Mean Trick

In an effort to teach students how to design, I have to be a little mean and trick them. The reason I can do this is because it happened to me and I have a duty to pass on the pain.  It’s not fair and it’s certainly not very kind the way I set them up for it, but by god, as I live and breathe, it works.

Drawing number 423.
Drawing number 423.

I’m not afraid to compare a fashion students’ process to those of the masters.  They both need to draw, research, discover, extend, and doodle the same way.  It’s not just the sheer number of studies that da Vinci produced, but it was also the evolution of the idea.  If you check out the final product, you’ll notice that there isn’t anyone collapsed dramatically on the table like there is in the study.  I wonder how many steps it took for him let that go.  Maybe the collapsed guy is da Vinci himself?  It’s scary to anticipate producing 50,000 drawings in order to get to The Last Supper, but I think it paid off.

In my pursuit to stop students from drawing clothes, and start designing them, I try to find ways to unlock and stretch their creativity and wipe away stagnant ideas that they may think are brilliant.  Often when students begin to design their collections, they don’t realize how far they can go, or they are paralyzed, or they think they have a plan about how it’s going to look.  So since I know that they’ve been banking on this, I ask them to take 5 minutes and sketch the perfect look for the collection.  I ask them to sketch the look that is the backbone, heartbeat, essence of the collection, the one without which it couldn’t exist.

And then I tell them to tear it up and NEVER DRAW IT AGAIN.

"I'm not mad at you.  I'm mad at the dirt." Mommie Dearest
“SCRUB, Christina. SCRUB.”

Pretty sick, huh?

You should hear the gasps from them.  It really makes the semester.

Once the shock wears off, I tend to the wounded.  Surprisingly, the trick his goes over much easier for those who feel they aren’t real designers or feel they have no talent for design.  This may be because they don’t feel invested or don’t know what they’re doing so they’re not attached to anything.  But it’s that lack of attachment that makes it easier to get up after having the rug pulled out from under you.

The other folks’ reactions, possibly the naturally talented, range from angry to mildly annoyed, like I’m wasting their work or making them learn or something.  But by forcing them to search, I’m forcing them to practice the process.  Most of all, I’m also putting them all at the same baseline.  You ALL have to start again.

"You want fame? ... Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying. With sweat."
“You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying. With sweat.”  Debbie Allen, Fame

To those still in shock, I ask: are you really telling me that your first idea was the best?  Have you exhausted the process?  Have you…nothing…else to say?  I’m writing this in the midst of grading, sometimes feeling disappointed in myself, in them. So I’m trying to figure out how to push my students more.  This is what I want to tell them:

extra mile
You’d be surprised how short it is.

I also want to quote Picasso: “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.”

But I might just have to tell them, just as I was plainly told by my very first design professor,  “Working on something for 12 hours is not unheard of.”

Knowing a daunting process is ahead of you is not a pleasant invitation for creativity.  If you can break out of any expectation, by gentle training, a mean trick your professor plays on you, or by practicing a lot of yoga, then the process is that much easier.


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