Tuesday, May 31, 2016

History Will Teach Us Nothing vs. Starting again

Our written history is a catalogue of crime
The sordid and the powerful, the architects of time
The mother of invention, the oppression of the mild
The constant fear of scarcity, aggression as its child
- Gordon Sumner (better known as "Sting")

On the second CD I EVER bought, "Nothing Like the Sun", I attached myself to one, haunting, specific song the entirety of the following summer.  I was 16-17 at the time. That song, titled "History Will Teach us Nothing", never beckoned me to research exactly what it was talking about, but the sadness of that idea resonated with me.

Walking through the garment district recently, that song started humming in my head again, unsolicited, rekindling that strange urban industrial ennui. Where are the new designers/colors/ideas? Is there room for new?  Can people still make things, pay employees fairly, use new technology, usher in a new era of exciting garments and sewn products?

How would a person research such things in real time?  In the garment district, feeling the drumbeat of the current commercial landscape? I'm seeing buildings being taken down, new hotels and other businesses gradually crowding out my beloved district. So, if you're looking for the lessons in this atmosphere, what teaches you what people will do?  

What people have done. For sure. 

But, then again, maybe not... On May 21st, I walked past a vey busy Zara, and the closed Diesel and Urban Outfitters stores near 59th street. Internet searches will yield a variety of tales about how each of these businesses meet their sales goals.  Are they true? Who knows? I can't personally verify or deny any of it.  many of us find ourselves in the same boat. I started to think that we (in the fashion industry, collectively) may just be repeating the same mistakes over and over and over agin.  The modern day equivalents of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the meandering path one would have to follow to emulate the success of any of the designers profiled on Fashion's Walk of Fame, the emphasis on the more viable careers in fashion given by some noted fashion schools, while steering people away from the hands-on, artistic aspects of the business, the tightening and shrinking of industrial real estate within the very area designated for such pursuits - the writing is on the wall, without a doubt.

Wait... Not so fast...

This post threatens to piggyback a previous one...


On May 17, I led a private Speakeasy for two young designer/partners with beautiful ideas for garments they wish to create.  For this particular Speakeasy, I led them to the places who would be able to provide the services and supplies they need to make their sample pieces, and negotiate for larger volume as their business grows.

What impressed me most about these two, was their willingness to educate themselves and evaluate the feasibility of their design plans and goals before starting.  Much of what I shared with them was optimistic, and some, was a bit sobering. I know that they learned a lot, and were happy to establish new contacts.

Best question of the day (coming from them):

"In your experience, what are the most common mistakes you see new designers make?"

Above all, I think, it is not having a plan/budget.  I gave some specific examples of what happens in such circumstances, and they listened attentively, thinking seriously about what the want to do.  I really look forward to hearing great things about them in the future!

The light in my brain came back on, and I started humming again.


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