Working in fashion is not all rainbows and butterflies. Fashion shows and glamorous parties are what the fashion world is portrayed as. But how about the people behind the scenes? Without them, none of the glamour would exist. While we see creative directors and CEOs in magazines, many people are working relentlessly to make our beloved brands the way they are
To begin with, let’s take a look at fashion designers. Unless they have their brand, they are usually obliged to comply with strict requirements set by the brands they are working for. Budgetary restrictions probably play the biggest role in the design and production phase of garments. Details are what make a design unique but usually, they are the first ones to be let go. Some designs are altered so many times that the designer himself cannot recognize them. This causes designers to feel detached from their designs, therefore from the job they are doing.
Designs are usually briefed by the marketing teams who analyze the data to understand which items are favoured the most. For example, a designer (who will remain anonymous) that works for a Danish fast fashion brand emphasizes the increase in requests they are getting in their briefs for copying other brands and following the trends. She talks about the algorithms fast fashion brands use to pick the items that are most searched and liked, to replicate them as fast as they can. Replicating a design is more of a monotonous task than a creative one. Repetitive work is linked to increased stress and burnout.
Most designers have a strong connection with their designs and have a responsibility to them. A designer, again anonymous, who has worked in high-end designer brands like The Row as well as fast fashion companies like Inditex points out the responsibility she feels towards her designs. ‘Being fully accountable for the garments I create is very important for me. I put a great emphasis on every single detail of a garment to feel satisfied with it as I feel a personal connection to my designs. This makes me a better designer, but also puts a lot of pressure.’ Carolin Woitke, a fashion designer who previously worked with well-known designer brands like Jil Sander states ‘The unique conflict with the fashion industry is, it becomes your life.’ Since fashion is an industry of passion, because let’s be honest the pay doesn’t attract any designers, the line between work and life can be blurred very easily.
Another issue is deadlines. Deadlines are familiar to all designers, no matter if they are working for their own brand or not. The stress of deadlines begins with the tight schedules in art school. Talented designers are expected to create masterpieces from scratch in a short period. It doesn’t get any better than that after graduation. If a brand is preparing for a runway show, a couple of weeks before the show might be chaotic and draining for the designers. Working 18 hours a day is nothing unexpected, rather normalized. The increasing number of collections presented doesn’t help. Whilst there were two seasons to create, now there are the Pre-fall, Resort, Cruise, and capsules which put more and more pressure.
It is not only big fashion houses that deplete the energy out of their designers. With the rise of fast fashion companies came the speed races. Giant companies like Inditex and H&M compete relentlessly to have everything in their stores earlier than their competitors, and fashion designers are the ones that suffer from this speed. Shows like Project Runway and Next in Fashion create idealize the designers who tear themselves up to design and make a garment in a dramatically short time whilst real life, it is continuous exhaustion and rarely ends with appreciation. Garment production became so quick that sometimes all it takes to produce a garment from scratch to make it ready to be sold in the stores is 3 weeks. This gives us a clear idea about the stress on the designers and manufacturers who work endless hours to make it happen.
On the other hand, fashion still is a way of relieving stress for many. In the end, most designers are passionate about what they are doing and feel a great sense of fulfillment from creating. Doing art has healing power and a meditative effect on the brain. All of the creatives mentioned above stated that practicing art is their way of relaxation and what they do when they need an escape. It is quite paradoxical that designing is so relieving while the job itself is quite stressful. Creatives are at the core of this billion-dollar industry, let’s not forget it.