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Designer Burnout

A career in design begins as most others do. One leaps in, exuberant with “first day of school” jitters, projecting to that hopeful and hypothetical place of one day, finally, having it all. Armed with innovation, ideas and passion, young designers are often naive to the industry pressures waiting right around the corner.

Those that make the leap to corporate success are confronted with the demands of six high-profile collections each year, marketing and sales demands, social media maintenance, celebrity dressing, in-person event appearances, and more. Like a puppet master, brand executives pull the designer’s strings, demanding trends, wearability, and a constant unpredictable freshness. 

Yes, there may be an initial swoosh of triumph when all the boxes are checked and a collection passes muster. But how long can a designer’s creativity sparkle under a constant crush of commercial pressures?

Meet fashion’s latest enemy: Designer burnout.  The list of fashion stars fallen from corporate rungs (Alexander Wang, Raf Simons, John Galliano, Alber Elbaz, Marc Jacobs, and tragically Lee McQueen) has become all too long. Nonetheless, the business model of “more, more, more” can be seen wringing its hands in the background, searching for the next successors.  

Maybe the solution is to think smaller, as many have suggested.

“It would be in everyone’s advantage to go back to doing two collections a year, since not only brands, but also shops, are having trouble keeping up with this rhythm,” says designer Leonneke Derksen of Belgian label Léo Paris, who formerly designed for Balenciaga, Carven and Cacharel, noting the struggle young brands face with producing pre-collections on top of bi-annual collections.

The “see-now, buy-now” model of showing one combined men’s and women’s collection only in the spring and fall for more immediate purchase is being advocated by Burberry, Tom Ford, Vetements and more. Some brands advocate the timing, but are still separating men’s and women’s collections. Others are testing the concept through smaller capsule lines. Yet others, such as Karl Lagerfeld, have rejected this model completely.

Regardless of where the industry comes down, this conversation is a sign that something’s gotta give, so designers can tip the scale back towards the creative and consumers can fulfill their need for more instant gratification. As fashion’s landscape continues to change, the peaks will be scaled by the innovative and the courageous, those unafraid to challenge the system and break the rules. 

The Designow platform is another part of the solution, by helping to ease some of the business pressures on designers by providing tools and support to assist with design development, production and sales. Spread the word about Designow to your talented and fashion-obsessed friends, so we can grow our community and keep making fashion dreams happen!

Designer photos from top to bottom: Raf Simons, Alexander Wang, and Alber Elbaz.
All images provided by: Jonas Gustavsson/Fashionactive 

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