resumes that are sitting on a recruiter’s or manager’s desk. In order to get that advantage, many young designers start out working for temp agencies that specialize in the fashion industry that will assign them short-term jobs where they can meet different people and build up a solid network of references. This is one of the best ways to get experience and network as a young designer and some of the leading agencies include fourthFLOOR fashion, 6The Solomon-Page Fashion, and 24|Seven.
Now, this isn’t to say that creativity and talent account for nothing because creativity is ultimately what allows a company to grow–and this can be applied to any business, even outside the fashion world. Marketing can only go as far as the product will allow, and fashion evolves so quickly that you have to either perfect something that’s already out there or create something that’s not. The problem is that almost everything has already been done. The last century has been filled with almost every style of apparel and accessories you can imagine, which has led to the last 10 or so years simply turning into a recycling of trends rather than the innovation of new ones. There’s not much left to do which is why a lot of designers focus their brands on perfecting certain trends or adding more value and function to their designs for consumers who are more concerned with the value and functionality of clothing rather than the aesthetics. I think it’s important for designers to really think about which of these markets they want to cater to–the value-driven consumer, the trend-driven consumer, or the traditional consumer.
Determining your consumer base is especially essential to those designers who want to own their own label someday because fashion is a consumer-driven industry. One of the biggest challenges a company can face is selling their goods, but this part comes easy when you design with your consumer in mind. Try sketching some stuff for a type of market you haven’t really focused on before–men’s apparel, outerwear, handbags, and shoes are some commonly overlooked fields that may be good to try. Not only will you gain confidence designing outside of your comfort zone, but you may also discover that you like designing for an unfamiliar consumer base better! This type of challenge helps develop designers in many ways and can really help foster creativity. Buyers hate to see–what I like to call–“stale” collections with trends that have been overplayed or overdone, which is why it’s always important to stay creative. A fun way to get some ideas for which other consumers to design for, look on fashion blogs and websites. Two of my personal favorites are Fashion Copious and Refinery 29.
Before beginning to sketch ideas for a collection, it is important gather all of your inspiration and post it on a board that you can look at while sketching. This helps to keep a cohesive look and mood throughout the beginning stages of a collection, and it’s actually my favorite part of designing because it’s where all of my ideas come from. I like to do small thumbnails of the designs first and then choose which ones I’d like to sketch and render since not every idea comes to fruition
Harleen Kaur Chhabra was born and raised in Northern Virginia and attended the University of Connecticut where she received a BFA in Art with a concentration in Illustration and Costume Design. She began her career as an intern for fashion designer Laura Dahl and has recently worked at the Thuy Atelier in New York City as well and the Connecticut Repertory Theatre. She is currently working for Nine West and does freelance fashion design work as well.