Photographed by Devin Ricks of Pablo Covarrubias
By Pablo Covarrubias
The romanticization and buzz surrounding being a fashion designer is intolerable. Many people mistakenly think that fashion design is all about manipulating and drawing pictures. In reality, hours and hours of demanding work, failure, frustration, and unbearable sorrow are sunk into each look, requiring not just creativity and a good eye, but knowledge in the context of patterning and engineering.
Designing clothes is a blend of many artistic and technical processes, and a common issue slithers its way into many designers’ minds as they juggle their responsibilities; designer’s block. It seeps into one’s mind, and like a snake’s venom, it kicks in quickly, and may leave a designer feeling as if they cannot even design a simple shirt.
The methods listed are not a master key in solving designer’s block, but they serve as good treatments in helping escape it. Each designer is unique and requires different methods to remove designer’s block.
Embrace the Gracious Gift of Pain
The “tortured artist” stereotype is most true regarding fashion designers. From the workload required in patternmaking, draping, sourcing, and sewing, to the philosophical and creative aspects of worldbuilding surrounding a collection, most if not all fashion designers are always in some manner of anguish.
Attempting to fight the woes that weigh on one’s shoulder as they trudge through the design process will only result in more pain. Embrace it: allow the difficult emotions and desire to stop and rest to flow over you, and accept that designing is hard and even painful, but will result in a completed work.
Build a Habit
Let’s face it: Designing is not the romanticized love story that social media and magazines make it out to be. Designers spend hours and hours hunched over pattern paper, intricately ensuring each seam is perfect, redoing the same sketches, and overall feeling a sense of dissatisfaction with a design.
One cannot grow as a designer if they do not exercise their core muscle of designing; you can only grow as a designer if you build the habit of designing, even if you do not want to. Great things come from great pain.
Ignore The Big Houses
Big fashion houses such as Balenciaga, Dior, Gucci, and others climbed their way to the top of the industry through innovation, elite craftsmanship, and passion. Many designers today were inspired by the big houses to enter their careers, but their place in a designer’s mind should be nonexistent and barely a footnote at the very most. While Cristobal Balenciaga and Christian Dior made history with The New Look and the sack dress, that same innovative passion has dwindled over time, leaving a repulsive husk of a fashion house.
Looking to the main fashion houses in 2022 means dooming your creativity to an early grave. As a designer, one must “eat your vegetables”, and avoid the intellectual and creative fast food that is present day Gucci, Chanel, and others. If one is looking to designers for inspiration, small and unknown independent designers like Riot Hill and Chen Peng are paving the way for new, exciting work.
Harnessing one’s emotions, both good and bad, can serve as a bottomless well of energy and inspiration. Taking time to reflect on one’s life and experiences can serve as a launching point for a collection or garment, by allowing designers to use their medium of fabric to express themselves in ways they may not be comfortable expressing in normal methods.
Drop The Phone (Literally)
Cell phones are a designer’s worst enemy. The information age has offered society an outlet for anybody to be able to learn anything, but it has quickly become twisted into a quick-fix, short-term dopamine machine. While social media and cell phones can be helpful in moderate amounts, too much usage can fog up the mind and create a mental dam that prevents creative flow.
Create a habit of turning your phone off and leaving it out of sight when working on a project. Out of sight and out of mind will aid in a designer’s dive into deep work and allow for ideas to flow to the top.
Try Different Mediums
Inspiration for clothing is not tied to just fabric itself. Step away from the croquis, the markers and the sketches and pick up some paint or some clay. Fashion at its core is an art form, but exploring other mediums exposes the brain to different thought processes in approaching art and clears the soupy fog that permeates a designer’s head from time to time.
Escape The Comfort Zone
The comfort zone is where designers go to die. Designers tend to gravitate to their strengths, and while a good practice to keep, this lifeboat can be creatively lethal if relied upon while stuck in a creative rut. The bottomless lake that is a designer’s block may be terrifying, but one must first let go to float. Dislike designing menswear? Start designing menswear. Dislike doing fly zippers? Sew more fly zippers. Exposing oneself as a designer to fear allows growth, lessons, and failure to take place.
Get Out of Your Apartment
Mt. Pleasant and Michigan in general can become a dreary, grey avalanche of colorless earth and clouds for most of the year. Designers need to be surrounded by colors, textures, humidity, and other sensory stimuli that relaxes the white noise that is their mind at times.
The green house on CMU’s campus serves a small and often overlooked escape from the frigid Michigan weather.
Designing clothes is not a continuous flow. With each piece of clothing a designer creates a fragment of themselves is transferred into it. Just as a designer’s love for their craft may burn in the night and fade into the morning sun, one must remember that creativity is not a river but an ocean; its tide rising and seeping away as we search for new wells inspiration. Feeling stuck? Remember that it will pass, in time.