A panel discussion, consisting of notable, was held on 17 Sep 09 at Milk Studio where students from the various fashion schools in New York City were given the chance to interact with key figures in the fashion industry as Suzy Menkes and the Proenza Schouler duo.
Some of the issues raised have kept Parsons Boy thinking. On the topic of new technology, the consensus among the panel seemed to be that it was generally a good thing in that it gave young designers greater access to retailers and to potential consumers, considerably lowering one barrier to entry. While most of the discussion seemed concentrated on technologies associated with the media and Internet 2.0, it seems that there is also scope to consider how the design process might also be affected. After all, when style.com manages to upload images of the latest collections on the minute and fashion-conscious communities can and have fallen in love, dissected, internalised and fallen out of love with looks before they even reach the racks, such a vast trove of information available to designers must surely have some sort of effect. Parsons Boy will argue that there is a trend towards more derivation in design as designers have greater scope to refer to one another and to similar sources. Take Marc Jacobs’ tribal collection for Louis Vuitton and the subsequent wave of tribal-inspired looks on the runway. Heightened sensitivity and greater frequency of visual data receptivity as a result of new media have multiplied first mover’s advantage in the field of style arbitration. This is nothing new, of course – Dior’s New Look would not have been quite so virulent were it not for the advent of the modern day fashion press and ad campaign – but as with most things related to new media technologies, the process has been dramatically accelerated.
Interestingly, Ms. Menkes also implored students to resist the urge to refer to established designers. “Fashion does not need another Calvin Klein”, to parse what she said, and Parsons Boy feels that this is the sort of advice that young designers should take heed. A designer may only stand on his (apologies for the politically incorrect gender pronoun choice) own when he finds his own voice and ceases to take his cues from other designers. He must have the confidence to find synthesis between ideas and sources of inspiration and his own aesthetics. Interpretation must take the place of derivation.
One wonders how many up and coming designers out there may make that particular claim.