What comes to mind when you think of fashion designers?
More often than not, people think that designers work all day in their studios, sketching out new ideas, and creating garments that will change the world. And while that can sometimes be true, it's not always. Designers wear many hats and wear them well. They’ve to do everything from sourcing materials to managing their employees and making sure they’ve enough cash in the bank to buy food.
Yet, despite the hard work fashion designers go through, there are still a lot of misconceptions about the fashion design industry. Programme Director and senior lecturer for the Bachelor of Fashion Design Technology, Maria Sandra Wijaya, sets the record straight. Here are four things you might not know about fashion design and the fashion industry.
Reality: While it’s completely true that it’s fast-paced because of the advancement of technology, the younger generation, and social media presence, it’s also still inclusive — it’s just not as obvious.
When things move rapidly, people tend to see the bigger picture and what’s available to the biggest target market. In fashion, that’s fast fashion.
Because most fast fashion brands target a certain demographic and it typically doesn’t concern inclusivity. However, we do have designers who design for inclusivity and tap into different sizes, body images, different categories of people, and background.
Though the market for inclusive fashion is not as large yet, Taylor’s is looking to include that in next year’s semester — to design for inclusivity and educate what it means to design and tap into inclusivity.
For us to see major changes, it definitely requires a lot of effective awareness which, to me, is done through educating and sharing of knowledge for and by the younger generations.
Reality: Absolutely not! When a student takes a degree in fashion, especially one at Taylor’s University, they’re taking a programme that isn’t just focused on fashion design and even technology, but one that exposes them to commercialisation, retail, merchandising, photography and even modelling!
The programme at Taylor’s is done for students to further their opportunities even if they wish to start their career outside of fashion and branch out or specialise in the industry. We equip our students with different opportunities outside of their syllabus, like delivering workshops or being involved in backstage preparations for events. Those experiences are worth so much more than just focusing on the syllabus during their degree years. That’s how we make our graduates different by showing that they can do so much more than just designing.
Reality: Yes. I’m not going to lie, it’s honestly a tough industry but not for what you think it is. Fashion is fast-paced and you never have enough time to design, market, and manufacture. Additionally, with fashion, you’d want to source the best materials, have the best craftsman, etc. In that sense, it’s very tough.
Another tough part is when you want to curate something that’s unique, top-notched, and the best but there are a lot of competitors and lots of different perspectives when it comes to managing the brand and fighting with fast fashion.
For young designers, to power through, you need to have your own identity and authenticity. That’s something that’ll bring you far.
Be authentic, be yourself, and keep doing what you love instead of focusing on others. When you love what you’re doing and you’re passionate about it, it’ll be much easier to tackle and will be bearable when you’re faced with different barriers. Always innovate and look outside your bubble. Try partnering with other disciplines to branch out.
Reality: That’s just an outer layer of what fashion is and it’s usually generally viewed as just sewing, drawing, and design-making because it’s explained that way. But it’s so much richer than that. For example, pattern-making.
There are many different ways of constructing clothes through different types of pattern-making techniques. What students learn in university are the basics. However, throughout their degree years, they’ll develop their personal style and this is built on the knowledge of pattern making which involves innovating and sculpting something different and original. Every single stroke of your drawing isin the hand of the pattern maker and that’s where you can expand so much from.
We usually get questions from potential students on whether they can join without any prior knowledge or skills of sewing and drawing. The only thing that you need is passion and identity. There’s a big difference between students who have no skills but has so much passion and character versus those who only have skills. I’m really proud of my students who accomplished so much even though they had little to no skills whatsoever yet they’re able to accomplish so much because they’ve the idea in mind and their identity to start.
Reality: There’s definitely a notion of how the inability to build a solid career in fashion in Malaysia, especially with how it used to be perceived. One of the earliest experiences I had was convincing my parents that there’s a future in fashion. Though it was hard to convince them, I’m glad that I did and have proven that there really is a future in fashion.
That’s the reason why I wanted to go into education, despite getting comments on how I should be in the fashion industry instead. This way, I can ensure the younger generations are in the right hands and that they know they can build a huge career from it. Whenever I speak to parents, I speak through my own experiences. I can’t predict their future but I can show how far fashion can go as a career. All that you need is passion and character.
Reality: Another one is that all designs are the same and “It’s just clothes”. But, that’s an understatement for what fashion really is. It’s so much more than just something you wear, it’s your character; an art; a way to communicate. Many designers, over the years, have used fashion to speak out for something and can be a more subtle way to communicate what needs to be said. Fashion is a window to your soul and it’s not just about styling clothes, but an expression of your identity.
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