I spoke to Pak Chiu at fashion psychology magazine HAJINSKY, about how I perceive the fashion industry and my work. We talked about sustainability and ethical practices and how to keep hold of your values without compromising them for commercial appeal.
Perhaps more than anybody, creatives running small to medium sized fashion brands are relying on the ability to sell their products to ensure their running costs for the business are met. They have to become experts at channelling their creativity to meet the demands of the market. How do you cater to the market without creating products that undermine your personal sense of aesthetic?
The short answer is, I don’t. When I was making collections, attempting to follow fashion cycles and seasons, I was pushed to produce more than I wanted and things that I was told would sell. We still think of fashion design as a boundlessly creative profession, but the truth is that even as an artistic director or founder of one’s own brand you will always be controlled firstly by investors and wholesale clients, but ultimately by the consumer.
What was your experience entering the fashion workforce after studying at fashion school? Did you feel prepared for the commercial demands? Do you think your artistic expression is an asset to the industry and how are you holding onto it despite the pressures of business demands?
In most fashion schools, working towards a consumer is considered to hinder the artistic work; we are encouraged, if not required, to explore and nurture reckless ideas and we learn how to eloquently defend our own imaginative vision. However, many of us leave school almost surprised that no one wants to wear a shirt with five sleeves. You are basically trained to think as an artist, but expected to work in one of the biggest industries in the world, it doesn’t make sense.
Do you think it is possible to be fully creative and still make money? How do you find a balance between artistic freedom and commercial pressures?
It is perhaps pessimistic to say, but unless you already have a very strong hype and a well-designed, already recognised brand image, the market will not favour your personal artistic vision. As a designer you most likely will have to bend to the market to make profit or go fully creative and accept the uncertainty that comes with artistic profession.
What do you think is more important for becoming a successful designer, a well-honed artistic creativity or the ability to understand the needs of the market? What do you think is a perfect balance ?
I would assume that the fashion designers that feel most artistically free, are those that don’t rely on their profit in order to live. They work more project-based, like artists, counting on income from grants, residencies and private, sometimes unpredictable investment. This is a lifestyle with little consistency and security that most artists are prepared for as they enter art school. Fashion designers, on the contrary, are sold a more glamorous concept.
The whole article is here: https://hajinsky.com/articles/sell-without-selling-out