So I was talking about the atmosphere in the aisles of MAGIC in Las Vegas. It seems that the scene at fashion week in New York City shared that same sense of… hesitant tension? Maybe Apparel News and Women’s Wear Daily put it in a more diplomatic way. Regardless how you say it, our world, our industry, our scene is in a state of flux somewhere between delusion and panic. There is something in the air that is contagious and we are all trying to inoculate ourselves against it.
Cartoon by Gaping Void.
Among the fashion designers I have seen showing both in New York and Las Vegas, there seems to be two vaccination tactics.
Conservative designers pare down to their “greatest hits”, replaying the styles that sell well every season, and aiming to get their items below some magic MSRP number – $100, $60, $20 – some number that, in theory, people feel is an insignificant enough amount not to consider deeply. The colours that these designers choose are black and navy blue solids. Safe, absorbent non-colours.
Designers on the vanguard go beyond denial into outright contradiction. Their industry is a glamour industry and disconnection from reality is the reality. For those who want to escape at any price these designers create spacesuits of gold lame and mink life preservers.
Besides the designers, what about all of the rest of us – service providers, journalists, technicians, publicists, etceteras. We have to decide if we are going to do business as usual or business unusual. It is impossible to say if either route grants immunity, what is more likely is that neither does. Big players fall hard and so do small ones. So when links are breaking and dominos are falling, how to stay standing, how to keep connected?
Like everyone else I am sure, I am thinking of ways that I can make this the best recession, ever. (Even though technically, it is my first.)
- Think small. Small is flexible, small has low overhead. Small can react faster. Small has less to lose.
- Be an entrepreneur. Even if you have a job. Our incomes come from multiple clients and we are already attuned to constantly searching for opportunity. You can never “lose” your job, and you can constantly refine your business.
- Do it yourself. Employees are the greatest expense in any business, and it is worth thinking of ways to avoid hiring, whether it is using freelance help only when needed, trading services, or being inventive with solutions you can execute by yourself.
- Look beyond the bottom line. Measure value, not dollars. No one is going to make money like gangbusters any time soon, so being in business for the money right now is futile. Make sure that no matter what you are doing, it gives you a sense of purpose, that you are surrounded with good people, and that you are happy.
- Be persistently persistent. In fashion, no matter how hard times are, the competition is tight. If you are adverse to adversity, you are not going to measure up, no matter what the macro situation is like. The last ones standing will be the ones who bounce back.
- Open up. Do not hoard resources, do not cultivate suspicion. Be generous now, and if circumstances turn against you later you won’t be alone.
- Be an autodidact. If you have downtime, use it to improve your skills and research your industry. Find causes to volunteer for, projects you never had time for before. Make sure that whenever someone asks what you are doing, you have lots of exciting things to talk about. Show that you are a curious, productive, and ambitious individual.
- Be frugal. Develop life skills that do not cost a lot but improve your well being – like cooking for yourself, shopping smart, growing and preserving your own food, and mending your own clothes.
- Experiment. If things do not work the way they have always done, sticking with the status quo is the worst risk you can take. Abandon the unnecessary, embrace the untested.
How about you? Are you dealing with the recession or avoiding it? What is your strategy for surviving and thriving in these fascinating times?