New fashion book inspires and elicits fashion industry conversation.
Logo-emblazoned tote bags and clothing and Vogue magazines more than half-filled with designer ads beg to question: Does indie design still exist? With New On The Catwalk, a coffee table compilation of fresh faced designers, readers get to explore what fashion’s future looks like. Daab Books says: “The fashion newcomers are introduced with an informative portrait and a selection of images that feature the hallmarks of their creations, bringing out the stars of tomorrow and their collections onto the open runway of fame now.”
Forty designers spanning the globe fill the book’s 400-glossy pages. Each have produced more than two collections—one gauge for “making it.” While this number by no means accounts for the volume of independent designers sending their creations down the runway and into shops each year, it’s a shimmer of hope that indie design still has a prominent place on and off the runway.
Can creativity, however, accompany success? According to Patrice Farameh, editor of New On The Catwalk and notably a publisher, not a fashion insider, “Yes,” with a few caveats.
“Financing [the first collection] is so tough and so important for a new designer. And designers like Vivienne Westwood [by all accounts far from the indie point in her career] have to constantly ask, ‘How can I survive, keep my independence and adhere to what the buyers want?.’”
Farameh is convinced that the true art of fashion still exists. “Just look at Lady Gaga. One thing the recession has done is it’s made people very selective, and they care more about quality. People are looking for something different. I think you have a better chance now [as a designer] of standing out and making it.”
Success, free from price tags for the sake of this conversation, requires a few essentials. Simon Collins, Dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons The New School
for Design in New York City, believes a designer must unequivocally have, “Hard work ethic, absolutely incredible skills and a genuine vision.” The last bit, he says “is something we can’t teach you. You’ve either got vision or you don’t. Our role at Parsons is to help people find their vision and articulate it.”
Up-and-comer Long-Nam Tô, whose collection Tô Long-Nam, under his Vietnamese last-name-first nomenclature, is featured in the book. Tô’s equally conventional and unconventional career in fashion is felt in his lines’ vision: “A man’s style for a woman.” After graduating with a Masters Degree in Fashion Design from the Academy of Fine Arts Berlin, an education he describes as “great for free time and not great for learning design,” Tô aspired to have his own line yet recognized a need for experience. Rather than apprentice for other designers as goes tradition, Tô worked as a stylist in Paris assisting the likes of Victoria Bartlett. Within a few short years, he began designing his eponymous collection. To foot the bill of his creations, he still works as a design consultant by day, a common story for many emerging designers.
“When I design, I don’t think about anyone [buyer’s needs, customer’s opinions], I just think about what is important to me. You have to if you want to stay true to your vision,” says Tô. Not to mention, he adds, “As a young designer, success is relative, and buyers’ feedback on what you should and shouldn’t create really becomes part of a natural evolution that works so long as you keep your identity.”
Others, like Cushnie et Ochs have taken a more classic journey. Created by Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs, both graduates of Parsons The New School for Design, the duo racked up internships with Proenza Schouler, Marc Jacobs, Oscar De La Renta and Chado Ralph Rucci. Currently among the top ten finalists for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, you could say they’ve made it. Ochs, as a designer, looks at fashion design like an MBA. To her, “it’s 90 percent running a business. We really don’t start designing until everyone else goes home. We’ve also learned it’s all about the team. Without them, we can never create anything.”
Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs
Beyond the Runway
As cutting edge and boundary-pushing as these up and comers are purportedly free to be, the conversation around sustainability hasn’t quite run abuzz. When I ask Farameh about the sustainable practices of the young designers in her book, she notes, “I see it in fabrics and inks—a care about what they are producing.” However, when probed for examples, no designers came to mind, leading me to believe this isn’t the most topical conversation among young designers today. Tô, however, hushes with excitement, “We’re beginning to use new fabrics in our 2012 collection. The textile manufacturers are able to reduce their water consumption by up to 40 percent. I can’t say more. It’s not ready to be released, but soon!”
If fashion’s future lies, as Farameh and Collins would lead us to believe, in the hands of the young creatives, sustainable design practices ought to be a given—built into the core of all design classes rather than as an add-on elective, and inspiring a new way to look at design and the life of a garment. As Farameh says, “It [fashion design] is more experimental than ever before; your fashion taste is good taste so long as you are confident.”
And, we hope, aware of the consequences of all your choices.