I'm blessed to be able to see many successful, talented designers at various stages of their lifecycle: whether it is at conception, their initial design, their first or second collection, or even when they've made quite a name for themselves after a few years in the business.
Most newcomers launch with the hopes of becoming the next Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford or Christopher Kane and why wouldn't they? (Well, actually more on that in my last point below) But just like start-ups or business ideas, most fail unfortunately. So what are the common traits of those who succeed? What do they have that others don't?
They are driven by a story. Whether it is in the inspiration of their collection, their brand, the materials they source, the techniques they use or even in their own background, there is a story somewhere. This story becomes the driving force and the DNA of their creativity and their designs. It's what sets them apart in a world full of noise.
They are aware of trends but are not driven by them. Successful up-and-coming designers don't disregard trends completely. They are aware of what colours and what themes will be popular next season. They may even incorporate some of these trends into their designs so that the average Joe (or Jane?) can be accessible to them. But they don't create based on them. They have a story to tell and they're going to tell it. And the very best, well... they set the trends.
They envisage the person who will wear their work. Just as every painting needs a canvas, every style needs a model. The best designers design with someone in mind. Most actually picture who that person is, what they do for work, where they like to have dinner or even if they are a cat or dog person. This visualisation process allows them to create something that will actually be worn by someone. Because without wearability, it's just art that you'll see on a runway once and never again.
They have attention to detail. This one goes without saying but the most successful designers are maniacs when it comes to detail. From the materials they source, the way they cut their patterns, the ability to spot subtle differences in colour, the concept of the photoshoot for their collection, to the presentation of their lookbook, line sheet or even their packaging, they're on top of it all. Customer satisfaction is also of upmost importance to them.
They surround themselves with the right people. Designers are first and foremost creative types. Business plans, dealing with suppliers, coming up with a marketing campaign, all that stuff can be daunting. That doesn't mean that they cannot be savvy business people but they should be spending the vast majority of their time doing what they do best: designing. The most successful designers surrounded themselves early on with people who could take on the operational, marketing or business aspects of their business. Marc has Robert Duffy. Tom has Domenico De Sole. Matthew Williamson has Joseph Velosa.
They're not in it for recognition. The best fashion designers aren't driven by recognition. They see the world differently than most. And they want to bring that world to reality. Recognition is just a by-product of their artistry, not an end in of itself.