Copyright, Style, and Fashion , or How DO You Come Up With Ideas?

Today I was going to write about the most recent foray into legislating fashion copyright presented by NY Representative Charles Schumer this month, but then I got distracted. However, we will return to this fascinating topic because it needs to be ripped apart and really examined. Suffice it to say, nice try, guys, but no Oreo.

But I digress.

I just finished my most recent textile collection, Carriage Trade’s Faster, which features, as one might imagine, horses going fast. Specifically, it features big athletic chestnut & bay thoroughbreds going fast on the track, beach and over fences.  As I was happily ticking off the ‘available for sale’ forms, someone meandered in and looked over my shoulder and said, how do you come up with these ideas?

Which lead into a discussion about design versus product development (at the point where I’m releasing the collection for sale the design is kinda long ago and long done, for me at least.) Once we got that clear, then we went back to the original question. How do you come up with designs, and how can you make sure they don’t infringe on someone else’s copyright?

I pointed out that at this point in our human evolution, pretty much every sort of style fillip has been tried. As a species we’re not all that old, and we have been bilaterally symmetrical since we stood upright and started our species’ flirtation with back and foot issues. We aren’t terribly complicated forms (2 arms, 2 legs, head, body) and we have had the same basic needs to cover and protect our various appendages that we’ve had for the last half millenia.

As you look back over recorded history, you can see all sorts of fashion styles that went in and out – some because of religion, some because of changes in materials and manufacture, some because of celebrity, some because of legislation, some because of climate change, political change and some just because one or more human animal craved difference and was the earliest trend setter.

Does any of this sound familiar? Good, because while it seems that fashion changes happen really fast the truth is innovation itself, new ideas, new concepts, is not easy and doesn’t happen all that often. (And I personally really, really, really dislike the hijacking of innovation and innovative, since true innovation is really hard and most so-called innovations aren’t.)

So how do we come up with our styles, especially high-volume designers like yours truly?

We spend a lot of time looking at things. We look at things in nature, things in the man made world, we do a lot of web surfing (I love Jeremy Gutsche’s Trend Hunter, Pantone’s news letter, the IEEE web site, and the Materia database web site), we ‘go out into the marketplace and review and sample’ other designer’s work (In other words, we shop and buy). We go to museums. We look at art.  Maybe we listen to music. We read the trend reports. We handle materials. Sometimes we just start doodling and see what emerges.

And then maybe we’re ready to design. How do we come up with our ideas….let’s go back to the concept that innovation is a bitch, and that most styles have been done in one form or another. Most designers are not haute couture designers who are creating runway style.

This is a really important concept because it means most of us are not trying to be unique or innovative. We’re actually trying very hard to deliver styles that will sell into our marketplace, whatever that marketplace has been determined to be.  We’re following what the trend reports say are important styles, memes, colors, concepts. We’re picking up on what the name designers are showing on the runway, and we’re lensing and interpreting all of these things to make what we hope will be a commercially successful collection.

The haute couture designers who are showing new on the runway have a tough job because they have to at least try to innovate. That’s why you get such visually off the wall collections like Amsterdam-based Viktor and Rolfe’s 2007 collection with self-contained lighting.  It was certainly unique, and weirdly stimulated a desire in the marketplace to have clothing with lighting on it. I was asked to prototype some handwear (gloves to you non-practitioners) that featured lighting, intended for the juvenile mass market.

Making light-up gloves was hardly a sweeping new innovation – it wasn’t even my idea. But the way I approached the challenge was unique, the ways I chose to execute the style was unique, and the ultimate sample was very unlike runway models with huge Kleig lights as shoulder pads.

As for the Faster collection, it simply built off a pilot project I’ve been working on for the past two years. It just made sense to me to do the Thoroughbred-centric collection now. I wish there were more glitter and fairy wands involved here, but alas, it was just common sense of where the Faster concepts came from…

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Leveraging the Power of Virtual Worlds for Collaboration

FRI publishes white papers on topics of interest. Topics can include OpenSim legal considerations; content standards; licensing concerns; virtual world immersion; and new paradigms in on-line immersive education.

This week we released “Leveraging the Power of Virtual Worlds for Collaboration“, which discusses using virtual worlds to restructure entire industries and engineer new business processes, with a particular emphasis on the apparel (fashion) industry. The information shared includes:

* Value Proposition of Virtual Worlds
* Why the Apparel Industry
* B2C Use Case – Avatar Apparel
* Collaboration Use Case – Education
* B2B Case Study: ACLA and FRI
* B2B Case Study: IBM Research
* B2B Case Study: Intel Corporation

You can pick up a FREE copy of this white paper by visiting our website. We hope you will find this information useful and we encourage your comments/feedback.

It’s that time of year – New York Fashion Week!

Vogue editors Anna Wintour and André Leon Tall...

Image via Wikipedia

Fall Fashion Week kicked off in NYC yesterday. Our very own Shenlei will be rather busy attending events and networking with some of the hottest designers. Don’t worry Shen, we’ll hold down the fort.

If you have a passion for fashion, check out this article at Mashable.com on HOW TO FOLLOW FASHION WEEK ONLINE.

Send us you comments on what you adored and what you abhorred!

FRI Showcasing at PDMA Global Conference

It’s been a while since we’ve posted. Gosh, we’ve been busy! So much going on at FRI this summer. Just wanted to pop in and share our excitement about an upcoming event this Fall.

Fashion Research Institute was selected by the Product Development and Management Association to showcase our work with Virtual Runway(TM) and Black Dress Design Studio.  The PDMA is hosting the 34th Annual Global Conference on Product Innovation October 16-20th in Orlando, FL.

One of the keynote speakers is Janet A. Carr, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Customer Engagement – Coach, Inc.  I can’t wait to see what she has to say about innovation and fashion !

I’m personally excited that I’ll also get to see the infamous Dan Pink speak. Okay, not as excited as the fact that we were chosen to showcase, but certainly a close 2nd.

For more information about what we will be presenting, visit http://conference.pdma.org/showcase_participants.cfm. And wish us luck on going after BEST OF SHOW !

Applications Open for Summer 2010 Internship Program

Once again the Fashion Research Institute is pleased to announce 5 avatar apparel design internships to be conducted wholly in the immersive workspaces it maintains in OpenSim and Second Life.

The focus of the internship is to develop skills for virtual goods development, specifically apparel with a lesser focus on accessories and footwear.  The intent of the internship is to assist interns to develop private design practices where they can create and sell their virtual goods. Interns are provided with classroom space and creation space in FRI’s OpenSim regions, and store front space on the heavily trafficked Shengri La regions in Second Life.  Interns are taught using the patent-pending design methodology created by Fashion Research Institute, which is applicable to both avatar apparel and to their work developing physical apparel.

This course follows a collection-oriented design sequence, in which the class is expected to develop a mood board, color story, and concept boards for 6 outfits which will be developed for inclusion in a virtual fashion show, which will be designed as a group project. The course includes class work and home work and follows an aggressive schedule successfully piloted with real life fashion design students.  Students have full creation privileges in the online classroom as well as an assigned space for use for the duration of the class.  Students receive virtual tool kit resources as part of their internship.

All texture work is expected to be accomplished off line as part of the homework assignments.  Extensive resources and documentation are provided in the classroom, and students have full access to the classroom during their course.  All work is graded and receives feedback from the instructor. Students will complete 3 outfits, develop an initial label concept, and complete an initial showroom/store design. They will show their work on a runway at the final class, using their avatars as models.

Students must provide their own computer, internet connection, scanner, and image editing program(s) as well as have Second Life and Skype accounts.

Recommended text book: Designing Dreams, Shenlei E. Winkler, available on Amazon.com

At the end of their internships, Interns’ work will be presented in a virtual fashion runway show, with avatar models which the interns will style from hair to shoes.  All interns will complete their internship with Fashion Research Institute with a completed collection of avatar apparel including concept boards to product ads, which may be added to their portfolio. A final presentation of their work will be created.  Our Summer 2009  interns’ runway show can be viewed here.

Requirements:

Interns must provide their own Internet access and computer hardware and software sufficient to allow them access to the Institute’s classroom and facilities in the immersive OpenSim and Second Life regions of Shengri La.  Interns must have experience with and access to Photoshop (not provided). Interns must have a Second Life avatar account (available free), and are solely responsible for any fees related to their Second Life account.  Interns must also have a Skype account (free) with access to it during training periods.

Interns who successfully complete the 12-week long program will receive a certificate of completion and may be eligible for admission into the Fashion Research Institute incubation program.

Applicants may be currently enrolled in design school or recent graduates. Some design experience and background is required; these internships are not suitable for freshmen.

To apply, send your resume with 1-2 fashion images you have sketched or illustrated along with contact information to admin @ fashionresearchinstitute.com.

Avatar Apparel Internships in OpenSim with Fashion Research Institute

Applications are being accepted for Winter 2010 internships with the Fashion Research Institute.

These internships will begin January 25th and run until April 30.  Interns are expected to commit a minimum of 6-8 hours a week to the internship, with formal training sessions provided on Monday evenings from 6-9 pm ET.  Interns must commit to being present at these training sessions.  Instruction is provided only in English.

At the end of their internships, interns’ work will be presented in a virtual fashion runway show, with models which the interns will style from hair to shoes.  All interns will complete their internship with Fashion Research Institute with a completed collection of avatar apparel including concept boards to product ads, which may be added to their portfolio. A final presentation of their work will be created.  Our Summer interns’ runway show can be viewed here.

Requirements:

Interns must provide their own Internet access and computer hardware and software sufficient to allow them access to the Institute’s classroom and facilities in FRI’s OpenSim Shengri La regions.  Interns must have experience with and access to Photoshop (not provided). Interns must have a ScienceSim avatar account (available free).   Interns must also have a Skype account (free) with access to it during training periods.

Applicants must be currently enrolled in design school. Some design experience and background is required; these internships are largely not suitable for freshmen.  Internships begin January 25th.

To apply, send your resume with 1-2 fashion images you have sketched or illustrated along with contact information to admin @ fashionresearchinstitute.com.  Deadline for application is January 15th.  We accept applications until the internship slots are filled.