In his autobiography, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger says that no one is an inventor in the fashion industry. When he was just starting out with his own designer line, he focused on nautical and safari themes and transformed them into a new classic style. He designed military-inspired safari collections where he blended shades of khaki, olive and ivory. In doing so, he was able to create something fresh.
One of the pioneers of the fashion industry, Coco Chanel, was inspired by menswear and fishermen’s clothes. Many of her iconic designs, such as sailor suits and Chanel tweed, were adaptations of these into womenswear.
Christian Dior reworked women’s riding suits to transform them into his famous bar suit.
Marc Jacobs reinterpreted many musical movements in his collections, including grunge, hip-hop and glam rock.
And it was Yves Saint Laurent who translated pea coats into fashionable menswear.
The runway is full of adapted ideas. Why don’t you build yours in a similar fashion: get inspired or start with something that truly interests you and explore it further to come up with something fresh.
Know your field
Coco Chanel initially designed hats and Ralph Lauren started by designing ties.
Focus on one area to begin with while adapting ideas and then you can extend to new fields.
But be aware that building knowledge in other fields is also required.
Edward de Bono, the creative thinking expert and the founder of lateral thinking, emphasizes that we should always be on the lookout for irrelevant information and welcome outside influences. Because often times, novel ideas are combinations of two different worlds that seemingly don’t have anything in common.
While it’s certainly very important to become familiar with pioneering people, ideas and concepts in your focus area, it’s also essential to learn from different fields all the time.
Find your inspiration
What objects, processes, concepts, materials or business models can you rework?
Japanese prints and the sea are the main inspirations for Giorgio Armani’s collections.
Karl Lagerfeld’s plastic shoes were inspired by ice cream.
Movies inspired Ralph Lauren the most.
Berlin was the main inspiration for Jean Paul Gaultier’s “The One” show.
What is yours?
Revisit your old projects
Many notable fashion designers will tell you that style is more important than just being in fashion.
And style requires consistency.
One way to be consistent in your work is to revisit your own previous projects regularly and look for ways to adapt them to new fields.
Christian Dior reflected on his work every time he did a new Paris collection. He’d then transform the collection for the American market. The resulting designs were completely new looks most of the time.
Have a look at some of the things you’ve done in the past.
Which previous idea can you adapt to new contexts?
To achieve consistency, another thing you can do is to reflect on the results of earlier projects and think about your core values and beliefs. Do a consistency check for your assumptions, as explained here.