This summer, I have been getting a lot of wonderful emails and comments from kids who love fashion. Sometimes they even send me drawings, like 17 year old Alina Kehoe did. I love looking at their work, which is so full of passion for the subject, and totally uninhibited by conventional fashion education. They often ask me very broad questions, looking for advice on how to pursue their fashion dreams.
This post is for all the kids out there who love fashion and are trying to figure out what to do with their creative energy.
1. Develop cultural literacy.
Even though the internet is a far vaster resource now than it was, there is still so much to learn from books and magazines. I spent ages in libraries as a kid, soaking up words and pictures. The more you learn about the history and theory of design, the more sophisticated your own work will be. Don’t just limit your research to the fashion section – seek out art, photography, film, as well as non-visual sources of information like literature and audio. Why?
Fashion is full of people who got into it because they can afford to be good at shopping, or because they like looking at magazines or blogs, or because they’re pretty and they like getting attention. But there are very few who are culturally literate beyond the superficial aspects of fashion. Those with real curiosity and intelligence create more complex, more interesting, and more unconventional work. They are the ones who push the art of fashion forward, and if you’re asking me for advice, I hope that’s the kind of fashion creator you want to be.
If you only consume fashion media, your work will quickly become derivative. There is a circular feedback loop inside the fashion bubble which results in a lot of boring revisions of the same old things over and over again. If you’re going into fashion, please don’t contribute to its stagnation. Break the cycle. Be disruptive. Use the entire world as your inspiration.
2. Create images. Make things.
If you’re a kid now, you probably have access to a digital camera already. Use it to record the fashion in your own life. Everyone has access to pencils and paper. Draw your ideas, what is inside your head. Your drawings won’t be slick, but it doesn’t matter. The more you draw, the more you document, the more confident your visual abilities will become.
Also, if you can, get access to a sewing machine and try altering your clothes and making your own designs. In the digital age, everyone can manipulate pixels but few can sew a fine seam. The ability to actually make what you design will make you a much more intelligent designer – or for that matter, writer or illustrator or whatever you become. Understanding the physical properties of fashion will give you a rare advantage in a very competitive field.
Some day you might want to apply for an internship or to fashion school – when you do you’ll need a portfolio of work to show what you can do, so the sooner you start developing your skills the better. The best part is since you’re not yet in school, you don’t have to worry about being told what to do, economic justification, or competition. So that means, you can create whatever you imagine. Revel in that freedom! Finding chances to create for the sheer joy of it just gets more and more difficult the older you get. Dig it, deeply, while you still can.
3. Start a blog, but DO NOT become a fashion blogger.
Developing internet skills keeps getting more and more critical, so knowing how to use the digital tools is necessary. While you’re still a kid, you can start blogging without having to worry about being professional or even good. Just put it out there. It’s not about being popular, it’s about finding friendships. Reach out to people who are into the same things you are. These relationships will help you discover where you belong in the fashion firmament.
My big, counterintuitive piece of advice for blogging as a young person is to totally avoid advice. DO NOT visit Independent Fashion Bloggers, don’t try to make a business out of it, don’t compare yourself to Tavi or Jane or whoever. Don’t be a fashion blogger. The medium is not the message. Be a designer, be an illustrator, be a photographer, be a writer, be a stylist, be a model, be anything, and post about what you do. Don’t just post inspiration – post what you create. Original work is rare in the era of the “repin”, and therefore much more valuable.
4. Plan your big move.
Unless you are lucky enough to grow up in a major city, the people around you probably don’t share your interest in fashion, which can be frustrating. If you’re serious about pursuing fashion ambitions, the pilgrimage to a major fashion city – London, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo or, of course, Paris – is an important journey. If you can, visit the one that’s closest to you and get a feel for what it’s like to be in a place where fashion is a vital part of life. Even if you can’t make the trip yet, start planning how to make a big city a part of your future now.
5. Work hard. Be brave.
Fashion is not easy, practical, or reasonable. It is extremely competitive, and kind of crazy. If this is what you really want, just go for it with everything you’ve got. Good luck.