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Transcript: The two kinds of fashion designers

MICHELLE SIU/The Globe and Mail

KARL MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, talking management for The Globe and Mail.

We are delighted to have Imran [Amed] here [founder and editor of The Business of Fashion blog]. He was given [a Desautel Management Achievement Award] from the MUS, the Management Undergraduate Society, one of the youngest award winners.

When you think about fashion, where do the ideas come from? Every year, it keeps changing. I notice that young men here and in Montreal have much shorter hair on the side. I don't do it for obvious reasons, but where does fashion come from? Where do the ideas – is there a well somewhere?

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IMRAN AMED – It is in the zeitgeist; it is really hard to explain. So there are certain fashion designers which I would say take a more top-down approach, and they have this ability to pull something out of the air.

The fashion that hits the floor, of course, that's the fashion that the consumer is seeing, those ideas have been first sketched a year earlier, in some cases. So in order for someone to have an idea that is actually going to be popular a year later, they kind of have to sense that there is a time for a change.

There is a designer named Phoebe Philo, who was appointed the creative director of Céline about five years ago. At the time, fashion had taken this very – we were in the financial downturn, and we had gone through this period of excess – fashion had become very "blingy," there was a lot of embellishment. There was a lot of big logos, a lot of ostentatious displays of wealth – we were in the middle of a bubble and everyone was showing off what they did.

What Phoebe Philo did was she came in and took over a brand named Céline and she came in and completely stripped everything away. Her ideas for this would have come earlier than that, but the timing was impeccable, because all of a sudden it became very gauche for people to be walking around showing off their wealth. That didn't mean that there weren't people who were prepared to spend a lot of money on clothing and bags and shoes; they just didn't want to walk around flashing a logo. She kind of pulled this out of the air, so that is the top-down way.

The other way is people who – I know designers who are kind of like magpies and they have their antenna [attuned] to what is happening, to what is going on, and what is happening in the streets. They travel all over the world, they seek inspiration from trips that they take. They might look at vintage garments and say, "We haven't seen something like that for a while."

Inspiration is everywhere, and for many of the creative people that I am lucky enough to work with, they can be inspired. … The other day, I was talking to a designer who went to Venice, he was taking his first three-day holiday, and he saw some kids playing with some blue blocks in Venice. Now, if you go to Dover Street Market, which is one of the coolest fashion stores in the world, which is on Dover Street here in London, those blue blocks, he has turned them into a whole window display. It is a T-shirt line. Inspiration is everywhere.

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