Fashion and creativity go hand-in-hand. If you’re seeking a job in fashion apparel design, fashion marketing, or graphic design for the fashion industry, you’ll need to harness your own creative drive to be competitive. As top New York fashion agencies will tell you, success in these career paths depends on original, breakthrough creative initiative. Get in the habit of creative thinking early in your career, and you’ll be rewarded with more than job success. You’ll enjoy the satisfaction of producing work that is innovative, trend-setting, and pleasing to the eye, and be surprised at the way new ideas keep coming when you least expect them.
General “Rules” of Creativity
Did you catch the error in that heading? If you thought to yourself, “Hah! Creativity doesn’t have rules,” you were right. Creativity is about inventing, breaking, or making up your own rules. Nevertheless, certain habits and practices will keep your inner creative channel open, no matter where you apply your talents. Creativity gets stifled by constant sameness and routine. When you’re struggling to come up with a new idea, or you just want to raise your game, here are some tried and true methods that might work for you:
- Break out of your routine: Before you think out of the box, you need to act out of the box. Take a few hours or a day, periodically, to change your surroundings and routine. Go for a walk in the park. Travel a different route to work, sit in a different chair, or sit on the opposite side of the desk. A change of view can have an astounding impact on your powers of observation and your thought process, leading to a cascade of new ideas.
- Narrow your focus: If you are flooded with ideas and have a hard time narrowing things down to develop just one, get out a notepad or sketchpad and doodle. Forget about that third grade teacher who banned doodling in class; now’s the time to unleash your ideas with some random sketches. Think of it as a way to loosen up creative muscles. Even if you lack all artistic hand-eye coordination, a rough drawing or concept sketch can help you give solid form to one of them, and see where it leads.
- Use the power of positive thought: Avoid negative thinking and self-talk, like “I don’t know,” or “I can’t think of anything.” These kinds of thoughts lead you to a creative dead end. Practice saying positive things out loud or thinking them to yourself, such as “I can find a solution to this problem,” or “What’s a better way to do this?” Open-ended positive statements and questions trigger the brain to keep working on an idea sub-consciously, while you turn your attention away from the problem or road block.1 Do something routine and ordinary, like vacuuming, or something pleasant, like listening to music, to distract your conscious mind from working on the creative problem. When you return to working on the idea, you may be surprised at the inspired solutions and clarity of thought that emerge.
Creative Inspiration for Fashion Apparel Design
As a hopeful designer with fashion school training, you’ve already learned a lot about how to develop and use creative inspiration in your work. If you need a refresher, or if you are new to creative work in fashion, remember these tips for coming up with great new ideas.
- Browse regularly through magazines to search for inspiration pieces. Tear out those pages you respond to and post them on your inspiration board. Don’t limit yourself to fashion mags; branch out and look for sources in furniture , textiles, and home interiors—even cars—anything that uses creative design to affect our daily lives. The idea is not to copy styles, but to notice which ones attract you, for their colors, lines, movement, or any other features. In the process, you will absorb a lot of information about current trends.
- As a fashion designer, you will be working at least one or more seasons, often a year or more, ahead of what’s in consumer publications. Learn all you can about accessing professional sources that forecast color and design trends for the future. Search your nearest college library to get familiar with these sources, especially if the school offers a fashion program. If you’re lucky enough to work in a major fashion city like New York or Los Angeles, check with a book store that specializes in fashion. NOTE: These resources can cost hundreds of dollars, so the library is your best bet.
- Network in every aspect of fashion: You are probably tired of hearing about networking, and you may wonder what it has to do with creativity. Besides putting you in touch with possible job opportunities, networking with all kinds of creative people is a wonderful source of ideas. Learn from successful designers and other fashion pros how they got started, and what they do for inspiration. Find professional job search advice on fashion industry recruiters’ web sites. Search for insights on a designer’s web site, or do a general online search of their personal and professional background for deeper sources. Look for fashion industry events to attend that bring together professionals from all facets of the industry, and find out about attending one or more seminars. These are usually connected to the seasonal wholesale fashion markets held in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, and Las Vegas. Be sure to check for details on how you can register and attend if you are not already in the industry.
- Note that there are many successful designers you have never heard of, for two reasons: 1—personal fame is not always part of what makes for a successful line, and 2—big design firms employ multiple designers who contribute to the firm’s success, but their names are not on the label.
- People watch: Most of us do this as a matter of routine, but now you can watch with a more conscious, creative eye. Depending on where you live, and especially in “fashion-forward” cities, you will spot some exciting, original street-level styles that you can adapt to your own looks. You may even launch the next “big thing”—more than one hot style trend has gotten its start this way.
- Look to the past: Every season of fashion draws on one or more influential seasons from the past. The 60s “flower children” styles were reinvented in recent years as “Boho Chic,” and the 1980s padded shoulders and geometric proportions can be seen in some recent interpretations. Think of old movies or iconic ad campaigns that you find inspirational, and glean ideas that you can reinterpret, giving them a new twist and your own personal touch.
Creative Inspiration for Fashion Marketing
Many fashion students choose the marketing track to combine a love of fashion with business savvy and other skills. Today, fashion marketing depends largely on digital media channels, so a strong command of digital marketing practices is essential, along with a grasp of certain unique, specialized methods used in fashion marketing. Successful marketing, season after season, relies on an informed understanding of promotion fundamentals, including methods for traditional advertising, public relations, and social media marketing.
Inspired creative thinking is a fundamental necessity for success in this fiercely competitive arena, especially when it comes to certain activities, such as public relations. Some of the most famous creative advertising campaigns have come from the world of fashion, like Burberry’s 2013 campaign using a digital format to re-invent the love letter, sealed with a kiss.
This great gimmick employed a remarkably simple technology (webcam or smartphone camera) to capture an actual lip-print of the sender, which was then shown in the Burberry lipstick shade of your choice. The campaign blended a great sense of fun and romance, harnessing an organic, viral spread of Burberry brand awareness in the digital arena, through posting on sites including Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.2 Some playful creative thinking went into planning this successful campaign that took part of its inspiration from the unique capabilities of social media.
Wherever you start your fashion career, remember to keep your eyes open for changing trends and inspiration in the world around you, as you hone your skills to meet the future.