I will be at TNNA this weekend. I have been going for the last 6 years, perhaps. Over the years I have developed my own style,: according to some they could spot one of my designs in a heartbeat. Different designers have their own something that makes their body of work take on a life of its own. What that something is can be hard to define for a creative person. When going into this business though it is important to think about your “brand”, to develop it and to market it. Your brand should be strong and identifiable.
Sometimes I see discussions revolving around “I am a designer and I want to do a design using part of Designer A’s design, how much do I need to change to make it mine?”
Well, to an extent we all take in the world around us and reinterpret it in our own way. That said, if you are just changing enough to make it yours, well, you really are not being much of a designer. There, I have said it. I am not saying you are not being creative, and that you are not being terribly clever. But there is a certain set of expectations implied at this level, and if you are going to be a designer, sing your own song. Find your own voice. Will you be inspired by others? Yes, you will. But don’t set out to make your own version of a strawberry fruit hat after seeing the one that was selling like hotcakes at the yarn store and expect credibility as a designer. At that point you are being a technician. Much like getting a paint by number kit and changing the colors and then proclaiming you are a painter/artist. That is an extreme example but you get what I am saying.
Some argue that this happens in fashion retail all the time. This isn’t the world of retail fashion though. This is the hobby industry, a small world where word gets around. We are influenced by fashion trends greatly, and there are knitting designers who do work in that world. But this is a different market with different “rules” and expectations.
Plus, when you follow your own visions your own style emerges and your brand will be stronger. I don’t generally design for the market. I design what I would like to wear. I design for myself. While not all of my designs would look good on my body, if I had the figure to go with it I would love to wear them. And I guess for me that is the distinction. I have the luxury of designing what I love. Early on I made the decision not to do the quick and easy projects that I saw that were so popular in the market. Those types of projects are not for me. I generally dislike them and usually feel that there is not much of a designer element to those types of projects. I don’t want my name attached to designs that anyone could do. It doesn’t take a designer to come up with a plain stockinette top down sock. If I were to do a sock pattern, I would then need to add some designer details. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying there should not be easy basic patterns…I am saying you don’t need designers for those, necessarily. Now, when you have a simple design with well thought out attention to simple details you can have a simple and basic project that is also above the mundane. For that, yes, a designer. Coco Channel was very good at that. And we can be too.
I will be going to TNNA this weekend, the big summer trade show for The National Needlework Association. I’ll have the opportunity to reconnect with designer colleagues, vendors I work with, yarn companies providing support. I plan on visiting the booths of the yarn companies I have talked to that have expressed an interest in providing yarn support for my designs and say thank you. If you are a new designer, be aware when going to shows like this that the yarn companies are there to connect with the yarn store owners who are coming in first. They are their bread and butter. If they have a customer come in their booth they need to take care of them, and you need to let them do that. They are not selling yarn to you…you are probably their excited about their yarn, yes…and using their yarn gives them exposure…to a point. It depends on how many patterns you sell. Don’t just go from booth to booth expecting them to be happy to gift you with yarn because you are a designer. Anyone these days can say they are a designer, and yarn companies can get hits from a lot of people who are not very serious about that title looking for a handout.
Your show etiquette is part of your branding too, in a sense, as your professional behaviour will impact your brand. Do you follow through or not? I never take yarn that I am not seriously interested in. The yarn is not free. There are expectations involved, and someone had to pay for it even if you did not. Obviously they hope you will love it and use their yarn. If you take it home and it sits there and you never get around to it, that is money down the drain for the yarn company and poor professional behaviour on our part by not being more considerate of each other’s resources.
Everything connected to your business can affect your branding, whether it is tangible (things like your logo and how you use your logo, your designs themselves, your web presence) or not (how your conduct your business). Use your assets wisely and plan from the beginning for success. Picture yourself in the place that you want to be when making decisions and ask yourself if the decision would be the same. If a logo would not be good enough for you if you were more successful, then you should not settle for it now.
Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace