We’ve been completing a little office renovation around here, and I’ve realized how impatient I am with tasks like painting, gluing, and sanding. The tape measure is not my friend. I am imprecise and irritable.
I’ve done at least 10 full edits on each book – yet every time I start back at the cover page, I’m happy to read the same words over and over again. I enjoy hunting for errors and ideas that need clarification. I love smoothing out clumsy spots that disrupt the flow – and I actually relish the fresh eyes that come with each read-through. The work can be (mentally) tiring, but it’s never a chore.
When I consider the day-to-day activities of my friends who are photographers, architects, web and graphic designers, I can’t imagine filling their shoes. Sure, it’s easy to daydream about location scouting or sketching a brilliant design before breakfast, but I know there’s also serious minutiae involved that would send me into meltdown. Every industry, even the most iconically creative ones, have dull tasks that require focus and slogging. No way around it.
But when you find yourself deep in obsessive territory, not caring that an hour passed while you re-worked a single paragraph, that’s the real creative destination. That’s where you’re supposed to be. Loving the tedious moments (at least most of them) is also essential to completing projects that challenge your mind and stretch your skills. I guess it’s also how we rack up those 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell measured so eloquently.
So embrace your unique obsessions. Track them and use them to nudge you ever closer to success. The real achievement, however, is the daily sense of contentment that will sit quietly on the sidelines, watching you do the work.
My jaw hit the keyboard when I saw these stylish videos from Mission Workshop. Based in San Francisco (in The Mission district, naturally), this hip company creates gear and apparel for cycling, travel and urban designophiles. Their bags are sleek and can withstand the abuses of bad weather — or a little bad behaviour.
Check out this gem, shot on the streets of Paris, no less.
The objects, the music, the cast, the cinematography — they all communicate, wordlessly, the Mission culture and target customer. The video also presents a pretty appealing day-in-the-life. Oh, and it demonstrates how useful that messenger bag would be for spinning around town. This is a commercial, after all.
Strategic content shows the world what your work is all about. Pick a medium that intrigues you, whether it’s photography, video, blogging, social media, newsletters or some combination of several formats. Use it as a creative playground and tell your story, your way.
It’s almost March, but winter has its teeth sunk deep into the Pacific Northwest. True, we’re notoriously weak in the face of chilly weather, but this unseasonable arctic air is creating strange juxtapositions on the street.
Hope you’re having a warm, productive week.
David Downton is one of those prolific artists whose work just seems to pop up everywhere. His illustrations have graced the pages of Vogue, The Financial Times, Harper’s Bazaar and V Magazine, and he draws for commercial clients including Chanel, Barney’s, L’Oreal, Dior, and Tiffany & Co.
In 2007, Downton started an international fashion illustration journal called Pourquoi Pas? Printed on heavyweight paper in a limited edition of 1,500, the periodical is intended to “celebrate drawing in our digital, disposable, point and shoot world.” Pretty fantastic.
He also published a glossy coffee table book last year called Masters of Fashion Illustration, which celebrates some of the world’s most outlandish talents (himself included). Light on text but heavy on eye candy, it looks like a gorgeous source of inspiration — whether you work in a visual field or not.
Surely you all know (and maybe love) The Sartorialist, right? Photographer Scott Schuman is the reigning curator of street style, with a ridiculously popular blog that attracts people-watchers from around the globe. He also does assignment-based client work and is represented by the same gallery as Annie Leibovitz, Chuck Close, and the late Andy Warhol.
Whatever you think about the man behind the lens, I enjoyed watching this slick, day-in-the-life film by Intel — a company that’s obviously leveraging Scott’s cool factor in an attempt to boost their own.
The concept of passive income really trips people up. I always ask artists whether they have a passive income stream, but I’m continually surprised when they call it laziness, or a form of cheating on their “real” work. Not true. Here’s my definition:
Passive income is anything that can (theoretically) earn money while you sleep. Once you’ve created and/or arranged this revenue source, it continues to pay dividends – without your direct time, attention or effort.
Now for a new example.
Kendi Skeen writes a charmingly candid fashion blog called Kendi Everyday. After moving with her husband to a small Texas town, she started the site as a creative outlet, explaining, “Many people use words to journal, I just use my clothes.”
Recently, Kendi launched the 30 for 30 challenge, where she and her readers vow to wear and remix just 30 items of clothing (including shoes) for 30 days. It’s a way to flex your fashion muscles and appreciate what you’ve already got — much like the six items or less movement, without all the laundry.
Smart cookie that she is, Kendi also created a 30 for 30 Remix Workbook. The $4 downloadable e-book helps readers to navigate their closets with style. It’s a perfect example of passive revenue – and it’s a natural extension of her online conent.
I wanted to know more, and Kendi was kind enough to answer my questions.
1. Why did you decide to write the 30 for 30 Remix Workbook?
A few months ago, I had a conversation with a close friend who asked me what I wanted to do in my life. In jest, I answered, “I want to write a book.” In jest, mind you. With that, she told me to do it, to start small with an e-book, just to see if I could do it. So when we started talking about it I figured that I should start with my upcoming 30 for 30 remix challenge. Since the remix was my brainchild, the possibility of everyone understanding the idea behind it and the process is slim. And who better to write a guide than someone who came up with the idea? So after much pushing from my husband and friend, I penned the 15-page guide.
2. How long did it take you to create it?
The guide took me about a month to create, design, and write. A very long month. I had never done this before and really I hadn’t seen many of these guides on other blogs, so it was kind of a trial-and-error process. I now know many things that I would do better and differently. So I hope to write a few more to post on my blog.
3. How has the response been so far?
It’s been good! Like I said, I’d never done this before so if I sold five, that would have been successful in my mind! There was no real benchmark for the guide; I just wanted to create something to help someone with the ins and outs of their closet.
Passive revenue was not the ultimate goal, but it has been a great perk. I certainly could not work on something for a solid month and send it out in the world for free. I consider myself an artist after all, maybe not with a canvas and paint, but with words and design. And no artist should give their art out for free. I hope people have received the guide and felt the hard work that I put in and that it has helped them in their day-to-day closet matters. If it has helped even one person, then I think it was worth the work.
Even more impressive than Kate’s way with black silk and silver chains is her unwavering self-possession. In this story for Elle.com, Kate describes her conservative upbringing and a brief period of conformity via preppy plaid, ladylike slingbacks and knee-length dresses.
But when a pair of acid-washed jeans drew her like a sailor to a siren, she decided to chuck convention and wore the denim to a critical meeting. It was time to unveil her true fashion-savant self — take it or leave it.
Now her distinctive aesthetic is copied in cities worldwide. It’s perhaps her greatest professional asset. What’s even better? Fashion insiders say she’s a kind and generous presence in a notoriously catty industry. Heck, she’s even talked about leaving the fashion world to become a social worker. Kate demonstrates beautifully why style is always best served up with substance.
Tommy Ton photo by Kurt Geiger
Women’s Wear Daily recently published an interesting article by Cate T. Corcoran about the blossoming relationship between clothing brands and influential fashion bloggers. The story suggests that these popular (and formerly DIY) sites now provide increasingly hospitable territory for big budget advertisers.
Companies such as Coach, Gap, Barneys New York, Urban Outfitters and JCPenney are testing new connections — and the idea of customer-brand “conversations” — with fashion bloggers that can include product references, design collaborations, videos, giveaways and contests.
– Is this smart business or corporations invading what were formerly organic online spaces and communities?
– Are fashion bloggers independent self-publishers or simply small-scale fashion magazines (which have always been supported by advertising)?
– How do you draw appropriate lines between editorial content and advertising? And who does the drawing?
The article raises these and other questions that apply not just to fashion scribblers, but also to anyone who’s developing content — and hoping to earn a paycheck from their work. Take a look and let me know what you think.
Here’s a fun New York Times story as we head into the weekend.
Think you could wear just six different items of clothing for an entire month (not including underwear, shoes, accessories, swimsuits or workout gear)? There’s a growing movement of creatives, de-clutterers and anti-consumptionists doing just that.
What’s amazing is that most people don’t even notice when their friends, co-workers and even spouses take part in the experiment. They’re completely oblivious to the fact that someone is wearing the same dress or pair of pants — day after day after day. Makes you think differently about that bulging closet…
Be sure to watch the video, too.
Still think you can’t honour your creative vision and find success? Clearly you haven’t met fashion designer Hussein Chalayan (well, neither have I, but that won’t stop us from analyzing his playbook).
Born in Nicosia, Cyprus, in 1970, Chalayan moved with his family to England in 1978 and studied design at London’s famed Central Saint Martins. He immediately raised eyebrows with his 1993 graduate collection, called “The Tangent Flows,” which included clothes that he buried in his backyard and later dug up to exhibit. Struck by the strange beauty of his vision, luxury London retailer Browns snapped up the whole collection and displayed it in-house.
The publicity spree continued when Chalayan won a fashion competition sponsored by design-forward liquor brand Absolut. The win meant that at age 25, Chalayan was given approximately £28,000 in financial backing to develop a collection for the 1995 London Fashion Week.
His reputation for avant-garde, intellectual, rigorous designs grew and Chalayn soon connected with the famously eclectic Icelandic singer Björk, who wore a Chalayan jacket on the cover of her 1995 album, Post, and donned several of his pieces throughout her Post tour.
For the next three years, Chalayan was a design consultant for New York knitwear label TSE. He also designed for Marks and Spencer, worked with Italian clothing manufacturer Gibo, and served as fashion director for Asprey, the British jewellery and luxury goods company, all while designing and showing his own label. He was also named British Designer of the Year for 1999 and 2000, and in 2006, Chalayan was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
What’s most impressive is that Chalayan has had serious low points to match all those career highlights. When TSE terminated his contract in 2001, it forced Chalayan into voluntary financial liquidation. He refused to go down without a fight, however, and restructured his company to design a comeback collection later that year. In the following seasons, Chalayan had to move his studio three times and at one point, he worked from home with his entire team before relocating to Paris.
Collaboration has always been a key part of Chalayan’s creative ethos. He’s designed laser LED dresses with Swarovski and in 2008, he was named the creative director for sports lifestyle brand Puma — just to name a few of his more famous match-ups. He’s now partnering with Susie Crippen of J Brand Jeans. And if you’re after more highbrow credentials, Chalayan’s work has been exhibited at London’s Design Museum, The Tate Modern, The Contemporary Art Museum in Tokyo, the Musée de la Mode in Paris, New York’s F.I.T., and at the 51st International Venice Biennale, among others.
Chalayan’s name is synonomous with experimentation. He’s the futuristic designer who has sent models down the runway in self-undressing clothes and repeatedly pulls from world politics, science, culture and technology to produce creations that blur the lines between art, fashion, performance and culture.
Talent and audacity
After spreading himself — and his finances — too thin in the early 2000s, Chalayan stripped his business (if not his designs) back to basics and refocused his brand. He continues to produce collections that challenge and inspire. You never know what to expect from Chalayn, and everyone from well-heeled fashion houses to sneaker companies are eager to leverage his modern, in-your-face creative attitude and technical skill to boost their own cool quotient.
Will he go too far with the commercial collaborations? That’s a matter of time and opinion. For now, Chalayn provides a terrific model of how to stick to your creative guns and still build a career that works. And if you fall down, return to your original vision and think hard about what really matters. Then get right back up again.