Your first days on the job are as confusing as ordering at Starbucks for the first time. The continual how’s, who’s and what’s trip up your concentration and confidence while others ‘patiently’ wait for you to figure out the ‘obvious’ system. Your mind even laments leaving the familiar labyrinth you once hopped, skipped and jumped at your last job. However, survival at this new job is more than memorising the rhythms and trying to blend in.
Over six months ago I left the sneaker industry to delve into experiential interior design within retail and hospitably. My break from the sneaker world put it into perspective. Though it’s unclear if sneakers are in my future, there are aspects I already miss, and other that I just don’t. Simple as that. Before we get into it, let me just say it’s a youthful industry with bright, bold personalities you will never forget. I still smile when I think of the conversations, travels and … this is starting to feel like a break-up letter, so let’s get on with it.
I’ve been dating my boyfriend for four years - sorry all you interested internet people out there. A relationship can contribute both helpful and misleading influences. Those misleading influences are subtle and many times difficult to observe, as your partner in a health relationship, of course, does not intent to cause issues. I’ve observed some of these in myself and realised how to control those influences to make choices for myself, not someone else.
YES. Everyone’s path differs in terms of career development. Some start off at large brands as I did, knowing early in their job lives the extent that companies go to make you comfortable. Others work their way up and then appreciate the added benefits they receive. When you start off with one of the big boys, leaving can be more daunting. Larger brands know how to tie themselves securely onto the limbs of your life.
When you research and design an actual product for mass production, the proximity heightens your awareness. ‘What am I doing’ or ‘What am I contributing to’ taunts you every so often. When comparing lifestyle beliefs with the real world outcomes of your daily work, sometimes it doesn’t line up. For many, including myself, it influenced my next career direction as I weighed my moral beliefs against my contributions to the creative and consuming communities.
Since our childhood, we regularly assess leadership. Sure, now a boss determines your daily tasks instead of your mom, but both sway your concept of leading. Many of us will one day manage a team or entire company, but feel unprepared when that moment comes. Consider what type of leader you want to be along the way and maybe it will happen faster than expected.
The most unspoken dilemma when working for a brand is rearranging your own vision. Before joining a company, you have an existing relationship with the brand. Much like getting acquainted with someone whose appearances caught your initial attention, the brand’s intention could diverge from your perception. Fully formulating these thoughts helps to prepare for future positions in leadership, as well as reconfigure your current approach.
Pledging your time and talents to a brand influences your identity. It’s a joint undertaking as both you and the brand believe in the suitable match. The points of compatibility are much like the ones in a personal relationship, however more complex. A brand is a myth before a being. By recognising your place within a brand ecosystem, your personal purpose can be contextualised and optimised for you and the brand.
Success is as unoriginal as other buzzwords of our time. Like passion, motivation or drive, success only carries meaning when put into context. Your context, my context, her context, his context – they all differ. It’s easy to think most of us want the same results from our career, and on similar timelines. The intertwined relationship between career, life and meaning makes every timeline acceptable.
Company structures mimic society. Both promote greater visions, while humming along to today’s theories on leading and unifying individuals. Within companies we work in smaller teams that many of us consider family. However, our loyalty to our department can insulate us from other perspectives and priorities. By understanding the signals of tribalism within organisations, their unfavorable consequences can be mitigated by any employee.
Hack…a…thon. Yes, you read that correctly - nothing in there suggests either footwear design or trend analysis. I ended up in this project development tech event to learn more about the industry through active participation. Though I enjoy the comforts of understanding a process or its people, my decision to go against my securities supplied irreplaceable lessons over my abilities and their flexibility.
For the last three years, I led our trend research in Europe. Many might see trend analysis as either acting like a fashion oracle or collecting pretty images. Well, it is some of that. The process I established transformed a trend analyst into an editor. By gathering content across three functions, our in-house trend analysis focused on making sense of apparel, footwear and consumers from multiple perspectives.
I’m here to unravel and reboot your perception of presenting. By combining some tough love with yes-you-can motivation, we’ll tame your doubts and train your nerves. Presenting is going to happen - it’s a fact you need to cozy up with. Instead of going through a casual panic each time a presentation comes your direction, we’ll dress up in our discomforts to understand their temperament.
Who else to ask about the wild, wild workforce than your parents. You’re old enough to understand the value of their advice and keen enough to filter it through your own perspective. A road block will materialise at some point, however, one so immovable it must be bigger than just you and your parents. Welcome to the misaligned definitions of success between you and previous generations.
“If choosing between two equally qualified designers,” one recruiter once said “I always went with the better writer.” For the word Olympians, bask in this good fortune. For everyone else, your starting line is here. Sacrificing 30 minutes from YouTube or Netflix for writing rings in benefits for your design sensibilities.
The most meaningful necklace I received said, “Always Go Forward and Never Turn Back.” Sure, it had some religious connotations, but the message stuck. Every generation cycles though craving past comforts to then seeking future products. In a world of a young, well-informed, future-focused generation, going forward is crucial. True heritage for a fashion brand can make a roadblock from a trampoline and should be approached with as much caution as opportunity.
Heritage. If you work within the greater fashion industry, whether its footwear, apparel or marketing, someone mentioned the word heritage. You probably tried it on for size, mixing it with terms like authentic, classic or established. But perhaps something just didn’t feel right. Before throwing around the h-word again in a product’s or campaign’s defense, let’s clarify what heritage actually means in the world of fashion.
“You’re the first footwear designer I’ve ever met” is a typical response. Introductions around my profession confronts me with how small our population really is. The remark resonates with flattery, but also misfortune. Footwear designers get so easily thrown into the niche job category along with floral stylist and gallery curator. However, we prevail as the best kept secret with some of the most multidisciplinary and versatile designers in the creative field.
Identity makes the designer. Perspective and experience separates us from other creatives. As a designer a part of a brand, your identity gets complex with the social label and accompanying company byline. My encounter with this topic led me down unexpected paths and to insightful people. After being at a brand for seven years, here’s how I reclaimed my design identity.
Your day-to-day choices unconsciously steer your design process. Whichever habits you break or accept, methods you stick to or question will affect your openness, curiosity and intuition. While many make purposeful changes in either diet, consumption or activities, others do not. It’s a choice. When I chose a minimalist lifestyle, question after question around habits I probably never made knowingly surfaced. I had to edit, let go and move on. It freed my mind and my time to create more while forging a ruthless choice-making mechanism in my design process. Less made me appreciate more.
Who isn’t a blogger these days? Why is this girl posting links to her blog? Why is she even writing in the first place? I wonder the same. Answering such existential blogging questions never comes easily. Over the past five years, I’ve managed or contributed to eleven blogs, four personal blogs and seven professional. Of the personal, subjects ranged from train travel across the entire US (not too common) to my first two years in Amsterdam, and now work-related writings. It seems simple: you write, click and it’s published. However, I’ve figured out that my blogging motivations are not around instant gratification.
If you never ask the answer is always no. We all heard this one once, twice or hundreds of times in our adult life. But why do we still shy away from actually exercising the question mark? Our fear for loss outweighs our potential for gain, behaviour studies show. This idea around human decision making goes beyond the books, as I observed this in my own (il)logic. If you backed down from a project you wanted to pursue at work or beyond, big chances are it could be traced to asking one person a single question.
To be human is to be discontent. On our shelves stand an army of books aiming to extricate this through gaining happiness. Exercises and poetic quotes around the elusive topic inspire as we read. But these fade in the face of reality. Where is the disconnect? Happiness, especially around your career or personal development, needs to be earned and internalised. One way is through discontent, or that feeling of dissatisfaction around your circumstances. Taking the journey through it will reveal your true priorities while clearing the path for new endeavors.
Fashion weeks are not impossible invite-only, secret password, double-encrypted events for fashionista special agents. They’re a collection of worthwhile fashion. This January I attended my first full fashion week right in my own achtertuin, or backyard. Amsterdam joins the Berlin, Antwerp and Stockholm fashion weeks as secondary, but still industry relevant, catwalk collections. My full, three-day attendance broke down my perceptions of fashion and tested my comfort bubble. It then rewarded me with a memory engraved so deep that I’ll be telling my grandchildren about it decades later. So here we go, the three big things I learned about the business, and even myself, at my first fashion week.
While traveling for personal means, I believed my underlying purpose was to identify unknown inspirations. Documenting various exotica like the the walls of Buda Castle, findings in Turkish bazaars or colours of Malta seemed like a designer’s off-hours requirement. My days carrying DSLR cameras as if I were a documentary photographer fell out of favor when collecting image trinkets rendered little satisfaction. After 25 countries, I discovered how travel strengthened my design mind in ways larger then a high resolution photo.
If many of us designers admire minimalism and simplicity in design, why do we “gather” inspiration? Inspiration as a commodity is neither finite, delicate nor valuable. Let me explain. It will never run out, erupt panics over its depletion or be Forbes’ front page news as a stock market crasher. Regardless, designers tend to collect as many images on their computer as a tourist takes with a new DSLR camera. Exploring new methods in inspiration management is like trying out another workout program. I started mine by deleting my “inspiration” folder and never looked back.
Starting a side project can feel like growing a new limb for the first time and expecting perfection. Before even buying the pen to put onto paper, your unborn side project already cultivates concerns over the permanent mark it will leave on your life. This is how I used to feel starting my side projects. A galloping fear that went on for way too long. A healthy mix of age and experience demonstrated that best way to start any side project was to simply… chill out.
A story can exist on paper, but many times we are telling the story. Whether our audience includes a new group of friends or footwear buyers, focusing on our presence influences a story’s impact. For all those afraid of getting up in front of an audience, or even for stage savvy individuals, the following advices will result in a more impactful delivery. It’s not easy. You need to be vulnerable, enthusiastic, confidant, animated and aware all at the same time. This dance takes practice, but will amplify your storytelling abilities tenfold.
Storytelling liquors up the soul for ideas and possibilities. This method can convert even the toughest of cookies by weaving an idea into a compelling tale, pleasing to both their mind and emotions. We’ve already looked at the benefits of storytelling in the last post, but where to start? Let’s put aside the “telling” part and focus on the story.
Storytelling is nothing new to designers. We’ve been taught how to make narratives around concepts, consumers and “the problem” our product or service might provide since Project 01 in school. Then, this was called storyboarding. With its granny pants sex appeal, storyboarding and its broader concept never received proper recognition. Then it joined the business buzzword brigade in 2014, refreshed and repackaged as storytelling.
On the international language scale, Dutch is about as useful as being handed a spoon to cut bread. When counting the number of native speakers, Dutch ranks below languages like Tamazight, Odia, Awadhim Kannada and Jin – and I did not make those up. It is structured like German, sounds a bit like English, but neither of these speakers can decipher The Netherlands’ official language. To make it even worse, the Dutch speak German, English and French better than your high school language teacher.
After seven years in the footwear industry, I recognized that footwear designers need a “Trend Ambassador” - someone who can contextualize trends and encourage their application within the product creation process. I am raising my hand. And here’s why. Trends can unify multiple functions and spark newness. Properly considering emerging trends in fashion, streetwear, colour, textile and material can inform a footwear designer as much as a salesperson or merchandizer.
So you’ve identified something that is going on, so what? When evaluating if a trend is actually an opportunity, three things are important: consumer, brand and timing. Of course all three hold a stake in the process of building product, but one is the keystone - the brand. A brand is a precious commodity that should not be wasted on minimum risk product or me too’s. Moderate business might come from both of these in the short-term, but long-term growth derives from product with value. Thus, that value comes firstly from the brand. To keep that valid and the following product energizing, trends must be used strategically.
As mentioned earlier, I don’t usually write at an official-looking desk and you don’t have to either! Using an iPhone to do your writing might look like you are either super popular or super tech obsessive. Either way, it’s no matter because everyone is so busy doing something on their iPhone to even notice. Take a look at these three iPhone apps to get you started as a music journalist on-the-go.
It might seem like their are a hundred types of materials to choose from when designing a sneaker collections. While in reality, most fall in three basic categories: leather, synthetic and textile. Choosing one over the other depends on a number of factors including price, look, performance and customization. With the different parts and functions of sneaker, it is completely possible to see all three of these on a product. Can you think of what materials you typically see on a sneaker? Mesh, leather, canvas, a sandpaper-like “nubuck” and suede probably could come to mind quite quickly. Well, all of these live in the following categories.
Over the last couple of years I have observed the tellings of a sneakerhead through my interactions with friends as well as current and past colleagues. Their membership in the historically exclusive club is exhibited in varying ways and intensities depending on their age, location and involvement. Their is however a list of timeless similarities between these connoisseurs of product.
When presenting macro fashion trends to a team or client, it’s not just photographs that communicate your point. Having a poignant title helps many to grasp the overall concept before components and details can be properly addressed and digested. Sometimes, however, find the right words can be time consuming, which is the exact reason why I created a cheat sheet of common words to describe fashion macro trends anyone can use.
The word “trend” gets thrown around frequently, especially as it comes attached with a variety of meanings. In this article we will look at fashion trends, since they inevitably affect footwear preferences. As the use of such information is continually questioned in companies, understanding its core principles can separate the constructive opportunities from useless information.
When working for a larger company, one with the required parameters and group decisions, creativity becomes structured. The freedom from either an owned business or school project falls flat, and the life of freelancing colleagues seems increasingly more desirable. However, the earlier situation can be used for its benefits. The stability allows for time to experiment with other projects without the pressure of making a living or an immediately sellable product. There is a sense of pure ownership that could be absent from an official job. With this time I have developed my writing, which has progressed naturally, influenced my daily work in footwear and earned a greater respect from colleagues for my enduring dedication.
We all give interviews informally without even noticing. We chat with store employees over the next launches or dive into our last three months with a friend over drinks. As these come naturally and without hesitation, many might not understand the need for formal technique and preparation when conducting actual interviews. Whether talking to an organization director in person or accomplished musician over Skype the ten points below can help when faced with your subject, and the moment.
Every house has a roof, interior and foundation, as does every sneaker - we just use different terms. Learning these four basic parts of a sneaker first will make the remaining easier to remember and apply. Even with these conversations around product will sound more informed. Instead of, “What does the bottom look like?” you’ll say, “Take a look at that outsole construction” or “This part here (finger wiggle)” will be simply replaced with midsole.
After the statement, “Oh, you’re the first footwear designer I’ve met,” I usually receive the inquiry, “How did you get into that?” It’s a fair question. The footwear, or more specifically, sneaker industry only spans three major companies followed by numerous medium to small enterprises. My storyline is neither linear nor unheard. Many went off-course from other focuses or professions landing in a small “catch-all” - but not in the typical sense – of the sneaker industry. In my case it was not completely intentional, but somehow made sense considering my array of enthusiasms.
Since 2007 I had a website. The first version made during my middle years at art school mainly ended up as link for potential jobs or internships. My second one two years later still coded from scratch. From the versions in 2007, 2009, 2013 and now 2014, my website’s focus and platform changed as my priorities evolved and web technologies such as Jekyll and Github became more popular.