It was a meeting of two fabulous and very creative minds at Parsons The New School for Design last night. Alumn and “new” designer Reed Krakoff, who is also the Executive Creative Director at Coach, teamed up with the very funny Simon Doonan to discuss…fashion, of course. Moderated by Simon Collins, dean of the School of Fashion, this series of discussions is aimed at giving students a glimpse at the reality of working in the fashion industry and the chance to meet some pretty darn successful industry leaders. Last night’s chat coincides with the upcoming Parsons Fashion Benefit on May 9, where Krakoff will be recognized as an honoree for significant contributions to the field of design.
The evening’s discussion centered around several major industry ideas and issues, including what sparks inspiration, sustainability in design and the role of fashion in modern culture.
Krakoff advised not “to spend time thinking about inspiration, instead, get started and let the process happen organically.” Doonan couldn’t help but agree.
And sustainability in fashion? Both the designer and creative ambassador admitted that it doesn’t play a major role in their work, although Simon said that sorting the glass, aluminum and plastic bottles when recycling appeals to his obsessive compulsive side.
“The difficulty with sustainability,” he said, “is that is discourages people from buying a frock, and as a retailer that isn’t always the best thing.”
Reed commented that Coach is committed to becoming more sustainable, but that most people were unaware of what “sustainability” actually means.
Collins also touched on modern culture, asking what role fashion plays in it and how young designers could navigate the scene.
Doonan said that fashion is essential to culture in terms of what celebrities are wearing, but that it can be a dangerous place: “It’s a strange perverse world with its own energy and it’s not warm and fuzzy.”
Krakoff sees fashion as a reflection of the current culture. Fashion is almost a thermometer of sorts, which relies on the world around it to gauge what may happen next.
When asked what they believed was the biggest challenges for today’s young designers, both panelists commented on the pressure to have your own company during your 20s.
“As possibly the oldest ‘young’ designer at 45,” Krakoff said that there was invaluable experience to be gained from working at different companies before launching your own label.
‘”To reach what Reed has in [terms] of success,” Doonan said, “takes nerves of steel and lots of hard work.”
Lots of hard work has been the key for both men, who encouraged those who want to succeed in fashion to “work later, harder, faster and better than everyone else around you in order to succeed.” If you still aren’t getting anywhere, says Reed, then you know you aren’t in the right business. And as someone once said to him, “Be happy [when you] get what you want. But don’t expect one–people to be happy for you–and two–to get it the way you want it.”
But don’t forget that passion is just as crucial as drive. As Krakoff told Fashionista at the end of the evening, “I still wake up in the morning and love what I do. I’ve known that I love it for a long time, and if you don’t have passion and love for it, then you couldn’t be doing it.”