Ya know how it feels to see yourself on TV or hear your voice on a recording? I don’t know about you, but I always cringe and hope I look and sound different in person. Designing is like that.
When viewing old designs, I get that same uncomfortable feeling. Did I really think that top was long enough? How could I have produced a piece in such a pale color?
Anyone in a creative field will tell you they’re only happy with the things they haven’t produced yet. A good designer is always progressing, learning new techniques, finding new sources and doing their best to make the next collection better.
So when I go back 18 years and look at my first tank top, dress (yep! that one pictured above) or pant, I wonder how I had the confidence to bring those pieces to buyers in hopes they’d stock them. In reality they’re still beautiful, but deep down I think, “well maybe I could have done better…”
There’s a happy balance between being satisfied with a design and being overly critical. When we’re hasty, the details get lost and the design can fail. When we’re overly critical, the design has little hope of ever getting produced. It’s a conscious and sometimes, unconscious balance we all try to achieve and one all designers struggle with regardless of the medium they work in.
When I started MAJAMAS, I flew around the country showing my tiny collection to buyers at “Markets”. (These “Markets” are basically a gathering of hundreds of designers’ collections pulled together in big-city apparel centers that get shown to thousands of buyers from small boutiques to major department stores). I still shiver thinking about how insecure I felt showing my designs amongst collections much bigger and way more famous than MAJAMAS.
It was a true test of self-esteem and sometimes I failed miserably.
I’d stand in a showroom, waiting for a buyer to sit at my table in hopes they’d pick up my little pieces for their store. Some could see my vision and they’d bring MAJAMAS in as a test or to hang with their bigger collections (I wanted to hug them). Others were incredibly harsh telling me all that was wrong with the line and offering only criticism and no constructive suggestions. This was tough to take. These comments would literally shake me to the core and sometimes I had to walk away and give myself a little pep talk just to get myself back into the showroom.
I quickly realized that although I was an experienced sales person who could take any kind of push back before starting MAJAMAS, when it came to selling my own designs, I had to grow a thicker skin.
I had to learn to take the bad comments with the beautiful compliments and that my friends, is a tough thing to do.
Now when I stand in front of cynical buyers who tell me how they would improve a sleeve or correct a neckline, I listen instead of getting hurt. I realize there’s a little designer inside all of us and we’re all entitled to our opinions as long as they’re expressed kindly. This truly applies to everything not just how we react to designers.
When I had our small boutique, some strangers never gave a second thought about telling me how ugly something was or how they hated the printed curtains we had hanging in the shop. I’d stand in disbelief wondering how they’d feel if I walked into their homes and told them I hated their curtains or the pictures on their walls.
I have learned that regardless of what I produce, I will never please everyone.
A design I adore can be despised by another and my favorite prints, well let’s just say prints are like fine art; they’re incredibly subjective. I have yet to use one every buyer loved.
In addition, I have learned that regardless of what I think about another designer’s work, I will NEVER criticize it. I know that designer spent hours, weeks, months producing a collection (or a product) they felt would sell and I know the sacrifice and work that went into it, not to mention the self-esteem it took to reveal it in public.
So – I am vowing to be proud of my past and love my old designs. Just like looking at myself on TV, I am learning to embrace how I look and what I sound like. I am realizing that those old designs are what got MAJAMAS to where it is today and that person on TV (me…) is who created them.
A designer and a company owner know there’s only you to blame when things go wrong (first rule of management: Everything’s your fault!) and no one to tell you when things go right.
You become your own cheerleader, critic and analyst and it’s important to never stop evolving, learning and improving on your past.
Uh! Thank God for that, cause if we didn’t evolve, well let’s just say we’d all still be wearing shoulder pads and moo-moos.
– Germaine Caprio, Company Owner & Designer
TO HEAR FROM YOU
What do you remember from your past that has made you stronger?
Please share your own thoughts with us – let’s get a conversation started in the comments below! Your comment may even win you a free MAJAMAS garment this week!