Managing Inspiration


Managing Inspiration
Ah spring is here, and what a beautiful time of year! Birds are chirping and buds are bursting with new life. There is something about the liveliness of the season that conjures ideas and productivity from the designer within me. Inspiration seems to crash upon me like a wave in one roaring pass, and suddenly I am overwhelmed with possibilities and projects. Other, less dynamic, seasons leave me searching tirelessly for some sort of muse to awaken my creativity. Whether overtaken by inspiration or wildly seeking it, it often helps to break down potential sources of insight and categorize my intentions. I find inspiration through other designers’ work, intriguing objects, and emotional stimuli. These foundations serve to inform my technical approach, aesthetic and intent, which strongly aid in creating coherent fashion pieces and collections.

There’s nothing like scouring images of historical dresses on Pinterest to get the cogs turning for my designs. Every designer has his or her own fashion interests, and for me it’s the detail and authenticity of turn of the century garments (give or take a few decades). This does not mean that I attempt to recreate these designs, but that aspects of each garment I gawk at may be transformed into something of my own creation. For example, I loved the knotted fabric in the pink dress below (left). I prefer less symmetry and more functionality, so it lead me to design this vest (right). Again, inspiration is simply a jumping off point; it does not mean copying a design, but simply stimulating your creative mind to narrow in on a concept only to diverge away from it. I find it necessary to have a sketchpad in front of me when seeking inspiration from other fashion works so I can jot down the elements I’m intrigued by and start working them into my personal and creative style as done below.

Inspiration%2BPink%2BDress Managing Inspiration

 Much like using actual garments as inspiration, I also rely on non-fashion items to generate ideas and organize designs. These items can be everyday objects, historical furniture, plants, buildings, anything! Sometimes the shape of an object, its colour, its texture, or the layers or movement of something will provide me with insight into how I want my garment to look, feel, or drape. Distinguishing these elements of inspiration make it easy to carry them throughout a line. I am attracted to the contours of the lamp and its fusion of transparent and opaque. With this inspiration, I designed a few very different, yet cohesive, pieces that could be part of a collection. Seeking stimulus from random items that appeal to me encourages me to think a little outside the box and develop ideas I might not have had otherwise.

Inspiration%2BLamp Managing Inspiration

Some objects or garments inspire me while others don’t. This is because inspiration is a personal experience and is linked to one’s values, beliefs and emotions.  Experiences that leave a lasting emotional memory are great sources of inspiration. I will reflect on these events and return to their location or emotional state to hone in on their effect on my design intentions. This is a less tangible approach than the previous two, but the important key here is that, through this practice, I focus less on the elements of my designs and more on their value to me. This is where I ask myself, do these designs serve my creative purpose? What do I want to express through this work? How do I want the person wearing my garment to feel? Once I know the emotional inspiration for my work, it is easier to let go of designs that aren’t representative of me and to give a collection a unified mood. For my latest project, I go for a walk in the woods almost every day to clear my head and reflect on my creative objectives. My concept is a collection of linen garments intended to leave the wearer feeling comfortable and confidence. This is how I feel while strolling alone in the forest with my dog. I think of how my designs can recreate these sensations and how someone, with a connection to nature like myself, might feel connected to his or her clothes. Regardless of the project, I try to reflect on my emotional inspiration frequently as a means of staying on track and connected to my work.

Whatever the season or project, inspiration is necessary to create a solid body of work and to continue to grow as a designer. By acknowledging where these sources of insight come from and how they affect my work, I am able to gain control of rampant ideas and also generate a framework to build on when I feel I’m lacking new concepts to play with. Working off of elements of other fashion designs, inspecting and analysing non-clothing objects for interesting design components, and evaluating my emotional intent and connection to my project are the means by which I am able to best manage my inspiration. By frequently reflecting on these sources, I am able to create a rough series of ideas and eventually polish them into cohesive designs and collections. I hope inspiration also finds you, and you find it, just remember, it is up to you what you do with it!

Michelle Duncan
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso


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