While successful designers have different styles that they create and offer the world, they all have certain things in common. These things are the core attributes of what has propelled them to success. If a burgeoning designer has these four skills, hard work, and an abstract quality, they’ll have a good chance at reaching the heights of respect and success in the fashion world.
Talent: This skill is inherent, it can’t be learned, a designer either has it or they don’t. Some call it a discerning eye, and some call it a sense of style.
Regardless of what it’s called, that knowing without having been schooled, is the foundation of all the other skills. The other skills are meaningless without talent.
That instinctual, sometimes visceral reaction to certain colours — knowing that it’s the right colour, or would be better a shade lighter but not in that fabric. Being able to create the appropriate proportion and fit coupled with a beautiful silhouette without a second thought — that’s talent.
Technical: Whether the designer hand sketches their designs, or uses new fangled software, both of these are considered to be technical skills. Knowing how to sew is paramount. Sewing is very precise, involving machinery with sharp objects moving at a fast speed. Knowing the machine and its sensitivities will save time, frustration, and destroyed fabric.
The gadgets that are used also require technical know-how, or the designer could stab themselves —seam rippers can be nasty if not used correctly. Reading and/or making patterns is also a highly useful technical skill, although not necessary. Many designers drape materials onto a form and never use patterns ever.
Another important technical skill is knowledge of fibers, and what is new in the fashion world, such as the improved quick dry fabrics, how to use them, and manipulate them to suit the project.
Interpersonal: Artists are notorious for throwing tantrums and being really moody. There was a time where this was considered part of the mystique, since not everyone has been blessed with the talent of the artist. They must be special or everyone could do what they do.
But nowadays, the insolent behaviour isn’t acceptable and is often harmful to the designer’s business and reputation. In order to foster good working relationships with clients, colleagues, staff, and the media, which in turn helps to propel their brand forward, good interpersonal skills are necessary.
Business: Another thing artists are infamous for is not being good business people. They’re usually more concerned with creating and beauty and dazzling the world with their expressions, than staying within budget, and reigning in the urges of extravagance.
It is imperative however, to have good business acumen, even if an accountant needs to be hired. Understanding clients’ challenges, the competition, marketing, and how the changing trends will affect their bottom line are all highly necessary business skills.
Meeting deadlines agreed upon between the designer and client, staying within agreed budgets, and complying with the client’s expectations are also a large part of good business acumen.
Vision: The present day and historically famous designers reached their pinnacle and remained there because they all had an abstract quality vision. This is also something a designer has or they don’t. It can’t be learned or absorbed. If a designer has vision this is their driving force, it’s what motivates their every move, and justifies every sacrifice.
Designers that have talent and technical skill but don’t have vision can still have a successful career in fashion design. Fashion houses hire in-house designers to follow instructions to further their vision. All is not lost of if only the four skills are present.
The writer is CEO, International School of Design, Corporate Centre Gujranwala Town