Where Fashion Inspiration Comes From Cultural Studies Essay

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In the words of Coco Chanel, Fashion is about "what is happening". Fashion designers always use the idea of inspiration is on the street. Consumers themselves especially the young ones, are very inventive and inquisitive about clothing and designers look to this for inspiration and innovation when creating new ideas. One typical fashion initiated many years ago by the young and ordinary people off the street, are jeans, now every designer has their own signature version.

Trends and the latest looks follow today's shifting society. Sports events like the Olympics and what is happening in the media, movies and music also reflect fashion. Famous celebrities are an excellent opportunity to promote new looks and influence ideas. The runways mirror what is happening in the world and fashion designers use this to create their work. In the fashion world they call it the 'bubble-up-effect', which could be another reason to why fashion appears to have a similar look or theme, especially if all designers are tuning into the spirit of the current times for inspiration.

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Carl Jung's theory about the collective unconscious which studied peoples minds and showed that it is inevitable in todays' ever growing society for individuals to reflect and think the same idea's, at the same time. Is this not a consideration to designers when accusing other people of copying and plagiarising their work, that instead these designs, are original in their own right, especially when all designers are looking at the world around them, to influence their work.

Clothes are about dressing a human being and the proportions of the human body are split into three blocks. The head, the trunk, which runs from the shoulders to the pubis and finally the extremities, which include two arms and two legs (Martin,2009,pg73). Apparel has to fit around this shape, so it could be argued that designs will take on similar looks to others, as no dress would be made to fit a three armed person.

Fashion forcasting within the industry has become big business and plays a huge part when informing designers and their team, of what is deemed to be the 'newest fashion themes and colours' for the following season. Agencies such as Nelly Rodi based in Paris have over 30 trend forecasters who travel all over the world gathering photographs, illustrations and fabric swatches for inspiration for their trend-books.

Each season this agency produces separate trend books incuding knitwear, colours, prints and ready-to-wear to be sent to their clients which include Mango, H&M, Givenchy amongst other high profiled prêt a porter designers (Seivewright, 2007,pg 82/83).

There are lots of these agencies around including Style-Vision, Trendspotter, Informat who all do exactly the same job. However, an online service called Worth Global Style Network created in 1998 is the leading online trend-analysis and research service, which in a click of the mouse "provides creative and business intelligence for the apparel, style, design and retail industries". (wgsn,online). This appears to be the quickest means to get the latest information to designers quotes Roger Tredre, the WGSN's editor-in-chief especially with the "ever changing nature of fashion, speed is of the essence" (Seivewright, 2007,pg 86).

It is extremly difficult to speak to a designer and ask them were they get their inspiration from, as nobody wants to give away their sources and of course, nobody would ever admit to using other peoples ideas. However, according to a New York based fashion designer "designers do look to other designers for inspiration" (see appendix 1). However the word 'homage' always appears to be an influential tool in designing. This could be either an old iconic fashion designer, such as the late Christian Dior who inspired collections for Vivienne Westwood, with his new look of the late 1940's and also paintings from French 'Rococo' artist Jean-Antoine Watteau.

Vivienne Westwood, in an interview for the Victoria and Albert Museum, spoke about how Christian Dior had inspired her through his designs, one being the long black fitted wool 'new look' dress. This is a form of tribute and homage to a designer, as instead of stealing his original ideas and innovation, she has celebrated him for influencing her work, as she was a teenager growing up when this magical look was around and women were starting to dress more glamorous. Today Vivienne Westwood finds her inspiration from the past especially in the V&A's collections of fashion, furniture and paintings. (vam,2004,online)

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However, in the case of Muiccia Prada 'homage' and inspiration is purchasing a jacket in an expensive Paris vintage store called Didier Ludot and the next season this identical Dior jacket is in the new 'Prada' collection. No different in design to the one bought previously from Paris. This surely is not homage rather design theft. Topshop or any other high street store would not get away with this stolen innovation, especially if it was a near identical to a influential top end designer such as Prada or Chloe. Fashion designers have always looked back through the archives of history for inspiration. (learcenter,2005,online)

From a recent email from a designer who works for Ralph Lauren in New York and who has previously worked for Abercrombie and Fitch, spoke not only about designers looking to other designers for inspiration, but the importance of vintage garments. They also try to copy these vintage designs in more modern fabrics and put their own spin on them. Another idea was looking again at what had previously sold well in the past and updating this in new fabrics and different colours. Another "creative and fun" idea is using snippets from bought and vintage samples, and merging different ideas together a collar from one style with a pocket of another (Appendix 1).

In a Marc Jacobs documentary filmed in 2006,for his 2007 shows, Marc Jacobs who designs for Louis Vuitton as well as under his own label, shows where he gets his inspiration from. He uses walls covered in vintage fashion magazines, posters, flowers and old tortured fabrics to gather new innovation, using snippets from all these sources to enthuse new ideas. Again he looks through the archives of their successful designs and updates previous lines. Bricolage, is a french term used in the creative process of fashion and according to many is one of the primary dynamics. This term simply means reinventing something new by changing elements, mixing and bringing the clothing back to life by inputting new fabrics and stitch ideas. This is evident amongst all designers including Marc Jacobs "An old mauve jumper becomes a lovely updated cashmere jumper" (youtube,2006,online).

With so much dress history available today shown in costume museums and vintage Vogue's, as well as other influential magazines, it comes as no surprise that designers will always look to the past or other cultures for inspiration. Vivienne Westwood has in many collections used direct references to historical silhouettes and styles, such as famous paintings.

Here is a picture of the 'Watteau' evening dress created by Vivienne Westwood for a collection in 1996. This style is influenced from a 'Watteau' painting of his cousins captured in image 1. It is very obvious in the shape and fullness of this dress that this artist, has inspired her with this creation.

Victorian interpretations have always been a source of inspiration for other designers including D&G who used the Victorian sleeves to inspire him, when creating a different look to a contemporary denim jacket.

Fashion frequently looks to shape and materials of the past, as a form inspiration for new styles, as the workmanship and attention to detail is rarely achievable nowadays. According to Sue Jenkyn Jones who wrote the book 'Fashion Design', it "also triggers a nostalgia for bygone lifestyles and the emotional aspect of clothing is an important element of design" (Jones,2005,pg24).

New technologies in fabrics and prints have always been seen as a form of inspiration. Designers will often select materials, gaining and enthusing ideas from its look, feel and aesthetics, before designing a garment. This will then generate ideas from the silhouette and shape the fabric forms. Moodboards and visuals of a theme or idea will then start to be created selecting colours, historical references, lace, trims and eventually, ideas will start to present themselves.

Fabric trade shows have a huge impact on the fashion world, however 'Premiere Vision' which is held in Paris, every September, is the largest and the most influential of these events. Over 800 fabric manufacturers, as well as a huge host of designers and buyers attend these shows. Apparently it is not unusual to see designers like 'Christian Lacroix' at these events, looking for inspiration as well as new specialized weaves (Tungate,2005,pg81/82).

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It is easy to see now were inspiration comes from, however when inspiration gets mistaken for imitation, how fair is this. Resources are put at risk. Designers invest time as well as huge amounts of money sourcing inspiration, testing fabric's, drafting dress patterns and checking that their creations are fresh, innovative and of a quality for there discerning customer. Who pays the price or is it only fair that every fashionista gets a chance to own a piece of luxury.