In the third class of the course the students have a very unique opportunity to show what they have developed so far to some established Canadian designers for feedback. There were four designers who came to spend the whole three hours with us. I only spoke to one as there were many students and we all lined up to wait our turn with one of the designers. I watched while I waited in line as each student laid out their sketches along with their theme board in front of the visiting designer. Some were complimented on their board, their vision, the fabrics that they are creating, and on their sketching ability. The designer was very direct and said exactly what he liked and did not like. I watched one student get some very difficult feedback…she was basically advised to start again. I know how much time each of these students has spent thinking, sketching, planning and carefully selecting fabrics. It is not easy to open yourself and your work up to criticism, but as the guest designer himself said to the student…”I really just want you to be successful”.
So my turn came. I explained who I was and why I was there and then shared some preliminary sketches and fabric swatches with him. In August I went to NYC with my sister and while there bought a very expensive silk print for this project. As I said in a previous blog post I love my silk charmeuse print…I also got the same print in silk chiffon. It is a fairly traditional floral but I planned to use it in a more modern way. So I laid everything out and he immediately said he did not like the print and I should get rid of it. Don’t use it he said. He didn’t like the sketches for the two garments that I planned for the print either and immediately put them in the “no” pile. He really liked one dress that I showed him that did not use the print and said I should do the collection based on this look and develop more looks like that one. We talked about some options and the advice was good…I could immediately see what he was suggesting and how I could revise what I was doing to go in a different direction. I have to say I was disappointed and a little sad…I love my print.
I have heard from many folks about the challenges and stress experienced by students who are in creative areas of study and must face critiques or as they are often referred to, “crits”. They are an essential and important aspect of any artist’s development and are designed to make them think, explain and justify their work, and get better. But my little taste of this process has given me an understanding of how emotionally difficult and I suspect for some students, devastating, these can be. Now remember I am a 52 year old woman who is not trying to be a fashion designer and did not leave questioning myself or my abilities. I am not sure how capable I would have been of processing this kind of feedback 30 years ago…an important but not easy lesson for some of our students.
Some of the sketches that I saw on Thursday as various students presented their work were beyond amazing…there is so much talent in this group of students. I am so excited to have a front row seat to see the development of their ideas and creations.
I told a few students that the guest designer did not like my fabric and they were lovely and supportive…they said I should do what I believe in and what I want to do….I do love my print and I will probably still use it.
Immediately after design class I met with Ben Barry about the communication class capstone. I am again not doing exactly what the students are doing but I am participating in aspects of the experience to learn about it and share with others what I learn.
One of the most important aspects of this capstone experience is that the end product, the “creative”, must be grounded in research and some theoretical context. Ben made some very helpful suggestions for my approach and I have ordered some books that he suggested…the approach has to do with design thinking and the role of empathy. Once I have done some initial reading I will share more here.
Later in the week watch for a profile of design student Lydia.