Designers Today: Collaboration, Connection, and Community.

Picture 8Listening to the design duo Ekhaus Latta was a revivifying take on commencing a successful design house in a collaborative and non-traditional manner. Like several of the designers we’ve listened to before Ekhaus Latta, their propensity to design clothing rather than sculptures or textiles as their professional training supplied, is a surprising coincidence. The attraction to clothing design from Siki Im whose background consisted of architecture and furniture design in addition to Ekhaus’s diverse artistic frameworks illustrate the unique influences leading to the manifestation of clothing design.

Ekhaus Latta’s unique start into the industry resonated with one of their key topics regarding teamwork in relation to starting a design house. Their repeated stance that “to have a brand is 10% designing and 90% teamwork” is a rare and humbling sentiment in an industry that wholly values extremities of narcissistic individualism. To hear the hardworking duo say that “to make everyone happy and get their message across clearly” is a truly unique and interesting change of focus within the industry perspective (interview). On Tuesday, May 5th I was given the opportunity to see Ralph Lauren interviewed by Paul Goldberger. When asked by Goldberger about how Lauren got started and his upward trajectory into becoming a fashion legend, Mr. Lauren replied “ I worked hard and no one gave me anything”(interview). There is a noticeable divide in the hubris of designers who began their careers decades ago and today. The past several designers showcased to us in Fashion Cultures have delineated a mass appreciation for the luck, individuals, and funding that have fallen (sometimes magically) into place for these designers to realize their aspirations. During Thursday’s May 7th Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of Opening Ceremony discussion, the iconic duo reiterated their humble beginnings with a $20,000 loan and amassment of credit card debt in order to get Opening Ceremony off the ground in 2002. In contrast,  Ralph Lauren’s depiction of his rise into one of the world’s most iconic representations of American Style, brushed over several crucial elements of his ascent. Foremost, in Ralph Lauren’s first year in business 48 years ago, Lauren was bequeathed $50,000 in funding for him to start manufacturing his legendary polo ties (which in the late sixties was a small fortune). In addition, within one year Lauren received offers from major retailers including Bloomingdale’s to buy his ties and expand into suits and women’s wear. In listening to both new age and gentrified brands like Ralph Lauren speak about success, it was noticeable to the ears of a millennial how different the landscape is for new brands today.

What resonated most poignantly with me was Opening Ceremony’s addition to the continued designer narrative of community. Young designers like Ekhaus Latta and Opening Ceremony showcase a level of influence on the culture, lifestyle, and body politic of their brands. Humberto Leon stated “We’ve always had this great community, and we consider our store a family store” (interview). These rare sentiments will hopefully become more commonplace within the fashion sphere especially as more and more designers come to care about the consumer experience, persona, and the legacy of their brands within the global psyche.

Lauren, Ralph. (2015, May 5th) Interview with Paul Goldberger

Leon, Humberto & Lim, Carol. (2015, May 7th) Interview with Dr. Hazel Clark

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2 responses to “Designers Today: Collaboration, Connection, and Community.

  1. Hi Rachel, I couldn’t agree more. I am equally inspired by their non traditional journeys and collaborative professional journeys. It’s so motivating to think how the non-conventional path is becoming the conventional path into the system of fashion. It makes me curious to think about all the ways the current system will become outdated, in doing so, how the future fashion system (cough joff cough) will materialize.

  2. Great points!! Ekhaus Latta and many other design teams represent a new turn in the industry. It’s a generational change that embraces collaboration and an interdisciplinary approach to business through community building. Openning Ceremony and Ekhaus latta are both great examples of what can be accomplished with a great team since neither one of them have traditional fashion back grounds through academic training. Most of today’s appointed taste-making designers are duos or teams in example Rag & Bone, Proenza Schouler, Cushnie Et Ochs, Tome, Creatures of the Wind and the list goes on. The tough economic climate presents many challenges and obstacles making it difficult for emerging designers to sustain on their own. Ralph Lauren was extremely fortunate to have started at the time he did. He was able to amass a multi billion-dollar empire by constructing a lifestyle brand around generic garments. With less competition and business models unique to their time the Ralph Laurens and Tommy Hilfifgers are two of the few American designers who will ever be able to scale their businesses to multi billion dollar valuations.

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