Friday, December 21, 2007

The Power of the Collection

More often than not, I'm the first to awaken in my household. I love the quiet time alone while it’s still dark out. With a cup of steaming coffee in my Cafe du Monde mug, I check my calendar, read my email, and come up with a To-Do list for the day.

Then, it’s time to look at fashion. Creativity coach Julia Cameron calls this kind of thing “filling the well”.

Since I don’t live in New York or Paris or Milan, or dress in anything resembling couture, a big part of how I enjoy the world of fashion is to view the couture and RTW collections online and in glossy magazines.

Now more than ever, since Project Dollway, I think of myself as a designer who happens to be working in sixth scale.

When I create doll fashion I never copy or adapt the designs of others, but I do enjoy the way the art form of fashion collectively explores an array of ideas and directions at any given time. Seeing the work of other designers (both well-known and obscure) is entertaining, educational, and inspirational. I believe it helps us find our way to our own personal visions.

Once I began really studying high fashion, and not just doll fashion or that of everyday people, it changed my vision of doll fashion—and its potential—forever. I do realize this isn’t the way most doll collectors look at doll fashion, for various reasons.

Since a picture is worth at least a thousand words (and after all, fashion is supposed to be art and not literature), I’ve devised a simple exercise.

This little exercise will have more impact on those who don't spend much time around couture but instead spend more time around doll fashion. You hard-core Fashionistas, on the other hand, probably already get the message. Either way, I think it’s worthwhile.

The more unusual, dramatic, or unexpected someone’s design ideas are, the more important it becomes to present those ideas as fully as possible. This is an idea that’s more familiar in the world of science: the more unusual the claim, the greater the burden of proof.

To help me make my point, I’ve shamelessly pulled an image off of is my favorite Go-To site for all the couture and RTW seasonal collections. Any of several collections could have worked here to illustrate my ideas.

What you’re viewing (see photo above) is an ensemble from the Fall 2007 Ready-to-Wear collection designed by Nicholas Ghesquière for the house of Balenciaga.

Not something you see every day, is it? So, what was the designer thinking about; what ideas was he exploring? Viewing a single outfit, it’s not always easy to say.

All alone or in the wrong company swims an awkward and unhappy swan.

With such an outfit as this one, even if the designer satisfied the requirements of a contest challenge ‘on paper’, he might well have been eliminated from a doll fashion competition for such an offbeat offering.

Imagine this outfit next to, say, a series of clean and simple dresses, or everyday street-wear. Hmm.

But wait; there’s more… an entire runway show, in fact. Now, to put the duckling where it belongs, please look at the entire slideshow, and let it sink in. Balenciaga, Fall 2007 Ready-to-Wear. It can be easily viewed at the website.


Even if it’s not to your taste, a well-designed innovative collection can be surprisingly fresh and powerful. You might still decide you don’t personally care for an outfit after seeing it as part of a collection… fair enough. But personal taste aside, it becomes much harder to dismiss it (or diss it) as a failed design.

It’s the nature of fashion, as other art forms, to change, and in changing further define itself.

Careful observation of a well-conceived collection reveals a point of view, a set of ideas, a story.

You may or may not like an outfit even after seeing the whole collection, but at least after learning more about it, your thought process changes: How well did the designer execute what they seemed to be saying? Is it interesting, is it appealing? Does it somehow still satisfy basic aesthetics, but perhaps in a new way? What was their story?

The colors, cultural and historical references, textures, silhouettes, details, wit, and everything else that might be explored in a high fashion collection is there for us to see. When it works, it can be grasped without necessarily being understood or articulated verbally.

Not all innovative ideas succeed... whatever that means. But when they do, they’re often the most memorable designs of all.

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