The third issue of my favorite fashion publication, Garmento, is finally out, and the first article is on the late, great Charles James. It begins with a quote:
A great dressmaker does not seek acceptance, he challenges popularity by the force of his conviction and renders popular in the end what the public hates at first sight.
-- Charles James
It brought to mind a conversation I've been having with myself and others over the years about the role of the designer. Certainly, there are many roles for a designer depending on what he/she seeks to design and, of course, the customer. It is also a conversation that is becoming more and more relevant as I am starting a new job one week from tomorrow at a contemporary clothing brand with mass market appeal.
Having graduated from Parsons, with its notable list of alumni, there are expectations - expectations on what kind of a designer you are, expectations on where you should work and expectations on what kind of work you should be producing. The first few months after graduating, I thought what I really wanted to do was start a brand of my own. I have since changed my mind and realized that what is of ULTIMATE importance to me is to dress women - to be the one responsible for that piece that a woman will never hesitate to grab from her closet when she feels she has nothing to wear. That piece that has never failed her, and never will.
And frankly, what better way to do that than work for a company that can reach a large number of women, of varying shapes and sizes, at an affordable price point? The way contemporary fashion occurred to me had suddenly shifted. Truth be told, I have always been inspired by rules and limitations. I couldn't be more excited about this new challenge of creating clothes for the everyday woman with a designer twist/quality that are wearable and affordable.
Does this mean I have given up on innovation? On creating a new definition for clothing and wearability? Far from it. I am simply going about it a different way, and seizing a tremendous opportunity with a company that has already shown a great deal of confidence in me.
And this is one of many areas where Mr. James and I differ... because genius or not, he never had a successful business.