Fashion Schools and Individual Style

Laura Volpintesta Illustrations and designs

“Finding your style”…..

(I’ve included 2 videos at the bottom: one about WHY we do what we do, and another aimed at those who want to design fashion but “can’t draw”. WHY you do it has a lot to do with how your style unfolds!)

What does it mean to you?  Please chime into the conversation below to share your experience and thoughts.

I just want to make a short note of encouragement  stirred up with loving humor, because I am one of those people who always feels deeply relieved when I find out that I am not the ONLY ONE having a certain problem.

When you start any fashion school program such as Parsons, FIT, FIDM, Art Institute, or my own Online Program the floodgates can really open up and the pure force of all of that pent up energy and passion for fashion can really knock you over for a bit before you get your bearings and feel like you’re the one in the driver’s seat.

Once you really start to take the jump and design and develop concept groups on paper, which is really the crux of what my online courses are about and where my particular brand of magic takes place, I have made some observations based on the talented, passionate, wonderful, perhaps a bit self- critical (I say this lovingly) and often perfectionist students I have known.

They fall into TWO DISTINCT GROUPS.  They all complain about the same thing, but they are either in one bucket or the other when it comes to the complaint.

What is the beginning designer’s biggest complaint/ confession?

Once fashion students start sketching and illustrating, presenting and sharing, after a few collections have been born, they  (or you, or I ) will either say:

1. “All of my designs look the same, I feel like I have only one style and can’t do anything different.”

(Oh, I’m so sorry you feel that way!? )  But if you don’t feel that way, then you are sure to say:

2. “My designs are all over the place, I feel like I have no unique or personal style or focus in my design.”

Well, guess what my beautiful friends?  The funny, wonderful part of it is that 100 percent of students usually complain of one or the other, which really cracks me up (that’s my confession), because:

a. it’s a universal feeling, and

b.  it’s so not true!!

And so, whether you’ve had this feeling yet or not, but probably will if you dive into a fashion course or a school or decide to revamp your portfolio  to enter re-enter the industry, or simply to find your focus and niche,   here is the truth at the bottom of it.

1. You can’t possibly be so many extremely different things or personalities, skills or perspectives, within the span of just a few months.

 I have no problem with it if you do, just that It doesn’t seem to be in most people’s nature. Our designs will most likely evolve over time into different colors, silhouettes, or styles, maybe even entirely different subcultures or customers,  but there will be some kind of a common thread that inevitable runs through your work within a certain time period of , say , a few months, even if you designed 5 collections for 5 completely different markets.  You have your values, and you have your  innate way of approaching things.

You can observe these kinds of developments just by looking at designers you know and admire. In fact, I was reading an article about Proenza Schouler’s Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough (former draping students of mine) in the New York Times several months ago in which the designers said that their backers were pressing them to really define their style, but that they couldn’t.  So here they are, so many years in business, and even they are complaining of this…. and yet, even I can often recognize their work before I see their names on the credits.

Like many famous artists, the common thread in the work becomes more visible in RETROSPECT.  Don’t force it, PLEASE!!!  We have so much restriction and conformity in our fashion, I am so excited that micro-businesses, small designers, and customers can exercise their freedom  to express themselves freely in the looks they create and choose.  Creativity can exist anywhere when we are committed to it.  At this stage of the game, only creativity can be sustainable!! The current methods are not good enough!

2.  Nobody’s work has ever looked “all the same” to me, and if it did, It wouldn’t bother me one bit if I could see the variations of detail or thought process behind the choices of the garments and pieces in the collection, or the integration of the concept into the design, or perhaps their particular sense of fabrication, qualities, colors, or even their precise detailing or outstanding presentations.  Maybe they have a funky flair, or a refined subtlety, or they know EVERYTHING about sustainable fabrics, or about their customer…..I had a prospective employer,a  designer, chasing me once after my interview because apparently she somehow was obsessed with my handwriting!!! (I didn’t take the job…handwriting wasn’t really my focus).

But don’t we just love to doubt ourselves sometimes.

But sometimes we just are so much more amazing than we are aware of!

Granted, I’ll tell you if I think you can stretch or improve on something, or if I’m not “feeling” who you are in your work yet, I will LET YOU KNOW.  But your personal style also comes very simply by doing  the patient work of creating and responding, by trial and error, and by getting feedback from yourself, peers, and masters.

Finally, I would have to offer up this:

3.  Don’t try to be “everybody” or “nobody” just so you feel like you can “get a job”.  Yes, you want to make a living doing what you love, but that’s just it… doing what you love. What you do with love benefits everyone.  What you do out of fear can be harmful to your long term health and happiness. Trying to design in a way that you think every employer on the planet will approve of could actually really work against you. I think that sharing your own vision, backed with really strong skills in sketching, construction understanding, and clarity. While researching my book this year, I stumbled across an interview with my old friend, classmate, roomate, and designer extraordinaire Doo-Ri Chung. She said something like “when you are in business you have to do tons of administrative tasks and can’t have as much freedom and fun designing as you can while you are studying… so while you are in school, you should really push that freedom of exploration and expression as far as you can”. That stuck with me. I agreed.

So, for the love of loveliness, please have faith in the fact that you were drawn to fashion in the first place because it speaks to you, and that now you are learning the language,  start to speak back.  Tell your stories, and when you’re deep into your projects researching and sketching, you’ll find that fashion will grab a hold of YOU and you’ll take the backseat…., and everything that you love about it will drive your hand, paintbrush, pins, muslin, pencil, to create something that you are a part of, but that is bigger than you.

When you do land that “job” or start your company and have to make some decisions based on much loftier responsibilities and numbers and requirements, go right ahead.  But when you are studying and expressing, please, spoil yourself and the world with some heart-felt design. Don’t try to please EVERYBODY and find that you have become nobody just so you can fit in anywhere……

You are a gift, as is your vision and your style. Keep drawing and creating!  Staying honest in your design development will lead you to into positions and opportunities that bring more of what you love about your work to you. Include yourself in fashion’s conversation.  Bring this attitude to all that you do. Trying to be someone else has never, ever worked out for me, really.

I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to pipe in below, agree, or disagree, or just share some art.

I hope you enjoy these videos:

below, “what if I can’t draw?….”

That’s what I’m here for !

Much love, Tribers!

Laura

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