Monday, November 06, 2006

Assistant Designers: Master Designers-To-Be

To apprentice with a well known designer is one of the sure paths to success. It is not the only path, however, the benefits are many.

Young designers who just graduated from fashion school, need to get to know the business. Working in the ateliers, they can observe the machinery that is involved in making a simple design croquis and follow it through until it is manufactured into a dress that is sold in department stores. They need this information to start their own businesses - their own fashion houses.

Working with master designers, they also pick up and learn design habits and influences that make the master designers... masters. For instance, I would like to apprentice with Marc Bohan for taste and style, Gianfranco Ferre for structure and cut, Azzedine Alaia for craftsmanship and construction, Christian Lacroix for color palette and movement of a garment, Geoffrey Beene for detail, Versace for sex appeal, Karl Lagerfeld for styling and of course, for being a genius. Many many more designers that I did not mention - each have their own special stamp and artistry.

By working in the ateliers, they come in contact with the fashion press and who's who in the fashion business. They are able to forge relationships with the movers and shakers of the business. These are the same people who will help catapult them to success. (magazine editors, buyers, publicists and PR people, photographers, etc.)

Being an assistant designer, they can exercise their creativity - for most of them influence the direction of any collection. Like Herve Leger for Chanel, Albert Elbaz for Geoffrey Beene, Carolyn Roehm for Oscar dela Renta, Irie for Kenzo, Peter Speliopoulous for Carolyn Roehm, Isaac Mizrahi for Calvin Klein. These former designer assistants have since made their own mark in fashion.

The designers who take them under their wings are happy to see them move forward..but assistant designers should take care not to overshadow their masters, while working under their tutelage.

I always ask assistant designers, "How long have you been working as an assistant designer?" Some would say, 2 years, then I would jokingly scare them "If you are still an assistant designer in 5 years, you will never be a great designer."

I remember Isaac Mizrahi. We would sing songs in the studio - our favorite was I Love You Porgy from Porgy and Bess. We would always speak out the lines from a Bette Davis/ Joan Crawford movie, on occasions when we felt someone from the fashion industry exhibited any slight meaness to an underling.
I would say to him, You would not do this to me, Blanche, if I were not on a wheelchair, wherein Isaac would reply, But you are ...you are! and vice versa.
I was very happy to see Isaac Mizrahi take it to the next level and become the hottest designer in New York, at that time. As you can see, he is now unstoppable. He is as funny and interesting as he always has been.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Kathleen Fasanella said...

Young designers who just graduated from fashion school, need to get to know the business. Working in the ateliers, they can observe the machinery that is involved in making a simple design croquis and follow it through until it is manufactured into a dress that is sold in department stores. They need this information to start their own businesses - their own fashion houses.

In real life, the majority of the business is not fashion (haute couture). In fifteen years of working with designer entrepreneurs, I find their priorities and practices are often warped (as in the literal meaning, not askew) by language practices of "fashion" if nothing due to the glamor factor. In real life, most people working in this business have never heard the terms "croquis and atelier" much less use them on a daily basis. I know those words are used a lot in design school and fashion magazines but in real life, it's one of the things I have to beat out of the heads of new entrants to manufacturing because everyone will think they're being pretentious. At best :)

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i met some of your friends Ms. Bayle..and like them they are enamore by your quiet presence but fierce work ethics and MAGNIFICENCE...i grew up in the tiny islands of the fabulous NEGROS and saw the colors and textures of the fabrics of what shapes fashion..of which i needed a connection of its significance...out of impossibility you are the lone figure who centered that...indirectly, you are responsible for accelerating the Filipino "designer" mentality and... we are flourishing..getting into its essence.
Your work was not marketed at all (what with all the hype of the Heidi Klum syndrome...)..you are the very select few who walked the walk that made even famous (i hate that next to the real craftsman) or real uncompromising designers..like Alaia..Mugler...you inspired them to be visionaries...be themselves...I salut you and wish you luck...and more power for your generous spirit..they saw you work before...now let them hear you.
i love you.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i met some of your friends Ms. Bayle..and like them they are enamore by your quiet presence but fierce work ethics and MAGNIFICENCE...i grew up in the tiny islands of the fabulous NEGROS and saw the colors and textures of the fabrics of what shapes fashion..of which i needed a connection of its significance...out of impossibility you are the lone figure who centered that...indirectly, you are responsible for accelerating the Filipino "designer" mentality and... we are flourishing..getting into its essence.
Your work was not marketed at all (what with all the hype of the Heidi Klum syndrome...)..you are the very select few who walked the walk that made even famous (i hate that next to the real craftsman) or real uncompromising designers..like Alaia..Mugler...you inspired them to be visionaries...be themselves...I salut you and wish you luck...and more power for your generous spirit..they saw you work before...now let them hear you.
i love you.

8:42 PM  

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