The Difficulties of Becoming a Fashion Designer in the Modern Age
The fashion world is a notoriously fickle world. As Heidi Klum so famously says, “One minute you’re in, the next, you’re out.” She is not kidding about the minute part.
Fashion design stars seem to have a meteoric rise in the press and industry, only to burn out and fade away without notice. Truth be told, they were always going to be a temporary success and nothing more. Being able to capture the hearts and mind of a selected audience requires quick thinking and a flexibility that makes Plastic Man blush and not every designer has that capability. However, what about those who want to stay in the game and are willing to do what it takes to keep their name in Vogue?
Fashion designers have a much more difficult time of creating their audience than in years past. Those that came before such as Dior, Balenciaga, Chanel, and others set the trends. Their garments were knocked off and sold in the large department stores. As much as it may have irritated the fashion houses, it did guarantee that they were the trendsetters of note. Compare this with today’s current designers; style has become extremely decentralized with no one trend standing out.
Yes, knock-offs of designer garments are still taking place. However, the game has changed greatly from where it was even 30 years ago. More and more often, stores are creating their own lines, a la Liz Claiborne and Co.
A walk through any large mall demonstrates the challenge the fashion design world faces such as large chains with aggressive marketing tactics that give little thought to the integrity of the garments they sell. Some blatantly copy designer garments while paying the designer a cut of the sales to keep them quiet, provided the designer complains in the first place. Others rely on a maximum two-week exposure schedule for any given garment at cutthroat prices. Construction quality of garments from these places is poor. Mega-chains like these make it difficult for someone with a unique idea to get a foothold.
The world of fashion was irrevocably changed with the influx of cheap overseas labor. This resource enables the large chains to stay profitable while keeping their customers happy. Major department stores have also gone to this model in order to keep up with trends and draw in the paying public. It is sad in its own way as generations will grow up never knowing what a quality-constructed garment is supposed to look and feel like. A designer who aspires to provide a solidly built item has to compete against a customer’s mindset that thinks clothes should be cheap, period.
This is not to say that being a unique voice in fashion is impossible. A perceptive designer learns from these business models and makes it work for them. They find their niche in the fashion world by combining their unique vision with creating a following. Ultimately, the key that turns the lock is one that satisfies the combination of art with business.