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 Post subject: Public Representation
PostPosted: 27 Dec 2013, 06:05 
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Full disclosure I'm a recent design school graduate and this is something I've been thinking about for years and I still don't really know the answer to.

How do you guys feel about how designers represent themselves and engage the public?

Within designer fashion there seems to be 2 extremes:

1) Complete withdrawal of public presence, abandonment of the system and hype machine, this method creates an alluring mystique and forces a focus on the design work itself, to some extent it creates a blank slate that allows the wearer to project their own feelings and emotions onto the designer

2) Complete engagement of the public, usually through both digital and analogue means and across many mediums, it leaves a lot less to the imagination but at the same time cultivates a personality and presence that the wearer can identify with

I honestly really love a lot of designers from both camps which is why it leaves me so divided. I'm wondering if young designers today can even attempt option #1 and make it out alive. If you can't sell anywhere but online how do you get away with having a website that has nothing but an email address on it. At the same time I think there is an over saturation of young designers using social media and it almost devalues all of them together. People are exposed so much to this overexposure that I think a young designer who simply puts their work out there and reveals nothing else might ironically stand out. On the other hand there's already so much of that and it's something that really marks the older generation of designer. There's something I really love about getting to see a designer giving an interview on youtube or talking about what they ate for breakfast on twitter. It really dispels the sense of elitism that tends to come packaged with designer fashion and makes the designer and their work so much more approachable and relatable. But I still can't help but feel sometimes it would be better if nothing was said at all and the work could be interpreted entirely on its own.

This is sort of what I'm talking about, so many pros and cons and different ways to approach everything that comes after the work is done and it needs to be shown, I've thought about this a lot and still don't feel very strongly one way or the other, so what does everyone else think about this?


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PostPosted: 27 Dec 2013, 17:08 
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hmmm, i think the only way to assess either of the approaches is to see what role this plays in the designer's work in general. is it a matter of a political stance? some kind of form-content analogy between the artist and their work? what is the message behind this preclusion (in case the designer prefers anonymity)?


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PostPosted: 28 Dec 2013, 00:50 
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in some ways seems like a question best suited for the crowd over at SZ, since there you have industry people, people who hope to be industry people as well as general fashion admirers and consumers. Its really hard to say, though i guess the broader question is about the source of any creative output and their relationship with an audience. but, again, i don't understand the question all that well.

some would say that exposure is everything, and that any effort to that end is justified. i've seen some pretty mediocre people have their efforts financially amply-rewarded because they were willing to seek and engage with an audience to varying extents. of course the logical conclusion of this is the perceived value of the person or persona eclipsing the value of their work. the association itself eventually manages such gravity that what it is affixed to no longer matters to some. this applies way beyond fashion too, but you see some pretty hilarious examples in that environment as you do in fine art - people seeing an individual work as a means of 'getting a piece' of the person who has created it, often in a stampede. often less concerned with what constitutes the work and the other way around.

i wrote once about some differences in which people relate to clothing and the identities/personae of those creating it. i forget the exact wording, but it contained a quote from yet another forum contributor describing their own relationship as 'wanting to be a a part of the designer's imagined universe', ..and that sort of thing is pretty pervasive. those engaging in the sort of consumption (or afflicted with it?) are used to having things fully formed and ready for consumption. and, if one's goal is to be consumed as much as possible, it is helpful to have the sort of image that comes out the other end of popular consciousness after it digests you.

anyway, i think what ever is best is what fulfills the person doing it. and that sometimes things have no subtext, overtone or reverse psychology attached. difficult as it may be for people to accept this day and age, not everything is a marketing pitch. sometimes when a person wishes to be left alone in their creative endeavours, be it in music or design or underwater basket weaving, they aren't trying to create some mystique-laden pitch t have you buy into something. maybe they genuinely just want everyone to fuck off and let them do whatever it is.

its a bit more difficult in a field that isn't purely creative and involves a discipline, logistics and other people. like making and delivering ready-to-wear clothing, practicing architecture for a living or film making. there are certain very creative and capable people in any such industry that are simply unable to manage all parts themselves. and they typically require either a group of the right sort of people around them to compensate for those shortcomings, or work on a smaller scale because it is easier to manage.

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PostPosted: 29 Dec 2013, 00:09 
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these are great points, merz, especially the one about the idolization of artists/designers which makes out of them yet another product to be consumed (already worshiping every little fart they make creates an image of the artist he/she might not at all feel comfortable about). a wish to distance oneself from that is quite understandable.


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PostPosted: 29 Dec 2013, 07:08 
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merz wrote:
in some ways seems like a question best suited for the crowd over at SZ, since there you have industry people, people who hope to be industry people as well as general fashion admirers and consumers. Its really hard to say, though i guess the broader question is about the source of any creative output and their relationship with an audience. but, again, i don't understand the question all that well.

some would say that exposure is everything, and that any effort to that end is justified. i've seen some pretty mediocre people have their efforts financially amply-rewarded because they were willing to seek and engage with an audience to varying extents. of course the logical conclusion of this is the perceived value of the person or persona eclipsing the value of their work. the association itself eventually manages such gravity that what it is affixed to no longer matters to some. this applies way beyond fashion too, but you see some pretty hilarious examples in that environment as you do in fine art - people seeing an individual work as a means of 'getting a piece' of the person who has created it, often in a stampede. often less concerned with what constitutes the work and the other way around.

i wrote once about some differences in which people relate to clothing and the identities/personae of those creating it. i forget the exact wording, but it contained a quote from yet another forum contributor describing their own relationship as 'wanting to be a a part of the designer's imagined universe', ..and that sort of thing is pretty pervasive. those engaging in the sort of consumption (or afflicted with it?) are used to having things fully formed and ready for consumption. and, if one's goal is to be consumed as much as possible, it is helpful to have the sort of image that comes out the other end of popular consciousness after it digests you.


Hmmm I see what you're saying here but for me I can't help but feel that the identity and universe is almost everything. The variance between designer clothing is so slim it's almost unbelievable. If people aren't buying something for the name or idea, why buy designer at all? I know quality is often touted as the supreme reasoning but I also think only a small handful of people that claim to produce clothing of really supreme quality are actually doing such. The idea of artisanal has become very perverted in recent years, so are people who buy into it really buying for the quality or buying because they like the idea of quality? To me it seems to be the latter because so many people are buying inferior goods with that label when there is very high quality work right under their noses but with no one to champion it.

Speaking or refraining from speaking about the work feels like such a large piece of the puzzle. It's one of the reasons I think so many recent labels have aped the dark aesthetic and failed, because they have no real narrative or story. Or they put all of the emphasis on their design work, but these are young labels that don't have the time, money, or experience to produce really incredible design work. They should actually be shifting the focus elsewhere to something they have much more control over like how or when they conduct interviews. One great interview from a young label for me can be the difference between fervent interest and completely passing them by. Or the inverse can work as well, young brands releasing limited amounts of information in a calculated manner. It's not completely avoiding the limelight but dancing between and walking the line that divides it from complete silence. This is the type of stuff that gets me interested in new labels. It may sound superficial but I think it's very rare that a new designer can stand entirely on design chops alone and usually if that's the case they've been in the industry for years and are just starting their own label now. I guess this is kind of another tangent but how can a young label compete against established labels when they don't have the same level of quality or all the years of experience cultivating a unique identity?

merz wrote:
anyway, i think what ever is best is what fulfills the person doing it. and that sometimes things have no subtext, overtone or reverse psychology attached. difficult as it may be for people to accept this day and age, not everything is a marketing pitch. sometimes when a person wishes to be left alone in their creative endeavours, be it in music or design or underwater basket weaving, they aren't trying to create some mystique-laden pitch t have you buy into something. maybe they genuinely just want everyone to fuck off and let them do whatever it is.

its a bit more difficult in a field that isn't purely creative and involves a discipline, logistics and other people. like making and delivering ready-to-wear clothing, practicing architecture for a living or film making. there are certain very creative and capable people in any such industry that are simply unable to manage all parts themselves. and they typically require either a group of the right sort of people around them to compensate for those shortcomings, or work on a smaller scale because it is easier to manage.


I understand this as well but I guess my question was is this way of doing things still viable in a digital world? Can you truly keep your head down and work tirelessly and eventually be recognized on merits alone. 30 years ago print media was everything and covered so little, there was a serious interest in seeking out quality work that wasn't being covered. Today it feels like there's a prevailing sense that "everything is online" so why bother looking anywhere else. I think even when people are looking for obscure or interesting things they go online first and if they can't find what they're looking for they give up. How often do people today wander into random boutiques or restaurants vs looking everywhere up online ahead of time and judging scores and reviews or if what they want is available.


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PostPosted: 30 Dec 2013, 10:04 
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xXanimeXx wrote:
Hmmm I see what you're saying here but for me I can't help but feel that the identity and universe is almost everything. The variance between designer clothing is so slim it's almost unbelievable. If people aren't buying something for the name or idea, why buy designer at all? I know quality is often touted as the supreme reasoning but I also think only a small handful of people that claim to produce clothing of really supreme quality are actually doing such. The idea of artisanal has become very perverted in recent years, so are people who buy into it really buying for the quality or buying because they like the idea of quality? To me it seems to be the latter because so many people are buying inferior goods with that label when there is very high quality work right under their noses but with no one to champion it.


But if this is to be related to your original question, I don't understand why would you equate designer's personal exposure with the idea behind their work. A designer can remain entirely anonymous while having his/her idea fully displayed. Even this display of the idea doesn't have to come from the designer him/herself since it is a matter of interpretation, and whether the designer interprets his/her own work or rather waits for others to do so is not very relevant for the value of this idea.


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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2013, 02:08 
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xXanimeXx wrote:
If people aren't buying something for the name or idea, why buy designer at all? I know quality is often touted as the supreme reasoning but I also think only a small handful of people that claim to produce clothing of really supreme quality are actually doing such


hlee brought something similar up in the, uh, awkwardly named 'fart' thread. in broader terms, what compels someone to purchase any object of primarily aesthetic value? and i think there are more reasons that compel people than what you've suggested. quality isn't one of them - we know that past a certain level of production these things entail, the quality is something expected but far from any supreme reasoning. the hunger crouka speaks of in his post regarding poell and altieri's work seems like decent reasoning, but what brings individual people to experience that towards an object lacking in intrinsic value is nowhere near uniform.

in creating an object, does its maker retain an overriding privilege to its interpretation? i think this is the question you're leaning towards when you ask 'why buy designer at all' - and, indeed, why buy 'designer'? where is the distinction and does it really matter? when you see or touch something, when you experience the gravity of an object, does it really matter at that point whether it was designed by some recluse hand-tanning it on the mummified ass of a dead aboriginal*, an industrial manufacturing operation putting out a utilitarian garment or part of a uniform, an anonymous, long-deceased tailor making something by hand to personal specifications of someone you will never know?

or anywhere in between. must the relationship necessarily be between the designer and the consumer? i can't exclude from personal experience the simple and immediate relationship of consumer and that which is consumed entirely on its own merit, without cultivated identities, personal images or any participation of the person behind the work. we see things as we are. elsewhere, a small man suffering from an inflated opinion of his own critical authority had said that its the narrative that ennobles the ordinary in clothing, elevating it to fashion.

my own definition always held that narrative as a PR measure, brilliantly wielded by some and ineffective in less capable hands. critics like to cling to this because it supposedly grants them some participation in the process. I am sure this holds true to a significant proportion of luxury consumers, but it does not apply universally.

The amount of focus what you write places upon this part troubles me. there seems to be this preoccupation with packaging that not only eclipses the craft itself but seemingly dismisses both the process and the product in favour of hype and marketing. The real reason you see stagnation within both the mainstream establishment and the Goofninja McDarkwear niche you keep stressing as an example is because the vanguard set of creative forces at its centre were not sustainable in different ways. They gathered interest along the way but consumer interest was never the principal driving force behind most of them. In fact, some frontrunners like the Carpe Diem collective lost their cohesion precisely at the apex of their commercial success. Most of these projects and their output were not at all concerned with public relations, their consumers or interaction with the market. The times when they did, that interaction came in a very personal form - projects entailing a personal relationship with the wearer from the garment's inception, garments not only made but designed to the measure and spirit of a man.

most of such projects have continuously operated at a loss. some like paul harnden may not be losing money, but are neither interested in expanding their business nor really capable of scaling up production while maintaining the standards of what they are doing. this is to say that they do not operate according to the conventional logic of doing businesses. these are labours of love and sources of personal catharsis for the people involved. meanwhile, the interest these projects have generated over the years has attracted others with more objective pursuits, people who see a market to tap into. unfortunately they don't have much in the way of ideas, relying for those upon the output of more experimental projects that have never turned much of a profit.

So how can a young label be successful or viable? I guess i'd like your definition of success. For people like harnden or a number of others, that definition seems to rest in being able to continue to do what they are doing and have been doing for some time. Does your hypothetical young label have something it would like to share with the world? If so, I think that will be expressed through its creative output with far more clarity than agonising over how to handle public relations, interviews and sales pitches. its not about some reverse psychology. Its whether the clothes (or any object of primarily aesthetic value) are seriously fucking awesome.

yes, there's a class of luxury consumer that will follow hype your way when you've got something new and shiny. plenty of japanese buyers will give practically anything a chance when good words of endorsement have been written in this blog or that. for a season or two. but the kind of consumer will proceed on to whatever the next thing is just as quickly. in a world of pop-up shops, why are people surprised to see what amounts to pop-up labels? new things started up never meant to be 'successful' beyond a season or two, preferably sold to someone else or patched into some collaboration when the hype is there. making what demands out of you both art and craft while adhering to rigid structures of the fashion establishment gives very little back besides a sense of creative catharsis that some find to be their measure of success. but for how long can one expect to maintain it?

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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2013, 22:33 
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rilu wrote:
But if this is to be related to your original question, I don't understand why would you equate designer's personal exposure with the idea behind their work. A designer can remain entirely anonymous while having his/her idea fully displayed. Even this display of the idea doesn't have to come from the designer him/herself since it is a matter of interpretation, and whether the designer interprets his/her own work or rather waits for others to do so is not very relevant for the value of this idea.


Hmmm this is something I haven't really thought of as much and I'm not sure if I'm reading the post correctly. But are you referring to when designers are in a way denied control of this aspect of the process? Because I immediately think of designers in charge of luxury houses who maybe can influence the runway presentation (if that) and otherwise an entirely different arm of the company manages everything else promotional related. I guess then the question shifts from not how do you convey what you want to through digital or analogue means but how do you convey what you want to when some outside force is actively controlling all of these means for you. Maybe I should have actually started my thinking from this perspective and that the concepts and ideas of ones work should be strong enough to not only stand on their own but to be handled by someone else without much being mucked up. I have to think about this a lot more before I have anything else to say, thank you.


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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2013, 23:00 
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in creating an object, does its maker retain an overriding privilege to its interpretation? i think this is the question you're leaning towards when you ask 'why buy designer at all' - and, indeed, why buy 'designer'? where is the distinction and does it really matter? when you see or touch something, when you experience the gravity of an object, does it really matter at that point whether it was designed by some recluse hand-tanning it on the mummified ass of a dead aboriginal*, an industrial manufacturing operation putting out a utilitarian garment or part of a uniform, an anonymous, long-deceased tailor making something by hand to personal specifications of someone you will never know?


Oh shit I think I think you've cut right to the crux of the error with my thinking. I probably have my face too close to my work to realize there is only so much I can say about it before the audience develops their own reason for liking or disliking it.

Quote:
The amount of focus what you write places upon this part troubles me. there seems to be this preoccupation with packaging that not only eclipses the craft itself but seemingly dismisses both the process and the product in favour of hype and marketing. The real reason you see stagnation within both the mainstream establishment and the Goofninja McDarkwear niche you keep stressing as an example is because the vanguard set of creative forces at its centre were not sustainable in different ways. They gathered interest along the way but consumer interest was never the principal driving force behind most of them. In fact, some frontrunners like the Carpe Diem collective lost their cohesion precisely at the apex of their commercial success. Most of these projects and their output were not at all concerned with public relations, their consumers or interaction with the market. The times when they did, that interaction came in a very personal form - projects entailing a personal relationship with the wearer from the garment's inception, garments not only made but designed to the measure and spirit of a man.


I apologize I'm somewhat playing the devil's advocate here just to see where the conversation leads but I'm glad I did because it's really making me think a lot!

Quote:
most of such projects have continuously operated at a loss. some like paul harnden may not be losing money, but are neither interested in expanding their business nor really capable of scaling up production while maintaining the standards of what they are doing. this is to say that they do not operate according to the conventional logic of doing businesses. these are labours of love and sources of personal catharsis for the people involved. meanwhile, the interest these projects have generated over the years has attracted others with more objective pursuits, people who see a market to tap into. unfortunately they don't have much in the way of ideas, relying for those upon the output of more experimental projects that have never turned much of a profit.

So how can a young label be successful or viable? I guess i'd like your definition of success. For people like harnden or a number of others, that definition seems to rest in being able to continue to do what they are doing and have been doing for some time. Does your hypothetical young label have something it would like to share with the world? If so, I think that will be expressed through its creative output with far more clarity than agonising over how to handle public relations, interviews and sales pitches. its not about some reverse psychology. Its whether the clothes (or any object of primarily aesthetic value) are seriously fucking awesome.

yes, there's a class of luxury consumer that will follow hype your way when you've got something new and shiny. plenty of japanese buyers will give practically anything a chance when good words of endorsement have been written in this blog or that. for a season or two. but the kind of consumer will proceed on to whatever the next thing is just as quickly. in a world of pop-up shops, why are people surprised to see what amounts to pop-up labels? new things started up never meant to be 'successful' beyond a season or two, preferably sold to someone else or patched into some collaboration when the hype is there. making what demands out of you both art and craft while adhering to rigid structures of the fashion establishment gives very little back besides a sense of creative catharsis that some find to be their measure of success. but for how long can one expect to maintain it?


Wow I think I've said this so much myself I just needed to hear someone else say it to me. I totally agree and think I've probably had my mindset altered considerably by having just run through the school gamut of needing to please panelists and teachers that expect saleability. The bolded part in particular pretty much flips the whole thread on its head. Thank you for taking the time to respond I really appreciate it.


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