Editing, the Bane of a Creator’s Existence

Fashion is a business. And as much as we’d love to be able to produce every design that comes out of our heads, we just can’t. Because not every design is a good design and there isn’t enough money or fabric in order to do so. After a designer finishes with his first round of designs, then comes the dreaded part called editing.

I once had a person tell me that I didn’t know anything about editing. I refrained from bashing their head with a book, barely.

3 Outfits: Monochrome Color Challenge Ginny O. (c) 2016
3 Outfits: Monochrome Color Challenge Ginny O. (c) 2016

There can only be so many pieces produced in a collection. There will only be so many outfits or ensembles shown on the runway and each of these outfits will have anything from one to three pieces, if not four. (Four being outerwear, a suit coat, a shirt and a bottom. Or even a three piece suit with a shirt.) So, there will be more top items than bottom items chosen for the collection because be honest, most people own more shirts than they do pants and women in particular own more shirts and dresses combined than they do pants and skirts. So, collections are designed with more tops than bottoms. (Also, people aren’t as adventurous with their pants and skirts as they are with their shirts.)

So the best of these items must be selected out of the designs produced.

There are also other things to take into consideration. A big one is budget. Every seam, every notion, every zipper is an additional expense to the garment. Garments are priced by fabrication, labor and overhead of the store plus a considerable profit margin. The more items that a designer buys, the more units, the cheaper it is for the manufacturers to produce them. That’s why clothes at Wal-Mart are cheaper than clothes at a Nordstrom’s. Wal-Mart is buying items in millions of units. Designers who design for Nordstrom boutiques are buying in the hundreds of thousands of units. It makes a difference. (Designers who are designing for Nordstrom are also renting space in the store on top of it, and are able to personalize said space.)

So, complicated designs may be produced for high end ready to wear runway brands or haute couture, but bridge and mass market brands, the designs must be simplified in order to meet costs. This is part of editing.

Many Designs: Monochrome Color Challenge Ginny O. (c_ 2016
Many Designs: Monochrome Color Challenge, Ginny O. (c) 2016

The other part of editing is that in every range of clothes by a designer, there will be clothing that is more fashion forward and clothing that is safe. 20% of the collection will be fashion forward and targeted towards the trendsetters and the other 80% will be safe and for mass market consumers. Part of this is simple economics. Not everyone is going to want the more avante garde or ‘trendy’ clothes. They can be more expensive or look strange. With this ratio, the designer can appeal to more people rather than their ‘core’ customer. It also helps to keep the really brand conscious followers who must wear everything by that label from looking like a fashion disaster.

A lot of times, the trend setting fashion designs are basically simplified and pared down to create the rest of the 80% of the collection. This way the collection retains its cohesion.

The last part of editing is something that most people don’t even think about. Style marketing the collection. When you go into a store and are looking at a designer boutique or any rack of clothes from a single brand, there isn’t just one of a particular style. Let’s take a button up shirt. You go into a store like Express and there will be an entire section dedicated to button up shirts. And there will be more than one style of button up shirts and those styles will have multiple colors/prints. This is style marketing. Designers choose what they consider the most important pieces of their collection and those pieces will come in more colors.

So, if you’re in a store and you see a sweater you like the design of but can’t stand the color and the only other color that is available is just as bad. But there are other colors in the designer’s collection around it that are nice. I’m sorry. It just means that the designer didn’t think the sweater was that important and only allocated money to make 2 colors of it. If the designer and the company think an item will sell more units than others, then that item will come in more colors. End of story.

Editing is an important skill to learn. Taking things away. Adding things. Correcting seam lines and proportion and balance and color flow. These are all skills that force a designer to stand back and look at the bigger picture of their collection rather than focusing on the details. That’s why the home visits with Tim Gunn on Project Runway are so important. Designers can get so caught up in their vision and their creativity that they forget to stand back and go “is this really something that is functional as well as fashionable. Is this new and innovative and saying what I want it to say.” Sometimes we need that outside eye.

That’s why writers have editors. And there are different types of editors. There are first readers. There are those who can fix the spelling and grammar mistakes. There are editors that will go through the story bit by bit and offer advice on what needs improvement. Editing is important. It forces us to consider what is and isn’t important to the story. Writers need to be aware of word counts and industry standards. Is the story structured correctly? Is there an actual conflict? (This is why people who are able to work without outlines have my respect because if I don’t have an outline, I can’t see if I have conflict or a cohesive story or not.) Does the story flow properly? Do all the scenes fit? And most importantly, is it entertaining?

Sometimes it is taking out words. Sometimes, it’s ripping out entire scenes. And it is difficult. These are things we, as creators, have put a large amount of time and effort into. To take them out feels like that time and effort and creative energy was wasted. (Though, it wasn’t. Sometimes we have to do the wrong things to get to the right things.)

It can be difficult if not painful to change what we’re doing. It can feel like a personal attack. Like we’re wrong. And it may not be that we’re wrong at all. It just may be that it needs a tweak or a push. Being creative can be so personal because it feels like we’re putting our heart and soul into something. It isn’t unless the comments are directed at your intelligence or hygiene or telling you to harm yourself that it is personal and wrong. Editing and criticism are part of business. And it’s hard to learn to separate yourself from that. Some people never learn how, and so avoid looking at any criticism of their works at all. These also tend to be the type of people who don’t care about what others think or care way too much.

And that in essence is how a fashion collection is created.

Yes, it goes on to be produced/manufactured. And the designer will either create a look book and/or spends thousands of dollars on a five to ten minute show to showcase their designs. There will be models hired and advertisements shot and marketing created. Buyers will then buy the collection and put it in stores. And then the customer will buy it. Not that this last bit is remotely easy. But people understand it a bit more than they do the whole design process. That’s the part that makes sense (outside of runway shows, many people do not understand the point and purpose behind a runway show.)

So, style, target market to create a brand, trend forecasting, then brief, inspiration, materials, design and editing and you know how a fashion collection comes to be. (And maybe can see why my ex-boyfriend was so boggled.)


One thought on “Editing, the Bane of a Creator’s Existence

  1. Pingback: The Design Process | Ginny O.

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