This week I am posting 2 fashion designer's perspectives to share what can be gleaned from the fashion industry to inform your own business- one from Byron Lars and one from Nicole Miller.
The fashion industry is characterized by speed, flair and driven by a knock off culture requiring adaptation to constant change. It's a phenomenon that my colleagues Valerie Jacobs, Johanna Blakely and I call Fashion Thinking. Additionally, my recent conversation with fashion designer Byron Lars revealed that often, the opposite of speed is critical to sustaining in the long haul in this business. A slow, steady consistency in skill development and point of view is the critical infrastructure to develop and sustain a business that must ride the tide of customers' whims.
Byron hailed originally from San Francisco, and like many other creatives, arrived in New York City to expand beyond his current state. Leading up to his 1991 debut, he recalls delivering his first couture pieces by himself, loaded down with garment bags, to buyers at Bendel's. His designs are now favorites of First Lady Michelle Obama and his dresses are hot selling features at Anthropologie.
"So much of what I have learned and developed has been a result of time on task and the realization that slow and steady wins the race. Most people don't understand that this work is full of (boring) details and can be quite a solo experience," says Byron. In other words, in an industry that sells fast paced sexiness, there is nothing too sexy involved in the engine of the business.
He adds, "The other piece that is really essential is cultivating a point of view- not an interpretation- but a real, honest to goodness perspective on the way you view the world and how your designs reflect that". Developing perspective requires deliberate attention to detail and time honing skill and craft.
Byron acknowledges this while simultaneously recognizing the breakneck speed at which the fashion industry changes: "It's kind of like being on a fast moving subway train while trying to balance on a skateboard!"
The three things that Byron says others can learn from the fashion industry?
The notion of mastery is important- fashion design is a discipline and there is a learning curve. Figure out the details you need to master in your own industry.
2. The Visceral Can Be Strategic
The sheer volume of product means you cannpt always wait for the muse- you need to cultivate a visceral reaction that propels you to the next opportunity.
3. Critical Stance
Develop an objective stance with your product. Do not fall prey to what I call "My-Beautiful-Baby-itis". A critical lens will take you and your business far.
So, the next time that pretty dress or well tailored suit catches your fancy, appreciate the minutiae of details that made it so!