A few weeks ago someone asked me if I had ever thought of doing something that wasn’t based in the arts. I gave him my standard answer about how there’s a genetic condition in my family that turns us all into lawyers so I’ve of course thought about going back to college and then law school.
But the question has recurred to me a few times since then and it seems to me that my answer should have been a lot closer to what I told my friend Erica about why she gets along so well with tech geeks: we’re geeks too.
Anyone who works with fabric will have to know the tensile strength of thread made from various fibers. And cotton hand/machine quilting thread is very different from other cotton threads used for sewing or in manufacturing woven or knit fabrics. Then once the fabric is made, it behaves very differently depending on how it was made. Cotton denim and cotton gauze will drape differently, will tear under different circumstances, etc. Various chemical treatments of the thread or fabric will change the strength or flexibility of the resulting material.
When I make a corset, I have to be aware of the flexural strength of whatever I’m using for boning and whatever I’m using to reinforce the eyelets for lacing in addition to the combined tensile strength of the fabric and interfacing and lining so that it will hold together under the strain of containing a living, breathing, moving person. Not to mention the knowledge of human anatomy. The way a body bends and squishes and wriggles under a garment is integral to the design.
Forgetting about materials science and structural engineering for a moment, we as fashion designers not only clothe the body but trick the brain. We have to create optical illusions, using lines and colors and shapes to draw the eye where we want it to look and there see what we want it to see. Purposely evoke specific emotions, create specific impressions, and illicit specific responses.
Now look, I know that I’m not furthering knowledge. Theoreticians imagine ways in which mysteries of the universe (or just ourselves) might be solved. Researchers find out if that’s really how it goes. I don’t do any of that. I am one of those who applies the fruits of those labors to create. Discovery is a fine thing, but it is useless without those like myself. We are glad you found this knowledge, relieved that we don’t have to figure it out for ourselves, and dumbfounded that so many of you seem to think that we are somehow less noble for actually using it.
A great and wise philosopher said “stupid is as stupid does.” Well, the same thing goes for smart.
I do smart.