There aren't many people as tough to please as the fashion crowd. When it comes to taste, style, what's contemporary, what's interesting and what's relevant, they are a pretty discerning bunch. So for graphic designers working on anything destined for fashionista consumption, it's a pretty tough call. For some, working on these projects is a dream come true: creative freedom, a visually turned-on audience and the real requirement to truly experiment. But it can be a double-edged sword with too many creative people all jabbing their own opinions into the mix and trumped-up egos flapping in the face of innovation.
It is true to say though that some of the most inspiring and exciting design comes from this field, and Graphic Design for Fashion highlights a range of work designed to titillate the hardcore tastebuds of the steely-eyed fashion diva. Dazed spoke to Jay Hess, CSM graduate and owner of London-based studio byBOTH, about the relationships between designers and fashion labels.
Dazed Digital: How important is graphic design in shaping the perceptions of a fashion label?
Jay Hess: I doubt a piece of clothing has ever been bought because of the swing tag, but attention to these details can influence the broader perception of the brand. After the success of their first season, Jimine Ha from Deeva-Ha was invited to become a member of the GAR--DE collective. I don't think this kind of thing is a coincidence; these innovations highlight the need for visual communication to be completely integrated with the collections. Fashion is more than a garment hanging on a rail in isolation. The brand message needs to reflect what the fashion label is really offering beyond a single purchase.
DD: What are the recurring themes and ideas which reveal themselves in your book?
Jay Hess: Creativity is ultimately very subjective. We explored the intimate creative relationship between two people – the graphic designer and fashion designer – rather than layers of management. The immediacy of this close relationship is a big advantage when trying something new, you don’t need to convince a whole boardroom. Pushing beyond surface decoration is also extremely important because fashion designers aren’t willing to settle for a simple font, they want a concept that will contribute to the narrative of their brand. The work by Mevis and van Deursen for Viktor & Rolf is a perfect example. They are able to abstract the catwalk presentation without giving anything away. The end result is a 'complete' message that reaches beyond the single event.
DD: Do you think a fashion audience expect something specific?
Jay Hess: There is a heightened visual consciousness that needs to be satisfied. I think the fashion audience always demands something new and unexpected, from the fashion designer all the way through to the graphic communication or the message will become unclear or insincere. BLESS and Manuel Raeder have perfected this balance where the traditional lines of responsibility have been blurred. Raeder reconfigures the previous season lookbook into a t-shirt for each new collection. More than simply giving form to the content, he is active in creating new content for BLESS.
DD: Graphic design for fashion is known for being luxurious and experimental – do you think the recent changes in the economy has affected this?
Jay Hess: Luxurious and experimental indeed, but to be honest this is almost always achieved on relatively modest budgets. The economy has forced a new level of austerity over the industry, which isn’t surprising and seems to draw out more innovative solutions. While the size of some projects has undoubtedly been scaled down, the challenge remains to make the most out of what is still available. ThorbjÃ¸rn Ankerstjerne produced invitations for Blaak out of standard wire mesh, the clever typographic treatment by Artless is applied to plain corrugated cardboard boxes for Issey Miyake, Roanne Adams packaged living Airplants into tetrahedrons for the sustainable womenswear label Bodkin. Well-considered, basic materials are immediately elevated.
Graphic Design for Fashion is out now
Text by James West