Fashion is a business. (I’m probably going to pound at this on the first sentence of every post in this series. Please get used to it.) And one of the first questions they should ask at any fashion school but don’t is “What is your style?” Or, “What is your design aesthetic?”
A designer’s style is the type of clothes they design. Style is the way they create and what they create. It’s part of knowing who they are as a person and an artist. Every designer whether they know it or not has preferred types of colors, inspirations and social groups that they work with and use. Designers will most likely throw out the typical fashion buzzwords, hard versus soft, masculine versus feminine, sexy woman with a bit of edge. The type of thing that really actually says nothing and are next to meaningless when every designer uses the exact same words to describe completely different things.
Classic, bohemian, avante-garde, chic, club wear, American beach wear, country western, punk rock, hip hop and so on and so forth. These are broad words that define style types that people wear. These words define silhouette, seam lines, fabric applications, embellishments, color palettes and historical and cultural influences. And they are a lot more specific than “hard versus soft.”
Let me put it this way, Ralph Lauren is a very classic designer. If you wear Ralph Lauren who favors yachting and British hunting themes in his work, you are also likely to favor Chanel and wear the Gap. Classic designs are like the button down shirt, the front pleated pant and the suit jacket. Classic designs also rely heavily on the 1950s, think cardigans, A-line skirts and pearls. Jackie Kennedy Onassus is considered the epitome of classic style. Whereas Avante-Garde is the very opposite end of the spectrum. Avante-garde is fashion that tries to push the envelope or changes the proportion of the body in strange ways. Balenciaga and many popular Japanese designers that have come to France fall under this style. Lady Gaga is the style ambassador. Avante garde fashion is art. It is more about form rather than function. You couldn’t wear avante garde pieces to any conservative business office.
The fun thing about fashion styles, most of them you can mix and match. (Outside of Classic and Avante Garde, never shall those two meet. It’s pistols at dawn, a fight to the death.) You can take bohemian and mix it with more brightly colored whimsical styles. Chic goes well with just about everything since black with sleek tailoring is always in vogue. When the fifties meets biker wear, you get rock-a-billy. Every designer has a certain style and designs a certain way, and it’s important that they know it and are willing to change over time as well.
How a designer styles their clothes is important because it is the first step, the first clue into who are they designing for outside of themselves. By knowing what they design and what they design well, a designer can start on the next step, going to work for a company that is strong in that style so they can sharpen their own skills. Or going to a company that is weak in that style in order to expand that companies horizons. Or, starting their own company they can be able to articulate in words (not always pictures) what their clothes look like and are about.
And this is just as important in say, being a writer or a video game designer or a painter or photographer. What is your style? What do you create? Who are you as a person?
When writers discuss writing style. We generally are talking about how a writer strings words together. What their sentences are like, how many adjectives and adverbs do they use. But style is more than the technical nuts and bolts when it comes to writing. Writing style can also include what type of novels they write. There are romance writers and mystery writers and writers of speculative fiction and writers who write nothing but “literature.” Style can be defined even more by tone. Is it light and comedic with a happy ending or grim dark with gritty realism? Is the story as written intended for adults or children or people of all ages?
It’s important that a writer knows their writing style. It’s more than just knowing where their book would sit on a book shelf in a bookstore. It is the first step in knowing who else will want to read your book too. Some people want to read fluffy things, other people want to read sitting on the edge of their seat things and still other people want to read dark gritty things. It’s all a matter of preference and taste. (And some people like reading all of it as long as it is in their preferred genre.)
I could say that I’m a science fantasy writer. But that’s a very broad definition and doesn’t set me apart from any other science fiction and fantasy writer out there. I know what I do and what I do well is put characters in rather absurd situations for the sake of comedy and sit back write what happens. But I’m not exactly a humor writer either. I like explosions and going different places. I also like werewolves. So, if I say, I’m a werewolf adventure writer, then it might hit closer to the mark of my creative writing style. (Two of the three book ideas that I am currently working with involve werewolves, the biker novels that are science fantasy and a straight up fantasy novel involving broken fairy tales and dragons. The last in development is a straight up science fiction series based on something completely different.) I can say to readers, do you like adventures? Do you like humor? Do you like werewolves? Then you might like my books.
As a fashion designer, if anyone cares, I’m a whimsical chic person with a touch of avante garde. This means I like black and sleek tailoring with splashes of color and sparkles. I like textures and I like creating dramatic things for the sake of creating dramatic things. I like taking the biker punk leather aesthetic and mixing it with business wear or beach wear. I like taking athletic wear and mixing it with club wear. Women who are 100% owning the fact they’re female but can get down with the boys. (Fergie comes to mind, Angelina Jolie, Michelle Rodriguez.) Once again, it comes down to adventure, clothes for women who like to be on the go whether they ride motorcycles, drive street legal go-karts (MINI Coopers) or muscle cars (the Camaro being my favorite but I’m biased. Thanks daddy.) I defined my girls in three ways; the wild child, the cool chick and the femme fatale. (Because I’m complicated damn it.)
Knowing your style, what it is and what you’re good at in it, is a very important first step in any business journey. Know thyself. This is one of the hardest parts of being a creative person. What do you as a writer, designer, artist, bring to the table of the world? What inspires you? And what do you in turn create and release to the world? What is your style?
Onto Part Three