Glocal Glamour: Tomorrow’s Fashion Designer

In an age where style transcends borders and trends are shared with a single upload, what does it take to become the next great fashion designer?

8 Aug 2016

What does it take to be a fashion designer in a ‘glocalised’ world?

Long gone are the days where Cue, Review and David Jones ruled the roost. From Brisbane to Adelaide, our city centers are fast becoming a one stop shop for top threads from around the globe. Brisbane’s own Queen Street Mall is now home to H&M, Uniqlo, Zara, and Forever21, all of which have become the standard go-to’s for a wardrobe refresh.

But is that all – is the influx over? Seems not. The Financial Review reported at the beginning of this year that this ‘invasion’ was far from over; more global brands are set to hit our shores and fight local stores in months and years ahead.

This makes one wonder, what is a local label to do in such an environment?

Glocal Thinking and Online Retail

Blackmilk Clothing 2016
Source: Blackmilk Clothing 2016

One of the most notable examples of how local brands are fighting international competition is Blackmilk Clothing. This is one many of us know, but just to recap:

With a $0 marketing budget and an entirely localised production, Blackmilk Clothing became the ‘it’ brand locally, and in some cases globally, over the course of 2012-2015. Everywhere you looked, girls were decked out in their leggings, dresses and other pieces, showcasing both their style and their geek-pride.

Many attribute this success to their masterful use of social media and focus on online retail. Every wearer of their brand who posted on Facebook or Instagram was automatically a brand advocate – with their images being integrated into Blackmilk’s own marketing. Men and women were seeing their feeds flooded with this one local brand that happened to be uniting a global fan base. A  true glocal success.

To think, all of this thanks to a few smart pictures and a lot of love on the biggest social platforms of the time. And this was well before Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat and other platforms allow for infinitely more engrossing fan experiences and behind-the-scenes access. One could only imagine the possibilities in the current digital landscape.

New Age of Australian Fashion

As with all things fashion and style, trends and seasons change, tastes shift. Yes, Blackmilk may no longer be the all and end all of local fashion success, but the high times don’t end there – for them or new industry entrants.

As recently reported by the likes of Vogue and The Conversation, Australia’s fashion scene is ‘coming of age’ and catching the eye of the world. This year’s Australian Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week saw an unprecedented number of buyers and international fashion directors head to our shores to snap up local wears to sell to avid fashionistas near and far.

How is this happening? Local fashion designers are looking the rest of the world and are making new trends and old very much their own, all the while they are using the social space to create a conversation around their pieces.

Lessons for A New Fashion Designer

Tracking back to The Conversation, they have pointed out that “the online world is providing Australian designers with a fertile interface with global fashion advocates, without the constraints of trying to make it big overseas. But this does require shifting the processes and systems embedded with the fashion industry – something not easily done.”

This tells us that, beyond mastering your craft and being business savvy, surviving and thriving now and in the future requires an even greater diversification of your skills. Consider learning:

  • Marketing basics
  • Coding
  • Website design
  • Social media
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Public relations

While it is possible to take the age-old creative collaborative approach and draw in others to help, having some of the above skills will aid you as much in the long term as it will in the short.

Where to Start

TAFE Queensland Brisbane Fashion student Rebecca Crawford chose to push her studies and her passion in new and interesting directions through a study tour to Japan, opening her eyes to infinite creative and commercial opportunities she will face at fashion designer.

Young fashionable girl in Harajuku

Attending the Short Term Fashion Study Tour to Japan was one of the most enriching and inspiring experiences of my life to date. It truly expanded my horizons and helped me to grow personally, professionally and technically.

Attending the Short Term Fashion Study Tour to Japan was one of the most enriching and inspiring experiences of my life to date. It truly expanded my horizons and helped me to grow personally, professionally and technically.

There were new perspectives on creativity and the design process; new applications of conceptual thinking and sustainability for pattern making; traditional technical skills (e.g. fabric dying); and exposure to new technologies, such as the fabric inkjet printer and the Shima Seiki whole garment knitting machine. In such a fast-paced industry, it was great to gain some familiarity with these technologies which will be sure to give us an edge in our education and within the industry.

Local Japanese fashion designer displaying his wares

Professionally speaking, the greatest advantage of the trip was to be able to further my networks in Japan, mostly through the students, many of whom already work for Japanese fashion companies. These connections will be invaluable with relation to the feasibility of entering the attractive Japanese market, which is notoriously hard to break into without established relationships and trust. As noted, the exposure to some new technologies as well as to different creative concepts and technical approaches is likely to make my skill set more relevant and attractive to employers in the industry.

Finally, I was able to gain first-hand insight into the Japanese market and style trends, as well as exposure to the culture, all of which would help with designing for the Japanese market and/or doing business with Japanese companies in future.

All in all, the trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and has helped to shape myself and my goals for the future.

Ready to take on the fashion world yourself? We have a range of basic and advanced fashion certifications you can use to get yourself started. Or you can find out more about our Study Abroad program here.

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