… a designer’s job is sitting in an impeccably decorated high rise office, dreamily sketching all day while petting fabrics that salesmen bow and scrape to bring them. And then going to cocktail parties with editors at fashion magazines when “work” is over before they’re limo-ed off to their country estate for the evening to dine with their jet-setting millionaire spouse and conferring with the nanny of her photogenic well behaved children. Tell us the truth. We won’t hate you. Your life is just like that.
I wrote this, teasing one of the newest members of our forum, a long time designer at big brands who’s now starting her own line. I didn’t expect her response. It’s hilarious. Maria says I can reprint it here for you.
Being a designer that just sketches and pets fabric while salespeople are pounding on their door is 1) not reality and 2) BORING! The devil is in the details and if you don’t know all the details, how they affect your garment, line and cost then you are not going to get very far. You’ll just help put money in other people’s pockets for a short time. The fun part of being a designer is getting down and dirty. The fun part of being a successful designer is knowing that every single person you work with is your EQUAL. Plain and simple. You cannot have an ego. Confidence and ego are two different things. Confidence will keep you moving forward and help you to make quick decisions. Ego will keep you from listening and learning and dig you into a hole.
If a buyer doesn’t like a style or wants to change something, that’s great! They like what they see but their game is a numbers game. So maybe they know what could sell better for them. Get over it. If it’s doable and doesn’t affect the integrity of your line (ie ugly as heck)…do it. Turn it into a private label piece and charge a little more for the customization and set up some terms to protect you in case it doesn’t sell. And do it with the biggest smile on your face. It could turn out to be the biggest selling style of your season! Or not. What do you have to lose? You’ll be building a relationship at the same time.
I was a dog at the beginning of my career and after all these years I still run like a dog looking for a bone. I RAN around the offices of the companies I worked for looking for trims and fabrics for the designer, begging the pattern maker to make/change/fix a pattern “ASAP” and then begging the cutter and sewer to please put it at the head of the line. Doing favors for other designers and assistants so that I could borrow something, cut in the sample making line a week before market, etc… Before digital cameras were everywhere I took polaroids of everything, made line sheets with sketches and the polaroids, made a bazillion copies, only to find an overlooked error and then have to redo the process (I LOVE computers now), pack the line for the showroom, etc…
My offices or cubicles have never been ‘impeccable’. Piles of fabric everywhere, magazine tears all over the walls, sketches and tons of paperwork all over the desk in an organized mess – that was my office and I love it. Salesmen have a million places to be …waiting for me all day doesn’t exactly make them money. Cocktail parties with fashion editors? Country estate? Millionaire spouse? Hee hee. If you have dinner events it’s usually with a buyer which means YOU are paying (budget, receipts, expenses, whoo hoo). And after pulling the ridiculous hours at the office, going to dinner and schmoozing someone is not my idea of fun. I can’t tell you how many dinners I have gone to where I was counting the minutes until I could get home to my cramped apartment with nonexistent closets that were bulging with clothes and shoes (no country estate) and throw on my elastic waist sweat pants, wash the makeup off, pop out the contacts, put my glasses on, pour a glass of wine and turn on the tv for some mindless entertainment.
As you mentioned, designers are not the best paid people in the industry. Rarely, if ever, do you get a commission. Your job is to design a salable line. It sells, you get to keep your job. It doesn’t? Well, you’re only as good as your last line.
My husband works just as hard and is just as tired at the end of the day. Who isn’t? Our daughter who has been at a day care all day (nannies are expensive!), learning songs and words from other people (read “guilt”) only wants your undivided attention for the rest of the evening. You feed, play, bathe and put her to sleep. Only to do it all over again tomorrow.
BUT I WOULDN’T TRADE IT FOR THE WORLD. I knew my whole life that this is what I wanted to do. It IS fun and glamorous – but not the way it’s portrayed in movies. It is a totally different and more exciting. If the above doesn’t stress you out just reading it then you’re doing the right thing for you. Just be sure to manage your expectations. Trust me, you’ll meet many others who are just like you and loving it too!