One of the most daunting aspects of creativity is being faced with a blank page, but luckily ideas don't have to be spirited out of thin air. A mistake often made by new fashion students is to design a series of individual garments that have no discernible source of inspiration and no cohesive "look." However, once you have established a theme, a multitude of related ideas will come tumbling onto your page,
Inspiration for design themes can be found everywhere, whether your source is a seashell on a beach or a splendid skyscraper, the fun of the fair or the Carnival at Rio. If you research well, your topic will automatically influence your garment ideas; for example, the theme of a circus or fairground is likely to produce a colorful, flamboyant look. With an inquiring mind almost anything can trigger a creative spark. The trick is to be able to select the best route to follow. As a commercial designer you will have your customer in mind from the outset, and self-indulgent flights of fancy may have to take a backseat. As a student, however, the furthest extremes can, and should, be explored. Anything can be watered down; it is much harder to spice up something dull.
A designer should always have a finger on the pulse of the time: music trends, street culture, films, fine art movements. It is no coincidence that each fashion season has a discernible look; different designers often produce similar color ranges and silhouettes (the outline shapes of complete ensembles)
because they are all aware of the broad trends. (However, designing from a completely off-the-wall angle has also produced some of fashion's greatest moments.)
Although nothing dates more quickly than fashion, looking to the past for inspiration often produces great results. A whole era can become an inspiration, and the popularity of
different eras tends to wax and wane in cycles. One year styles from the 1950s might be in fashion; the next it's a '70s look that's popular. Designs that were the height of fashion become the object of derision, only to reemerge a generation later as "must have" articles; wide-flared, low-rise trousers are a perfect example.
< Looking up
The angled elegance of structures such as the Chrysler Building can be captured in a fashion design. Why not let a multistory building Inspire a tiered skirt, or add dangling beaded ribbons to mimic the pattern of Its windows?
Give a design a 1950s feel by Incorporating the distinctive shape of a Cadillac's tall fins (left). The Easter Island statues (right) are also iconic: references to these enigmatic figures in a fashion Illustration could have a striking effect.
Structured sportswear has inspired many iconic shapes— think football shirts and Dynasty shoulder pads. Cycling Lycra produced a whole new fashion concept (skintight garments in bright colors), as did sailing wear, in the form of the synthetic waterproof clothing popularized by Tommy Hilfiger.
Patterns and styles based on ethnic ideas are recycled again and again by designers. One season they might work with the weaves of Latin American Indians; next year they might feature the prints of certain African tribes.
Fashion often draws on other forms of art for inspiration. The art deco magnificence, glistening reflections, and lofty symmetry of the
▲ Cherry-pick ideas
Once you have thoroughly researched your source, you can choose the aspects that attract you most to Include in your designs. You may decide to incorporate the complex color scheme, zigzag patterns, and layered look of clothes worn.by Peruvian Quechua women; alternatively, it may be the trailing coat of a circus clown or a highly ornate Carnival costume, reminiscent of tropical birds and flowers, that inspires you.
Chrysler Building in New York make it a superb example of an artistic endeavor that could easily inspire garment design. Hollywood movies can also start fashion trends; The Great Gatsby and the Mad Max series popularized, respectively, 1920s flapper dresses and the "road warrior" look that combines punk and grunge.
Your opportunities for exploring themes are unlimited. You can research ideas by visiting museums or wandering through a city to draw and take photographs yourself, or you can absorb the paintings, sculptures, films, photography, and books created by other people. The Internet is a great source of information that can be accessed from your home or college.
The knack of working with inspiration is to avoid trying to absorb too much at once. Being selective with your research and disciplined in developing just a few well-chosen themes will help you produce a focused range of designs that hold together as a collection.
► Sporty shapes
The shape-altering padded shoulders of the 1980s Dynasty look made reference to the structured wear used for sports such as ice hockey and football
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