Commit to Creativity: What Organizations Can Learn from Fashion Designers

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Nancy Vaughn
Nancy Vaughn



If you work in certain creative or nonconventional industries (like representing a rock band, fashion brand or up-and-coming celebrity), almost anything goes from a creative standpoint. No one is necessarily shocked when an artist parachutes down to the stage or photoshops President Obama kissing President Chavez. Okay, maybe that last one was a bit of a surprise.

Many companies, including banks, law offices, real estate firms, etc. can do wonders for their brand by looking at their bolder and creative counterparts. Your marketing director doesn’t have to sport a green mohawk, but a truly innovative company will have just enough bend in their corporate guidelines to adapt with the times and be open to some imagination and change.

Depending on your company culture, implementing creative approaches that are typically left for those who are expected to be more adventurous can be the publicity boost your company needs. And guess what! It will probably get people’s attention (usually a goal) and, if done the right way, it will delightfully surprise and make people want to know you better.

Remember the following:

Be Enthusiastic.

Fashion brands have passion. Especially emerging designers. They love what they do (and, indeed, there are several other industries and entrepreneurs that feel the same).

When it comes to being passionate, you can’t be afraid to get your feelings hurt on occasion. Just means you care, and that’s okay. Everyone in the fashion industry risks this just a little bit. From the hemline to the make-up to the models, everything is interpreted, toiled over and critiqued, because opinions run rampant.

Have a few key projects that everyone has to agree on before proceeding. Yes, it may sound crazy to expect a diverse room of people to all agree enthusiastically, but imagine if everyone really loves what they’re doing, what they’re working on, etc. Will the outcome not be magical? A designer rarely, if ever, creates a collection that he feels so-so about.

Make it a goal to be a little fanatical this year. Why not? If you aren’t able to creatively love on your client accounts or at work, then find ways to tap into that passion at an off-site event. Have your HR or marketing departments participate in a battle of the bands contest or run a race together and find something to really, really get excited about. This positive energy spills over to the workplace and aids in the flow of creativity.

Get Involved

In fashion, there are events and occasions that fashion industry professionals, devotees and fans map their strategies around. The spring and fall seasons and corresponding Fashion Weeks are a staple. Even if they have already blown their entire budget, they will still find a way to participate in some way, shape or form during these times.

What events or activities exist like that in your industry? It’s easy to get complacent and skip the opportunities to interact with peers and vendors. Getting involved in industry events, attending conferences and seminars gives you an opportunity to connect with other professionals, meet new prospects and customers, solidify relationships and establish partnerships if the opportunity arises. Decide now the activities and events you will participate in for 2012 and get involved.

Try It… At Least Once

While fashion was late to the social media party, many stylish brands have still naturally come into the scene well-dressed and well-heeled (thank you Tumblr and Twitter). Being fashionably late hasn’t impacted their ability to comfortably get in on the conversation (with early adopters hosting their own social media conferences and attracting brands; see here, here and here) and adapt quickly to the changes around them. The latter is something they have to do frequently because what’s in today is out tomorrow in the fashion world.

Oh, and when they arrive, they’re happy to try new things first (see: Pinterest). Lesson? Be open to the new platforms (Google Plus) and find creative ways to use them for your business. Perhaps one platform is used for updates, another for reports and another for inspiration. Even if you’re late, show up anyway. Fabulous outfit intact.

Stay On & Open

Fashion designers are constantly creating and are often on the prowl for inspiration around them. If you want to see a designer sweat, tell them to stop sketching, drawing, sewing, etc. Most of them would rather jump out the window than to have their creativity stifled. Since everyone is conveniently wearing clothes, fashion brands have plenty of information coming to them at all times from the people around them, what they’re wearing, how they’ve styled an outfit, etc.

Whether you’re creating a new product/service offering or solving another customer’s problem, be on the lookout for inspiration around you. Don’t automatically expect your best ideas to come while sitting at your desk or even in your office. Think about your next idea while you’re strolling around the building or walking to the water cooler. Listen to conversations from finance or HR and see how they’re tackling challenges. If Beetle Bailey can do fashion at Bloomingdale’s, you can come up with unique ideas and collaborations for your company!

Think beyond the bottom line and commit to creativity and change. Whether you’re doing one different thing a week or a quarter, don’t be satisfied with last season’s collection. Give yourself permission to show the fun-loving side of your work personality. What’s the point in being all work and no play? Le boring.

Continue the Discussion

  • How comfortable is your organization with getting a little unorthodox in terms of creativity?
  • Where does your unexpected inspiration come from?
  • Try a no-limit brainstorm for ten minutes. What would be an awesomely creative campaign if budget and logistics were not an issue?
Topics: Creativity

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