Making clothes to fit a 14-year-old doesn’t make you a good designer
Imagine I’m a world renowned fashion designer – I’m in all the magazines and on all the red carpets – and you’re my client. You give me a brief to design beautiful clothes that look amazing on women. After working all my creative juices into a wet frenzy and bleeding your budget dry, I come back to you with beautiful clothes that look amazing on children…
That’s not great design is it? I mean you wouldn’t pay me, right? And it’s just a bit creepy?
However, isn’t that exactly what some big fashion designers do? It’s well documented that ‘top’ designers prefer thin models because clothes supposedly look better on their stringy figures. The fashion design industry relies on child models because of their adolescent bodies. Amy Lemons started modelling women’s clothing when she was 12 years old! She was only 14 when she featured on the cover of Italian Vogue and became a supermodel. Girls can be skinny in a way that a grown woman, with hips and breasts, can never really be (check out more about fashion’s murky wardrobe in this BBC article by American model Sara Ziff).
Apart from the rather important fact that a 14-year-old girl in adult clothes, on the front of an adult magazine, in an adult industry, with adult themes, raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions; in what other design industry would you get away with not actually designing for your key customer? In what other design industry would you get away with actually designing to your own brief again and again? Your clients are women but you design clothes to fit girls because the clothes look better. That’s not design. That’s cheating.
It’s like an architect being asked to design a strip joint but delivers drawings for a school.
It’s like a web designer taking a brief for an online casino but builds a CBBC website. It’s like a furniture designer commissioned to design a contemporary dining table and delivers a school desk…
Don’t get us wrong. We totally get the fashion catwalk thingy and all the incredible, innovative, trend defining clothes that are carefully created for the shows. We know that these people are talented artists with breathtaking and daring vision. We totally understand Miranda Priestly’s ‘it’s actually cerulean’ speech in the Devil Wears Prada. We know that the fashion industry is about aspirations and dreams… and we may be a bit jealous because we don’t see many hoodies on the catwalk.
But, a designer who doesn’t design for the product’s actual audience is at best lazy and at worst a bad designer who probably belongs on some sort of register.
We should be taking our hats off to the high street fashion designers who actually take the impossible catwalk and glossy magazine look and applying it to the real world to make women look fabulous – now that’s great design!