Risk, design and beautiful things

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about risk and the design process. In particular how much in fashion design and business the goal is to minimize risk – we often explore and commit only to the sure thing. I wrote about it briefly in a paper i presented last week at the IFFTI 2010 conference on Sustainable Fashion in regards to copying and the fashion cycle. I feel that copying or referencing is a method for minimizing risk and through this copying, design (in particular fashion design) becomes derivative and drives the cycle of novelty – consumption – boredom – novelty which dominates the fashion world. Through the fashion cycle, aesthetics become risk free. Risk requires more of the soul of a designer, it requires more sweat and worry. But risky design and leaps of faith are what create truly exciting and innovative ideas. Risk can change the world not just regurgitate it.

Risk also requires more time, and we need to take more time when we design. We need time to put other things first ahead of aesthetics, and what that first thing might be is up to each designer. For myself i put the environment first, for someone else it might community or fair trade, for others it might be animal cruelty, and for yet another it could be freedom of expression. Putting the aesthetics and trends of fashion first has lead us to an industry which pollutes the environment, exploits communities, workforces and animals and promotes ideals of beauty which for most are unattainable.

That is not to say we should disregard aesthetics, indeed the aesthetics of things cannot be ignored even if we tried. As when people purchase anything they own it with their eyes first. But designing only for the look of something gives nothing back to our world except a beautiful thing that is empty and will eventually reveal it’s empty-ness and make the owner feel empty in their consumption of that beautiful thing. So they go buy another to fill up.

So… Risk… Ignore trends for a bit. Ignore how it looks for a little while. Don’t think about Cool. Design something which puts the important stuff first. Then make it beautiful so we can buy real beautiful things instead of empty beautiful things. It would be a start at least.

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