Read through for the punch line.
What motive is it that moves designers to seek the advice of salesmen or retailers in regard to styles? Who is the originater of this wonderful idea of cooperation that seeks to transplant the creative ability of the designer to the retailer? What ideas in style and manufacturing methods has the retailer been responsible for that this ‘genius’ of organization should justify his action in trying to wrest the style control from the Designer. If the designers are so dull that they need the retailers to advice them as to what to make for the folliwing season they should resign their positions for they then and there confess that they lack the first essential of a Designer and that is the ingenuity and originality to design and to create. The niggardly contempt that has been shown to the entire designing profession by rank outsiders is not surprising considering how easy some of the professions are willing to be led by the nose.
It was the designer who developed the Convertible collar Balmaraan, Balmaroon, Raglan, Waist Seam Coat, the body fitting sack. It is the skill of the designer as a style creator, as a draftsman and tailor that has put the ready made industry where it is to-day. It is also due to the progressiveness of the manufacturer in employing capable designers and foremen and not the retailer. The ability of the Designer is responsible for the high quality of the ready-made product. It has almost eliminated the merchant tailor.
Yes, the retailer would like to be the adviser. He likes to play a sure game. His judgment would be conservative styles all the time. His advice would be —go easy, no fancy goods, no freak styles, no nothing, except conservative style so that he wouldn’t take chances. Very nice for the retailer! What would this mean Fellow Designers? It would mean just one thing and that is “no designers”, no advance, no progress. One pattern, one style only with perhaps a longer or shorter coat, a regular or semi-peaked lapel. The entire clothing business would go back 25 years and the designer would go back to the cutting board or to the tailoring bench. Designing—the biggest asset of the clothing industry would be crushed because somebody, for some reason invites thc retailers to do it.
Punchline: written by Harry Simons, October 1921 in The American Designer’s Association newsletter. [There’s more choice material where this came from, courtesy of Michael Mills who photocopied some old issues for me.] I know Zoe commiserates and I’ll bet Simons is spinning in his grave over the recent turn of events.
Coincidentally enough, I’ve been reading Terri Agins, The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever in which she documents the “four megatrends that sent fashion rolling in a new direction”:
- Women let go of fashion.
- People stopped dressing up.
- People’s values changed with regard to fashion.
- Top designers stopped gambling on fashion.
The last of which was Harry’s point of contention. I’d also argue Ms Agins misses a fifth trend, that of the affect of job specialization (splintering) in mass production. Due to specialization, now designers are no longer pattern makers; this would have been unthinkable in Harry’s day. Today of course, most designers aren’t designers at all but rather stylists, the job function arguably diluted further still due to retail influence.
Still, Agins concurs:
Today, a designer’s creativity expresses itself more than ever in the marketing rather than in the actual clothes. Such marketing is complicated, full of nuance and innovation -requiring far more planning than what it takes to create a fabulous ballgown, as well as millions of dollars in advertising. In a sense, fashion has returned to its roots: selling image. Image is the form and marketing is the function…that’s why designer logos have cecome so popular; logos are the easiest way for each designer to impart a distinguishing characteristic on what amounts to some pretty ordinary apparel.
In many respects, I’d agree. Still, I think that the sameness of everyday apparel presents an opportunity for those of you who’d focus less on branding and logos and more on having a product line worth the hoopla of your marketing efforts. People are tired of sameness, do something different. Excite people, cause them to covet. Covetousness is my goal as I move closer to producing my own line.