Week 5: My Designer Life By Gretchen Jones of Project Runway

The price of fashion, at least the price of being a designer, costs a whole lot more than any dollar sign could ever quantify.

I’m exhausted mentally and physically. My brain cells need to be fully restored. Emotionally, I feel withered away. The last time any friendly interactions were had without that ever-present subconscious awareness of deadlines looming seems so far away.

To be honest, I cannot remember the last time my pace was slowed – perhaps it was as far away as the summer of 2009. Having the opportunity to smell the roses and truly relax, relate and replenish has taken a back seat to ambition, desperation (at times) and timing. Yes, I’m sure you think that with all my opportunities life would be nothing but cheery – but it’s actually the opposite. Added pressure, not enough time, new found stigmas attached to my personality, pressure, exhaustion in the idea realm – shall I go on?

The glamorous facade we all see in magazines and red carpets is truly the smoke in mirrors that barely reflects the realities of playing fashion hard ball. It’s a labor of love, nothing more. No one should work 18 hour days, six days a week while basically playing a risky game of roulette.

Did you know that the average start up cost for developing a single collection is over $30,000?

The estimated funding/backing needed to launch a label is 1.5-2 million, with a solid $250,000 in the bank ready to pay out for first collections – just to develop samples, shoot them and prepare for sales (all this with no guarantee of success). Plus, the time lines for developing and preparing collections are usually at least four months. I’m working on about two months and much less than $30,000. It’s as if the drug is the stress and the high is the finished body of work. It’s never finished until the deadline hits, when you go dark for a second and then pick yourself up by the (hopefully chic) boot straps and prepare to do it all over again.

So I find myself wondering, at the final hour with three garments to finish, two to edit and 23.5 hours to go – is it worth all this stress and sleep deprivation, lost relationships and risk of ending up broke?

Yes. Of course.

The least I can say is that I can’t get enough of it and it has always been that way. Fashion chose me, not the other way around. As I progress as a designer, I’m finding that I would like to refine the approach.

And I hope that in 24, excuse me, no, 23 hours, the cost of everything I’ve put myself through will come to fruition. It’s never good enough, I always wish I could do things better, I always walk away with a million ideas that didn’t get the time to be developed…but that’s what the next collection is for, right?

This completed collection – the one after I show you what I’ve created in a tiny room on the floor – will deliver some free time to embrace where it is I have come from. It will give me a momentary respite so I can take a long walk in the park, be proud and get back up again to try to one up myself next time.

The learning curve is just too fun to ride. I guess I’ll just stay buckled in.

This is the fifth piece in a new series at EcoSalon with Project Runway winner and sustainable fashion designer Gretchen Jones. For Jones, her daily apprenticeship with the “school of life” has been her guiding teacher and we look forward to bearing witness to her weekly inspiration collages, featuring ideas and scenes from the streets and parties of New York City, where she recently located. As well as her innate sense of style she’ll be pulling from a world of patterns, textures and all the designers who have preceded her.